Giving birth in lockdown – WhatsApp video check-ups, phenomenal support and ‘full of admiration’ for staff
For many, Covid-19 has come at a particularly bad time in their lives or careers. But what about for those experiencing that life changing and all consuming phenomenon of childbirth?
Jemma Pitt, 34, from Tooting says she was lucky her husband Tom was even allowed to witness the birth of their baby daughter, Ada on April 20.
“The hardest part for me was that Tom had to leave half an hour after Ada was born,” Jemma explains.
Georgina Taylor, 34, and Beth Simons, 37, from West Norwood both agree that their worst moment was also being separated from one another following the birth of their baby daughter Lumi on May 4 at King’s College Hospital.
Beth says: “Returning home without George was weird. I just kept faffing around trying to busy myself and just hoping that it would only be one night until we were back together.”
With Ada having to go on antibiotics, Jemma remained in St George’s Hospital for a further 3 days alone.
“You’re put on this ward with other new mums and lots of screaming babies, with curtains as your only form of privacy. Being alone in the ward for a first-time mum was quite overwhelming and emotional. You’re trying to learn something new but without the support of your husband,” she said.
In spite of the circumstances, Jemma is full of admiration for the NHS staff who were on hand to help in hospital.
“You rely a lot on the midwives. I was blown away by the level of care, but equally they had so much more to do because none of us had our partners there,” she explained.
Georgina feels the pre-labour care she received was incredible describing having a midwife with them the whole time. However, her post-labour experience was not so positive.
She said: “I was keen to just get home to have Beth there to help me. I had a cesarean and there wasn’t someone coming to check on me every hour which I think I needed after surgery.
“I just didn’t feel there was consistent care for me having just had a cesarean. I ended up using my panic button quite a lot to ask them to pass the baby to me so I could feed her.”
Clementine Hendry, 34, from Wimbledon, gave birth to her daughter, Sylvie, on April 6 earlier on in lockdown. She feels it is only now, 8 weeks later, that she and her husband Tom, 34, fully appreciate how different their experience has been from the norm.
“I really tried hard to stay calm and positive, but we did have a few scary moments, especially as my baby was in a risky transverse position,” she explains.
Clementine feared the pregnancy and birth was going to be more dangerous for herself and the baby as a result of the lockdown.
Clementine says: “The midwives were supposed to be calling me for weekly checks instead of in-person appointments, but it was all so chaotic that these often didn’t happen.”
In contrast, Helen Wade, 33, from south east London is due to give birth in less than 2 weeks and after almost 11 weeks of lockdown feels she is prepared for her due date giving credit to NHS staff who have assisted her so far.
“The support I have received throughout has been phenomenal. Every midwife, doctor and consultant that I’ve spoken to has gone above and beyond to reassure me and provide me with as much information and resources as possible,” she said.
With her husband unable to work from home due to his job in food production, Helen and Phil have had to isolate separately.
Helen explains that it has been punishing on both of them: “Being alone for two months and not being able to see family and friends, particularly during the latter stages of my pregnancy has been pretty tough.
“I know my husband has also found the restrictions difficult. He has also had to miss a couple of scans as they ask you to attend alone.”
Clementine comments that they haven’t been able to register her daughter’s birth because all registry offices have been closed. Only from June 1 have some begun to re-open again for birth registrations.
Some key services, like breastfeeding clinics, Clementine feels she would have benefited from, remain closed.
Ten days after Sylvie’s birth, all home visits and in-person appointments ceased and checks have been done over phone or via WhatsApp video.
Clementine says: “The health visitor thought my daughter looked jaundiced over WhatsApp video so I had to take her to a community centre miles from our house to be checked over in person by a health visitor in full PPE. It turned out it was just the light on our video call which made her look more yellow than she actually was!”
One thing Clementine, Jemma, Beth and Georgina all share in common is a sadness at being unable to introduce their babies to family members.
Georgina explains: “Putting a date on when siblings and parents can hold Lumi is impossible. That’s been really difficult.”