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Pregnant in a Pandemic

With my fingers firmly crossed, I can finally see a little bit of light at the end of a very long, lockdown tunnel. It’s been a funny old 14 months, and something I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined! I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while, but every time I started, I wondered if it was too late, were we getting to the end of the madness, and it would be a bit redundant? Well, I figured - just get on with it! So - here it is…

When I first thought about writing this, I was going to write about my own experience, I was planning to talk  about how I felt going through a pregnancy during such a mad time. When England went in to lockdown on the 23rd March 2020, I was 7 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child. A week later, I had to take our youngest to A&E with some breathing issues, and I have to admit, I was a bit worried about going in to hospital with her. We got in to UCLH on the night they closed their paediatric A&E, and it was like a ghost town. I had to step out of the room while they did her chest x-ray, because I was pregnant. One of the nurses congratulated me and it started to feel real. The following week, we arranged my booking appointment, and I was asking questions about whether or not I could FaceTime my husband during my 12week scan, because the appointment letter said he wasn’t allowed to attend. Things didn’t quite go to plan. Fast forward two weeks, and I found myself sitting in the Early Pregnancy Unit, alone, because of COVID restrictions. I had to have a scan, and receive the heartbreaking news that I was miscarrying, with my husband waiting in the car with our two girls. I then had to break that news to my him, whilst trying not to fall apart in front of our daughters. A horrid, horrid time, and as the weeks and months passed by, I started to hear more and more stories like mine, of people receiving devastating news, alone.

At this point, I was actually pretty grateful for the fact that I couldn’t take any bookings - I wasn’t sure how I would feel when meeting my new tiny clients, having gone through the loss of a pregnancy. I joined a support group, set up by an amazing couple of women, and I started my recovery. I started running, and felt as though I was beginning to take back control of the body I viewed as having let me down. I put my brain in to training gear - I took time to continue my newborn education, throwing myself in to a mentoring group I am part of (run by Maddy Rogers), and then in October last year I spent a day with a fantastic newborn photographer and trainer (Emma Jane of Little Love Photography). I was nervous - would I get through the day, hearing people talk about their pregnancy and birth, without bursting in to tears? As soon as the first baby arrived, I felt a weight lifted - all of the worrying about how I might feel was unfounded. We talked about the first few days of newborn life, the being absolutely shattered, the bizarre things that hormones do, what it was like having a baby in a pandemic.

I love my job - being a newborn photographer for me, is about so much more than just taking some pictures. I love hearing about my client’s lives, their birth stories, their other kids and pets reactions to a baby coming in to the house, and now, it was really interesting to hear about going through all of that while COVID restrictions were in place. It got me thinking… Given I only had my pretty awful 10 week experience to go on, I asked some more local parents if they would share their stories with me for this piece - and I am so grateful for my local community, that agreed to do just that.

I asked a bunch of questions, ranging from whether or not their partners were allowed to attend appointments, to what was the best gift they were given. The answers were super interesting, and some really resonated with me - especially as none of the mother’s were able to have their partners with them for a majority of their scans.

- Some really felt the impact of COVID on their care, particularly postnatally - where in non-COVID times, there would be visitors to help support during the period in hospital following birth, now this was being limited significantly, which left some women feeling isolated and anxious, as midwives were stretched more than they have ever been before.

- There was a common theme amongst the mums - that their biggest worries were not having their partners there for appointments/scans, and for some that they may not be able to be present for the birth.

- The restrictions meaning baby groups couldn’t go ahead had hit some people hard - their support networks had been diminished already, and without these groups, they weren’t really able to build any new ones.

- I learned that the things people found super useful in the early days, were sleepyheads, water bottles, insulated cups and chocolate!

- Top partner advice? Have snacks, prepare yourself for extra support being needed, and try to embrace everything as though COVID was not going on.

- A resounding positive of this whole schizzle, has been that partners have been able to spend more time with their tiny people that they would have done in normal times - they’ve been able to share more of the “firsts” that they might otherwise have missed, because they were out of the house at work.

I really hope we are moving in to brighter times ahead,I think we are, and that through conversations with people that have been through growing their families in such unprecedented times, will lead to lessons being learned around maternity and postnatal care - I guess time will tell.

I sign off, with a huge thank you to those that took the time to fill out my questionnaire - it has helped me not just write this piece, but also gives me a great insight in to what people have been through before they walk through my studio door as a brand new family.

P.S The image here is one I took just as we moved in to tier 4, this couple had just had a baby, but because of restrictions I wasn’t allowed to photograph them in the studio. They took me up on my slightly out of the ordinary suggestion of "can we try something through the window?”, and humoured me as I climbed the step ladder, looking like some kind of stalker/burglar planning a robbery! I love the story behind the images from the session - the reflections in the glass, the expressions that we captured, and that they show so beautifully how the restrictions changed our lives in the simplest of ways. I also love that this is a one of a kind shoot - I didn’t do anymore as we went in to full lockdown a week later, but this one will always be special for me.