Going full term during this coronavirus pandemic fills me with absolute terror

Ruth Davies enjoyed showing off her bump on Mousehold Heath in Norwich

Ruth Davies enjoyed showing off her bump on Mousehold Heath in Norwich - Credit: Jenny Jones

Officially full term with my fourth pregnancy during a worldwide pandemic and nothing feels as lovely or as light as I’d like it to be. I wanted to do all the pregnancy things just one last time – a baby shower with friends, making a cast of my bump, a proper bump photo shoot… And none of it can be as you’d expect which is such a shame.

The baby shower is right out the window of course and though I did try to make a cast of my bump it was not a success (you need a pro for sure) while my maternity shoot was outside in the woods - lovely but… You know, probably not normal to be running around Mousehold Heath in Norwich in your underwear heavily pregnant - the dog walkers had an unexpected morning!

That’s just the frilly bits of course. It’s also quite unusual when it comes to the nitty gritty reality of being pregnant, labouring and having a new baby in these strange times and the thought of giving birth right now is utterly terrifying. 

Different terrifying to being a first time mum and not the same terrifying as giving birth in my living room second time around either. It’s not even comparable to the terror of my third time labour where everything went wrong ending with an emergency C-Section, a massive haemorrhage then requiring a blood transfusion before I could come home.

Those things were frightening, but this… somehow feels altogether more so.

My maternity care has been disjointed throughout and with forms not filled causing delays to both appointments and scans as well as mismanaged cancelled appointments (which shouldn’t have been cancelled) it’s all been a bit worrying. I’ve been told over and over that Covid has not affected maternity care in Norfolk, yet the proof of the pudding tells me differently.

When I have had appointments they’ve often been muddled up, late, not attended by anyone who has read my notes and it’s been a completely different and alien experience to any other pregnancy. I guess it can’t be helped.

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The thing is, NHS staff are stretched and as we all know, the hospitals are doing their level best not to break their banks. But the fact remains babies are being born regardless and no amount of “rescheduling” is going to change that. It’s not as simple as cancelling an operation or changing an appointment time as if a baby is being born it’s being born with or without a pandemic.

On the whole in this country I think we have fantastic birth awareness on how a positive or negative experience impacts on women (from my own experience at the N&N in the past our hospital is more clued up than most) but this knowledge is being ignored right now and I don’t think it should be.

Maternal mental health challenges will not change simply because a national lockdown is happening and yet I believe, having spoken to many new mums throughout this time, that the collateral damage inflicted upon pregnant women is going to be incredibly far reaching when it’s entirely unnecessary.

For example, it took a considerable amount of campaigning for women to be granted a right to have a birth partner throughout but the denial of a this at the beginning of the pandemic was, in my view, rather bonkers.

Whether a woman labouring in the hospital is alone or with a member of her household the risk of spread is the same - if one of them has it the other surely does too yet her mental health, after being alone at such a frightening time, could affect her for the rest of her life.

For first time mums this must be even harder, her journey into motherhood should be supported as it can be a lonely old time in the best of days yet right now it’s left wanting. I just hope my own labour is natural, straightforward and I can go home quickly afterwards – not that it will be “normal” there either (no visiting grandparents) but at least it won’t feel quite so alien.

Maternal mental health must be more looked after than it is feeling to me right now. Both before during and after pregnancy women need support, especially if they are first timers – I put faith into organisations like “Pregnant Then Screwed” who I know are fighting for me along with every other pregnant or new mum in the UK.

And If you know a new mum then can I suggest offering support in any way you can too - it will give a glimmer of positivity in a moment where I can tell you she will be feeling more than a bit nervous.

Make her a meal and deliver it to her doorstep, send her a text to say you’re thinking of her and when you see people fighting for maternal rights do sign the petitions and make your voices loud. It may seem small and it might even feel unimportant until you’re pregnant and feeling that little bit screwed yourself, but it is a big deal and an issue which will affect someone we all know at some point over the next few months because like I said, babies are being born, pandemic or not, and mums shouldn’t be collateral damage.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk

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