A Reflection on Giving Birth in Lockdown; a test of my friendship with uncertainty
Written by Layla Mofrad
In late March 2020 as UK lockdown was announced, I was 7 ½ months pregnant with my second child. At a time of huge national uncertainty and a sea of unknowns, I had one very clear and distinct certainty; in 6 weeks time I would give birth. As I pressed the pause button on many aspects of my life, contact with family, plans of outings and trips, work projects, I very much had the desire to pause the pregnancy too. My due date seemed to loom on the horizon like a hole I was very slowly falling into, in spite of my best efforts to hold on to the sides and wait for the world to become a more welcoming place.
The unknowns seemed huge, and though they appear alarmist and unreasonably catastrophic to me now, they were powerful and frightening thoughts in those first few weeks of lockdown: Will I be able to go to hospital? Will I catch Covid-19 while I am there? Will there be enough staff on the labour ward? Will L (partner) be able to come with me? Where will our 4 year old go?
I have discussed this recently with my partner and it seems he had thoughts along similar lines: Will I be able to attend the birth? What if I get Covid symptoms in the days leading up to it? Will Layla and the baby be ok?
Overtly, we held it together, calmly discussed our options, and reassured each other that it would be fine. In some ways we overengaged; we stockpiled a few key items such as nappies and formula milk, I started researching independent midwives and L began binging on virus data in an attempt to understand the threat posed to us. He describes ‘craving information’. At some point, without discussing it, we both started silently preparing for a home birth with no outside help, and a 4 year old. Simultaneously, when the birth popped into my mind during the day, I would underengage by quickly swotting it away and distracting myself with something else.
When I was 8 months pregnant we agreed to find out the sex of our child when I attended (alone) for a final growth scan. Something that had been a fun and exciting unknown, had now become irritating. Learning that we were expecting a boy seemed to provide an anchor, something to latch on to and feel sure and happy about.
As the weeks slowly passed I started to acclimatise, and I no longer had a sinking feeling in my chest when I thought about giving birth. The more telephone conversations I had with midwives, the more I heard and was reminded that babies continued to be born every single day. The labour ward continued to function, babies cried, and did not sleep, and did not stop arriving, even if the timing seemed terrible. I started to feel more familiar with this new context, as we worked out how to live in lockdown and develop a new rhythm in our lives. The uncertainties we faced were still very much there, but seemed to move into a more tolerable range. We modified some of our behaviours; we tried to research less, replaced the news with Classic FM, and spent more time outside in our garden. We focussed our efforts into more practical preparations for the baby arriving rather than trying to predict what would happen.
On 12th May with restrictions still at the maximum, I attended my local hospital in active labour and, quicker than expected, gave birth to our little one. It was not perfect; I had to walk into the hospital alone, swabbed for Covid during contractions, and feeling slightly disorientated by all staff wearing PPE, but it was OK. L was able to join me for the birth, and baby and I walked out 24 hours later both a bit shell shocked but safe and well. I am one of the lucky ones, others have been less fortunate and their plight in the UK has been highlighted by organisations such as Pregnant Then Screwed.
Looking back, I am relieved and also proud of how we navigated this time. Facing so much uncertainty about aspects of my life that hold such high value was certainly a challenge, and really tested my understanding and self practise of tolerating uncertainty skills.
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