• Katy Rigg

Sarah and Eila - 2nd May

After a long and difficult birth, resulting in a Strep B infection and emergency C-section, Sarah was relieved to finally hold their healthy baby girl. She was so happy, she had almost forgotten that there was a global pandemic still going on. Later on, when it was just the three of them at home, Sarah felt a constant sense of doom and realised that she was experiencing post-natal depression.

However, with time, and the support of her partner, David, her mum on the other end of the phone, and her midwife, she began to feel more positive, and focus on the gift of time they had been granted as a family that they wouldn’t have otherwise had. Her story is full of courage, love and gratitude and a credit to just how far she has come in the last few months.

The morning I found out I was pregnant was one of the happiest moments of my life. I remember being so excited, hugging my partner David and him being so happy. It was all so surreal, a dream but we were really excited to start this new chapter of our lives together.

My pregnancy went really well. I was one of the lucky ones and I never really had any issues, our baby was growing amazingly and we were both well. Each visit we had for a scan or midwife appointment, we were getting more and more excited. It was becoming real to us both, especially when we could see her growing with me and getting bigger by the day. 

February was when we really started to hear of the virus. I was 3 months away from my due date, and I started getting concerned that this virus might be something we needed to be worried about but I had no idea how serious it would become. 

March 23rd, the day of lockdown. I was 35 weeks pregnant. I had decided to take early maternity leave from work as I was struggling to stand for long periods of time, my back and legs ached and I struggled with fatigue and suddenly everything changed....... we were plunged into chaos with new rules regarding social distancing, not going out and restrictions on seeing family and friends; all this to cope with which seemed to change on a daily basis. 

Before the new rules, my partner and I would go to the doctors together - holding hands and supporting each other, chatting, laughing, seeing other pregnant women waiting for their appointments, being so excited to hear our baby’s heart beat and enjoying the moments of being first time expectant parents. 

Now, my partner wouldn’t be able to be with me. I had to go to a different surgery and wait in the car until my midwife was ready to see me. She would unlock the door and take me through to the deserted waiting room. 

She had a mask, gloves and apron on. She was so lovely and made me feel comfortable and safe during my checks, but it was really strange not being able to see her facial expressions. 

I was finding it difficult to stay excited. Being a first time mum I obviously hadn’t experienced any maternity appointments but now with the new way, it wasn’t how I’d read it to be and now had no idea what was going to happen.

Two months into lockdown, I was watching the news and checking the hospital rules just praying that David could be with me and be present at the birth when I finally went into labour and that my baby and I were going to be ok.  We had been keeping ourselves safe and isolated so we wouldn’t have any complications because of covid. 

On May 2nd at 3am my waters broke. We phoned the hospital and I was told to come into the labour ward at 10:30am and come alone. I was asked if I had any coronavirus symptoms, but thankfully I hadn’t. 

David, my partner, only has a motorbike so my mum drove us all to the hospital. 

I had to leave them both in the car whilst I went in to get checked. At this stage they weren’t sure if I’d need to stay in or be sent home.

Walking up to the labour ward alone it was really strange and upsetting.  The whole magical moment of preparing to have a baby was replaced with fear and loneliness. There was nobody around apart from a few staff members and I was constantly worried about the risk of me picking up the virus whilst in the hospital. 

I got to the ward and buzzed in and again it was so quiet, everyone was in PPE and the midwife assigned to me came to greet me. She was great and reassured me. Once I got chatting to her I felt a lot better and started to relax, she was trying to make the experience as normal as possible which was really comforting.

She checked to see if my waters had broken and they had. She continued the usual checks, blood pressure, heart rate etc and some blood tests. 

She noticed my heart rate was higher than she would have liked. I felt fine in myself - maybe a little off - but just thought it was normal labour feelings. Earlier on I had episodes of shaking like I was shivering but not cold. I didn’t think anything of it and put it down to nerves. 

