The lonely reality of becoming a first-time mum in lockdown

by Monica Magan

Cuppa warning, this is a bit of a lengthy one. Grab a cuppa when you have 5 minutes, sit comfy and read away. 

I’m usually the silver lining type of person, I’m not one to sit with someone in their gloom. Don’t get me wrong I love a good moan and rant, but if it’s someone else, I find it difficult to sit and watch them be upset. I’ll try and make them feel better, try to help them see the good surrounding. But sometimes we just want to be sad, sometimes we need to feel that way and we want someone to sit with us while we do and have them listen to the rants. Sometimes we need to feel that way to then really appreciate the good. 

Throughout lockdown I’ve kind of just got on with it, felt upset by it all but looked at the positives. My 30th birthday holiday was cancelled at the very last minute and I spent it in lockdown (I’m fairly sure my 31st will be much the same – just less pregnant! Gin. YAY!), I had most of my antenatal appointments over the phone and all classes over zoom, I went to my hospital appointments alone and had the constant worry I’d be birthing this baby alone too. My experience of postnatal in hospital was awful – I didn’t want to be there, and I was dying to come home. I keep telling myself that it must’ve been due to the hospital being understaffed – but whether that’s true I have no idea. I was unsupported, I had no idea what I was doing as a first-timer and there wasn’t much help in the ward, a couple of the staff were rude (not all – I had a great birth experience and mostly the midwives were lovely), and there was a lack of communication!

One example of my bad experiences…

On my first night in hospital with baby (probably about 5 hours after giving birth), she wasn’t latching, so I needed to get formula from the midwives’ office. Obviously at this stage I didn’t want to leave baby on her own and I was in pain, so I asked one of the nurses if they can get some for me. She told me “the office is just down the corridor you can go and get it yourself” – she actually said that to me. And it wasn’t in a nice, being helpful, trying to get me up and moving kind of way. It was rude and unnecessary. At the time, I was so tired I thought it was just me, that I was being pathetic or weak and that I should just get on with it. It felt like I cried for my entire time in hospital. Now looking back, I realise I deserved more in that moment, that woman who had the responsibility of looking after postnatal women could have handled that so much better, she should’ve done better. Hundreds of thousands of couples have had to go through the same thing, if not worse – it’s not sympathy I’m looking for here. I just want to be open and let people know it’s fine to not be “fine” with it. We’re allowed to feel pi**ed off. Any mums to be reading this, go into your birth experience with the knowledge that you’re in control of your own journey. Listen to their advise but you tell them what feels right and wrong for you, you feel whatever you need to feel, you hold your ground if you need someone to get you something! 

Anyway, despite these things, I was so happy when we were home and settled, and I focussed on the positives of lockdown. It was summer so we made the most of what we could – exploring different parks and outdoor places with baby – I really enjoyed it. We loved being at home and enjoyed all the quality time we had to spend together with our new baby girl. Blissfully unaware of how long this lockdown situation would go on for.

But last weekend it hit me hard, 3 weeks into lockdown 3.0 and I was overwhelmed with familiar emotions that I’d felt along the way, but previously in much lower doses, all at once. Lonely, suffocated, secluded, angry, upset, disappointed, envious – I’d felt these things in tiny bursts I’m sure we all have throughout the pandemic. But I’d stop myself, or I’d feel guilty for feeling that way. I didn’t want to feel that way around Myla and we’re blessed to have her here.

Feeling…

lonely – because the only conversation I get all day is with my babbling baby who is so cute but who knows what she’s saying. Because you can’t meet with anyone like we would in the summer, its too cold outside. Because we’re not used to this enclosed life that we’re being forced to lead at the moment.

suffocated – because the only other place, aside from home, I’ve been in for months and months is the supermarket. Because I’ve gone from having multiple holidays in the year to zero, I’m getting cabin fever. Because I started my lockdown at the beginning of March and haven’t really lifted it since, to avoid any risks during or after pregnancy.              

angry – because blaming others, the government, the virus, how this all started – makes it all a bit easier to swallow. Because I’ve spent my entire maternity leave in lockdown – the whole thing! I didn’t get to do all those things I imagined I would do.

upset – for all the things we didn’t get to do, the people we haven’t been able to see, everything Myla is missing out on. For those who have lost loved ones. For those close to me who haven’t been able to celebrate in the ways in which they’d dreamt, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries.

disappointed – at how this has all been handled in the UK, seeing/hearing of other countries doing it better. Because pubs/bars and streets were flooded with people packed like sardines.

envious – (just slightly) of those living their best life, being able to make the most of cheaper holidays.

So all those feelings built up. Along with these, I felt the pressure of keeping Myla entertained, learning, moving and energised – within the same 4 walls. (Winter doesn’t help!) Desperately trying to make sure family doesn’t miss out on how much Myla is growing up, and vice versa, that she sees as many faces as possible so she’s not so overwhelmed when we can eventually meet! I worry about this a lot, how scared she might be, how clingy, how unsure of the world, will it affect her development? 8 months of only knowing the same few faces, voices, people, places (home and Sainsburys!)…it’s a long time. 

Last weekend, the feelings built up and I needed some time out, just a bit of time to let myself feel all those emotions and worry about those things. Angry, upset, lonely. I just needed time to myself to let it happen (ironic really that I needed time to myself to escape the feeling of loneliness). I took myself away – not far, to the bedroom lol – to let myself feel a bit of self-pity for a minute, had a bit of a cry and made some decisions about how I could mix up lockdown life. To think about how I can pull myself out of the mundane routine I’d found myself in. Because in all honesty, this is what gets to me the most – doing the same old thing every single day. The not being able to explore the world with Myla. Not being able to show her places that we would’ve gone, take her to classes, swimming, see the faces and meet my amazing family and friends that she would’ve. It’s just not the same over video call. It’s a decent alternative, but not the same at all. A couple of times, I’ve sat and showed her our wedding album, the people, how much fun we had. She has no idea what it is – I mean, I look like a completely different person (to the pyjama wearing, no make up Mum I am right now). To her its just another story book.

I got some new ideas of things to do with Myla with the help of good old social media, I found some new walking routes around the area, I made a deal with hubby that on his days off we venture out to other parks/commons for a stroll. Just a few things to go back to making the most of the situation.

If you’re feeling this way, stuck in a rut and overwhelmed, just know you’re not alone. Feeling all of the above – is so completely normal. Pick up the phone, tell a friend – parent, new parent, non-parent – everyone’s feeling some type of way. You’ll be surprised to find out that they might be feeling or have felt the same way as you. It will make you feel better; not because they feel this way, but because its reassuring to know that you’re not the only one. They might have even cried on the same day as you. If you want to talk to someone a bit further removed – I’m always here! Reach out, message me, let’s talk. It’s SO important to talk.  

Having said and felt all of the above, I know how lucky we are and I appreciate everything I have at this time. I’ve got an amazing support of friends and family around which makes it easy to talk and rant 🙂 

Please feel free to share this if you think anyone needs to read about the experiences or know that it’s fine to feel it.

~X~

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