Rebecca and Seren - 24th May
Updated: Aug 23
In Rebecca’s story, she talks about the anxiety she felt before, during and immediately after the birth of her baby because of Covid-19, and the impact this had on what should have been a very special time for her and her partner. She pays thanks to the wonderful midwives and health visitors who supported her through this difficult time - a reminder to us all about just how valuable our NHS key workers have been throughout the pandemic.
On the 10th of September 2019, I sat in the bathroom staring at two pink lines that I really didn't expect to see. I have a child from a previous relationship, but this was to be my partner’s first child and I couldn’t wait to tell him that he was going to finally be a dad.
He was over the moon and we instantly started talking about all the things we couldn't wait to do and how we couldn't wait for everyone to meet our little bundle of joy when she arrived. After we’d had the first scan, we broke the news to my son that he would be a brother. He couldn't have been happier. Things were perfect.
Then the bad luck began.
I worked for Mothercare at the time and found out I'd be losing my job due to it shutting down. I was devastated. How were we going to afford a baby now? We comforted ourselves with the thought that nothing else could go wrong. Who would have guessed that a pandemic would soon follow?
January passed and Mothercare closed, so without a job I decided to make the most of relaxing and enjoying myself before our baby was due.
Then I started hearing about a virus in China and how terrible it sounded, but thought that we were lucky not to have it here. But slowly and surely it spread. I remember when I read that the first Covid case had appeared in the UK, I foolishly thought we wouldn’t get it badly here.
But as each day passed, my stomach dropped. It was getting bad and the panic set in. What if I get? What if my son gets it? Or my partner? Then lockdown came, schools shut and my son was home with me full time. I wondered how I was supposed to look after my son and protect myself and my unborn child. I was expected to become a teacher to a child of 6 years old.
The further along I got into the pregnancy, the harder it got. My son showed no interest in learning, I was tired and achy and also my son started playing up massively. My partner worked everyday due to being a key worker. The worst part was that I couldn't go to see my family and get the help and support I needed in order to keep my sanity. I would often worry when my partner was at work that he would get ill, and then so would the rest of us.
Things got more stressful when it came to buying baby items. Due to shops being shut we were forced to shop online, taking away the special moments of going and picking the things we liked from a shop. We also panicked about whether it would arrive in time due to the massive amounts people were ordering and whether we’d have everything we needed.
As time went on, I couldn’t help but get more and more worried. I kept thinking, “It's going to be awful bringing a baby into this world.” It had been announced that partners were not allowed into the hospital until you were in active labour. It was bad enough being in lockdown and not having my family there for support before and after the baby being born, but now I wouldn’t get to have my partner there either. The joys of pregnancy, birth and the after birth were slowing being taken away from me bit by bit. I sat praying that I didn't have to go in for an induction or anything that meant I'd be there for hours on my own; it is scary enough being in labour with support, let alone without.
Fast forward to May 24th at 40+6 weeks, and my waters broke all over my kitchen floor. You cannot imagine the relief I felt knowing that an induction was out of the window and I could go straight into the labour ward with my partner at my side!
Upon arrival we were greeted by two midwives who would be looking after us. They had masks covering their face and full PPE on. However, their eyes were warm and I could tell they were smiling behind the masks.
Due to my little one pooing in the womb, I was told that I would have to stay in over night so the baby could be monitored. I remember bursting into tears knowing that my partner would go home the moment I left the labour ward and wouldn't be able to return the next day until I had to leave, whenever that would be. The midwives reassured me constantly, but I remember thinking that it just wasn’t fair. The idea of staying in hospital, knowing that people might have the virus also panicked me. What if someone from that ward came over here and brought it with them and made us sick? My labour wasn’t how I planned. My water birth went out the window, and a drip was put in to help me progress as fast as possible in order to get the baby out quickly.
All throughout, the midwives couldn't have been more amazing. Despite the PPE, nothing changed in the care I received. They were lovely, made me laugh and helped take my mind off the pain as best they could.
The time to push came and my daughter, Seren Deborah Dos Santos, was born at 1:20pm. I instantly panicked as I knew in some hospitals they made partners leave straight away and I thought that was going to happen to me. But no. They allowed my partner to stay and were in no rush to move us. They brought us food and tea and then left us to enjoy our bundle, returning just to weigh her and then help me latch.
After three hours or so, my partner left to go home and I settled into my bed on the ward with my baby girl. The ward wasn’t very busy and actually relaxing. All midwives were in full PPE, but still so friendly and I felt instantly relaxed about staying in. All the midwives, when not helping someone, were cleaning and keeping on top of hygiene. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Oddly enough, I kind of forgot for a night what was going on in this crazy world.
The following day I was allowed to leave. I phoned my partner and he arrived at the ward door with the carseat, and the midwife pushed the baby whilst I took my bags out to the door to meet him.
My parents had been looking after my son when I went into hospital, so they came to drop him home. I know we had to social distance, but as my parents had been looking after my son for a night, I felt there was no reason to say no to them having a snuggle with their new granddaughter. They washed their hands and sanitised them and had also put fresh clothes on. Only then were they allowed to hold her. It was lovely to see, and to know that they got to do that. However, no one else did.
Visitors came and sat in the garden - social distancing - to meet our daughter but no one touched her. We had Facetime too, for the family in Birmingham, however it just wasn't the same. It felt so unfair that I couldn't share my newborn to the family. It was ripped away. But as the rules started easing, I became more and more excited knowing that people could soon share the joy with me properly.
Now that we can interact in a bubble, my brothers and their wives have finally been able to hold and enjoy my daughter, along with other family members of mine and my partner’s. We are aware of the virus still being out there and also who we are around, but we want our family to enjoy our daughter with us. We make sure everyone washes their hands and sanitises them before touching her. We never allow anyone who's been feeling unwell near. We are careful out and about, and friends can visit but we don't allow them to hold her.
The care I've received since having Seren has also been amazing. The midwives who looked after us for the first few days for her checks were great, and the health visitor too. Seren has CMPA (Cow’s milk protein allergy), reflux and colic so it hasn't been easy, and I am suffering with postnatal depression, but the health visitor has been so supportive. Despite the virus, she has still been coming to do her checks for Seren at the house, and if I need to see her for my mental health, she makes extra visits. She’s always in PPE, but nevertheless, friendly and caring. I take my hat off to the midwives and health visitors. It can't be easy trying to keep a lot of hormonal pregnant ladies at ease and provide all the care they need in a time like this. But they are doing a brilliant job at keeping things feeling as normal and as special as they can.
Needless to say, this pregnancy won't be one I'll ever forget. My partner and I can tell our little girl when she's old enough that she was born during a pandemic – at a time when masks were the norm, social distancing was a thing and if someone was upset or hurt you couldn't comfort them with a hug. But she's here, and we are a happy family. We’re just taking it day by day.