I was concerned about my partner at this stage. He had been waiting in the car for 5 hours whilst they continued to monitor my heart rate and await blood results. They didn’t want to send me home until my heart rate was under control and whilst waiting, I had begun to get mild contractions. The midwife discussed about getting induced so that my labour would progress quicker as my waters had broken earlier that morning and the risk of infection was increasing by the hour. I spoke to David on the phone and we agreed that it made more sense for me to stay in and get the labour started rather than go home and wait. Covid had made everything so stressful and the thought of going home to wait was too much so they agreed finally that David could join me. He made his way up with his mask on, at this point the women and their partners didn’t have to wear masks in the delivery room unless they had covid symptoms. Once in the room though, neither of us could leave. It was so nice and a relief to finally have him with me. We were soon to meet our baby girl and as scary as it was, we were both so excited. We focused on the fact we were about to become parents for the first time. Coronavirus seemed a world away at this stage and far away from our thoughts. 

Originally my mum was going to be there too,  but because of the one person rule she couldn’t be with me and had to go home and await news of the birth. I felt so sad she couldn’t be there but focused on having a healthy, happy baby! 

My heart rate was still  high and increasing and my contractions were getting so strong and really close together. The pain was intense as I had gel applied to progress the labour. I was told it would make the contractions more painful but I had no idea how painful! 

I was still shaking uncontrollably and it was getting worse. The midwife was concerned and David was getting increasingly worried  too. An ECG was ordered to monitor my heart rate. It was about 160-180bpm! 

To check the baby’s heart rate, they attached a little clip on her head to make sure they had a good reading of both hers and mine. I was shaking so violently at this point and was high on the gas and air used to help me manage the painful contractions. I asked for an Epidural which thankfully I was able to have!  This was put in place and finally I had relief and felt much more comfortable. The midwife came over and gave me the Covid swab test which was very unpleasant but something that had to be done. Finally I could relax, my pain was now being managed and I felt more in control. We waited to welcome our baby into the world. 

The next thing I knew the midwife who had just come on night shift called for the doctors and other members of the team to check on me as I was still uncontrollably shivering, drowsy, had no energy at all and my heart rate wasn’t slowing down. I had a temperature and now my baby’s heart rate was dipping, she was starting to struggle.

After a chat with the consultants and doctors on call, the team decided it looked like I was developing an infection....Sepsis. They quickly decided they needed to take me down for an emergency C Section.

It had been 10 hours since I arrived at the hospital and over 24 hours with no sleep. I was exhausted and just wanted our baby to be okay. It all became so scary but I knew I was being well looked after and then I felt confident all would be ok. We just kept thinking, we will meet our baby soon, and that’s all that mattered. 

David was given scrubs and a mask, and I was quickly whisked off to theatre. It happened so quickly! So many people around and so much going on. I was so sleepy because of the medications but I could feel them moving her around inside me but with no pain at all, and within 30 minutes, at 10:03pm, we had a baby! It took what we felt was a couple of minutes but to be honest probably wasn’t that long and we heard her cry for the first time, it was such a relief!

I cannot tell you how amazing hearing her cry was! She was finally here, she was okay and we were holding our baby girl, Eila. 

Covid was miles from our minds, we were in our own little world in awe with this cute baby we had made together and it felt so amazing. David got to cut the cord and he held her for a while. I couldn’t stop staring at her! She is so perfect! 

When I was being wheeled out of theatre I heard the doctors saying, “Next patient is Covid positive.” It hit me and brought me back to reality again that the world was far from normal.

Baby Eila was taken away to be given antibiotics and I was having mine through a cannula. David and I were taken back to the delivery room to wait for Eila to join us. Once she did it was the start of parenthood, getting her to feed, skin to skin, putting her first clothes on. 

It was now past midnight and David asked when he had to leave, the rules were 3 hours after a C Section but the midwife was amazing and got permission for him to stay over night in the delivery room with me. I was so happy we could spend our first night together as a family. I was to be transferred to the ward in the morning. We spent one wonderful night together with our first baby and cherished the time because we knew he would have to leave first thing in the morning. 

