I had written a draft of this post, and when I was working on it, it just felt like I was whining about stuff I should be grateful for. So I deleted it and started again.
I also feel that perhaps the name is incorrect. Really, the struggle isn’t just about the fourth trimester and lockdown, and how it has affected me and my newborn baby, it’s about whatever follows the fourth trimester, and how it’s affecting my two year old.
The times we are currently living in are so strange, so scary and unusual. As individuals we are all feeling lonely, or sad, or anxious, or scared, or angry. We don’t know when or how this will end, or what the future holds for any of us. Some are out working still, some are working from home. Some have had their jobs taken from them either by being furloughed, or in some circumstances, they have been made unemployed. Some are completely isolated, some are breaking the rules that have been brought in to protect us. Some are dealing with this as new parents, while others are completely alone. Whatever our situation is, for the first time in a long time – maybe for the first time full stop – we as a nation and across the world, are united in these feelings. We feel alone but we do not stand alone. And yet, we feel guilty for feeling like we are struggling or suffering, we feel we must apologize and tell people how lucky we are, how grateful we are, and while I do think this is a good practice to be in, we should also be mindful that this shouldn’t diminish the struggles we are facing.
So, how does lockdown effect me? Well, I had a baby just two weeks before lockdown was implemented. You can read about the birth of my second child here. I must say I feel incredibly lucky to have had her pre-lockdown, and I really feel for those giving birth in the midst of all of this, with the restrictions in place in hospitals.
No one can prepare you for having a baby, no matter how many you have had. All kids are different, all child birth experiences are different. You can’t know what it will be like till they are here.
Naturally I was nervous. I had no idea how our son would react, how I would manage with two kids, how we would juggle child care, the list goes on. I was also painfully aware of the difference between the relaxed maternity leave I took during my first pregnancy, and the weeks spent after giving birth, recovering on the couch with my little bundle, and what would be my maternity leave the second time round, looking after what is a very active 2 year old who gave up napping last year. At least we would have the continued support of our parents and nursery to help us through this time.
Our baby girl came earlier than planned, leaving us feeling slightly more unprepared. It’s funny because I feel like this horrible virus was so far off our radar when we went into hospital to have her, and when came out of hospital almost a week later, suddenly people were talking about not sending their kids to school and they were panic buying loo roll! What had happened in that short space of time?
She was two weeks old when they announced that the country would be going into lockdown. I was thrown into a world of the unknown, of tears and anxiety. The prospect of no support, of not seeing our families, of no one meeting our new baby for an unknown amount of time, was all very hard to contend with, especially with post-partum hormones coursing through my body.
We are two months in now, and here’s what I can tell you –
- This has not been an opportunity to learn new skills (unless you count surviving on little sleep, and becoming a master of rearranging the fridge and freezer)
- This has not been an opportunity to get big jobs done. Even though we have a long list of them, they are pretty much on hold for now.
- This has not been an opportunity to lie on the couch cuddling my newborn baby.
- This has instead left me feeling like my eldest has a new parent – the television, mostly in the form of Hey Duggee – and suffering major guilt for having to split myself between the two of them in ways I never imagined I would need to.
- It has left my toddler clinging to some semblance of his routine – his bedtimes basically are about the same – and me worrying that he isn’t learning enough. We had a lot planned for this time, lots of educational activities and me trying to stick strictly to the limited TV time we already have, but after the first couple of weeks, the baby became more alert and this became harder.
- This has been a time for me pulling my hair out at the sheer amount of dishes and clothes washing a family of four can go through. I just about keep on top of this and some other basic house jobs.
- This has been a time for me fretting about the same things each day, and getting myself to a point where I am not worrying, just for me to have started up again by bedtime.
- We don’t have lazy days on the couch or lie ins, we don’t have drinks in the garden in the sun. Some days I can’t get dressed till the afternoon but that’s not out of choice its just that between the two kids being around us constantly, I sometimes don’t get a minute to get upstairs.
I probably haven’t helped myself as I’ve made the choice to express for the baby, meaning I am hooked up to a breast pump roughly 7 times a day for at least half an hour! This means I have to go to the bed late, because I have to do my last express at around 10.30pm, and then I have to get the sterilizer on and just do what I can to prep for the day ahead, so often I am not in bed till midnight. I also have to express in the middle of the night, around 2.30. I should do more than one, but I think sleep is more important. So it’s to bed for a couple hours, up for an express, back to bed, wake up when the baby wakes (husband feeds her, but I still wake up) then another express at around 6.20am, then I have to make the choice between getting up then, and seeing if there are any jobs I can do to kick-start the day, or going back to sleep for a bit. Of course this decision really all depends on if a child is awake. My son has always been quite an unpredictable sleeper, especially for his wake up time. Some days he’s awake at 6.30am, some days he will asleep right through till 9! I try not to let him sleep past 8.30, as it can really effect his day, but at the moment, especially when I don’t have anything to get him up for, I do sometimes let this rule slide.
Of course if they happen to both wake up at the same time, it can be a real nightmare too. I like if possible to have at least a half an hour period where its just me and my son, but an hour is better. We get some play time and then can eat our breakfast together if that happens. During the first month, I was able to give my son a lot more attention because the baby was in that sleep-wake-eat-sleep stage. Now that she’s more alert, it’s not that simple.
The fourth trimester seemed like a silly concept the first time I heard it. But when I actually read it about it, it made sense to me. It’s such an important, lovely time in a new Mother’s life. You are healing, learning about your new baby, learning about the new you! I loved that whole time with my son, and I loved my maternity leave. I am so pleased I embraced it, and enjoyed it. Because I feel like it’s being stolen from me. The time spent healing has so far felt rushed and uncomfortable, I felt I needed to be better sooner to be able to take care of both children 24/7, and with no one to take my son for a few hours here and there, or to come and do a couple of jobs for me, this has been difficult.
People tell me not to worry about the housework, just do what I can, but I do worry about it. I have to spend so much of the little free time I get playing catch up, only to find myself doing the same jobs on repeat. I get told not to fee guilty about the kids, they are young, they won’t remember this. I do feel guilty though and while I know they won’t remember this, I worry particularly for my son, that he will be changed by this experience or. That he will regress. I worry my daughters development will also be hindered.
I will tell them about this one day, about how I felt and how I worried. About how sorry I am. I hope I will be saying it to two people that have come through this well, and who tell me I am being silly for being worried, that they might laugh and say they think they turned out just fine.
Okay, I might be bordering on whinging here, and getting so far away from the whole purpose of this blog. So let’s find some silver linings in this bleak cloud.
- I am so incredibly lucky to have a husband who can work from home, who loves being a father and is willing to help out at every point he can.
- We are safe and healthy, with a good home around us.
- We have an amazing support network practically queuing up to help us once they can.
- We have amazing friends and family who have sent gifts for the kids and can’t wait to meet the baby.
- I have missed my son so much every single day since I returned to work, and I am now getting to witness him grow and change in a way I never thought I would.
In our household we have so much to be thankful for. It is hard, it is stressful, I cry a lot and I get angry, but we are very fortunate. I do feel like my maternity leave is being stolen away from me, and I feel sad that so many of our loved ones are missing out on our newborn’s early stages of life. I wonder what the future holds.
So that’s our lockdown story, so far. Who knows where we will be in another two months.
Stay safe out there.