I ended up staying on the ward for 3 days, fighting off infection, which I later found out was due to a group B Strep infection in the placenta. I was so lucky they had picked it up I dread to think what would have happened if they hadn’t. Things could have turned out so differently and I’m so grateful to all the staff members who were there to help me. They were all truly wonderful and I couldn’t fault them one bit under very difficult circumstances. 

No visitors were allowed so it was just me and Eila and one other mum at the other end of the ward with her newborn baby. It was so quiet! 

It made me sad that the excitement of us having our baby and family getting to visit and congratulate us couldn’t happen and Eila wouldn’t get to meet her family for a long time. 

The day I was discharged was amazing. I couldn’t wait to be home with David again. I got to see my mum and she got to see Eila when she came to collect us and finally we got to go home! We had made it.

Once home, my mum stayed for a while. The lockdown meant families couldn’t meet each other and the virus was at its peak! I didn’t know when I could see my mum again and I wanted her to at least have a cuddle and be with Eila because she couldn’t be at the birth. It was a bitter sweet moment and I wanted to cry. 

The healing from the C Section was so painful. My emotions were all over the place and I was exhausted! Over the next couple of weeks I felt numb, but David was absolutely amazing. He had been furloughed from work and was my rock through the last weeks of pregnancy and first weeks of being home. He helped so much and I was so happy he had the time to be with me and Eila. I really needed the support. I got baby blues and was a little depressed. It hit me hard after the first week that I couldn’t leave my home, I couldn’t see my mum, I couldn’t meet other mums or friends. I couldn’t meet my health visitor, but my midwife was so kind and came over to do her few checks so that she could see we were okay and that honestly made such a difference! I can’t thank her enough for being so kind. I looked forward to her visits, just to be able to see a person. I was so scared in case Eila got sick or I became unwell or any issues with healing because I didn’t want to go back to hospital or visit the doctors for fear of catching this horrendous virus. We had just had this beautiful baby and it was like she was a secret or it never really happened and I found that so hard. If it wasn’t for mum being at the end of the phone day or night to help and advise, and David being so supportive strong for us both, getting me through the hard times, I don’t know how I’d have coped. I loved Eila to pieces, we bonded amazingly during our hospital stay and I adored her, but I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed, scared and alone. 

The weeks passed quickly and before we knew it, Eila was a month old. I’d started to get the hang of being a new mum and finally felt more positive. David got to be there for the first 6 weeks of her life and I am so grateful we got the chance to spend so much time as a family, something that wouldn’t have been possible without lockdown as he’d only be entitled to two weeks paternity. David got to bond with her and spend quality time with her and now they have the strongest bond which is beautiful! Photos and videos were shared with family and friends as we all adjusted to this new way of life. I booked myself and Eila on a newborn baby class online which we loved, I got some great tips and met some new mums. I was determined to get on with it and enjoy her no matter what. 

In the early days I felt cheated. I felt I had missed out on the real experience of having a first baby, and sharing that with family and friends. I cried thinking about all the things we had planned and couldn’t do. I constantly had a feeling of doom and my anxiety levels had escalated. I kept thinking Eila would disappear from my life or I would loose everything and everyone I loved. It was hard.

But now I can look back and see that whilst it was sad family members couldn’t see her or hold her… I could. I could spend as much time as I wanted with her, I didn’t have to get dressed, I didn’t have to wear make up, I didn’t have to stress about going anywhere, I didn’t have to worry about being judged as a new mum. I have all day everyday to spend with my daughter, to learn about her, really bond and get to know her and get to know myself without any influences from other people. We had quality time as a new family. We had time! Time we never used to have, time to enjoy each other. 

Eila is now 3 months old and thriving! She’s confident, strong, healthy and the love that she shares with us both is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

Yes she’s missed out on seeing family and hasn’t really got to experience the world yet and probably won’t for a while but she’s had both our full attention, devotion, love 24/7.  We’ve spent quality time together which is amazing and so lucky it was possible.

One day this will all  be over and she’ll get the chance to experience the world with us, knowing we will always be there for her as we have been from the start and her life will be beautiful and fun.

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