Saturday 24 October 2020

Maternity Leave Lockdown

Ettie is three months old now. I don’t know how that’s possible, but there it is. It feels like she has always been here. The pregnancy feels like a distant memory now. I was thinking recently how strange this year has been, and how I’ve barely written so there will be no record of how I felt during this time. I don’t know whether that matters, but it seemed strange to live through such a strange time and not have written about it. 

I wrote that first paragraph a month ago, I am really struggling for time at the moment. Sitting down at my laptop isn’t easy and on the rare occasions I manage it, it’s usually because I have something specific to do. I often find myself trapped on the sofa under a sleeping baby, but that’s not a great position for typing so I’ve been using that time to read books. I like reading books so this has been lovely and I’ve read lots about birth and motherhood. 

I think the past month has felt harder pandemic-wise. I was ok being in lockdown when I was pregnant. I felt pretty safe cocooned at home with my family, knowing we were keeping ourselves safe. I may have been the strictest person, in fact, I was so terrified that one of us would come down with symptoms and it would me stop me having a home birth. We got all our shopping online because I just didn’t want to take any risks, which seems a bit silly now but nevermind. 

Having a new baby in lockdown was ok, too. We didn’t have to worry about visitors and that was quite nice to just spend that time as a family of five (so many) getting to know each other. There are so many hormonal changes happening in those early weeks, it’s actually quite ridiculous how much socialising new mums are expected to do. I wasn’t struggling with breastfeeding or anything so the reduced support didn’t bother me personally. I felt really looked after by my lovely midwife and I didn’t feel like the pandemic had caused me to miss out on any care of anything. 

But now, I guess now that the protective bubble doesn’t feel quite so necessary, it feels more restrictive. Ettie doesn’t feel like a vulnerable newborn anymore, and I miss my parents. It’s hard not being able to see them or my faraway friends. I find all the uncertainty around the guidelines and laws and restrictions quite unsettling. I wish there an end date, I think a lot of people are feeling that. I totally understand why the rules are there and I’m certainly not breaking them, but I think mentally it feels harder now than it did in the summer. 

I spend a lot of time walking with Ettie in the sling. My mum bought me a big babywearing coat to keep us both warm and it’s just lovely. It’s like wearing a big hug and I love it. I wish I’d bought one two babies ago instead of waiting till Ettie. I bought myself some walking shoes, too, which means I can stomp down the canal even when it’s very wet and the path is covered in giant puddles. Every morning, I drop the older two at school and then go for a big walk around where I live. It’s beautiful at this time of year. But I get back home at about half-past ten in the morning and then there’s really much to do until I pick the kids up again. There aren’t many baby groups, I can’t meet friends in cafes, it just feels very different from my previous maternity leaves. 

I go for walks with other mums some days. Other times I end up going for a few walks by myself just to fill the time. I’m not sure Ettie will ever learn things like rolling over or crawling because she spends so much time in the sling. I hope the babywearing coat and the walking shoes will mean we can keep walking every day even when it’s wintery and cold because otherwise, it’s going to feel like a very long winter. This has certainly been a strange year to have a baby, and I’m very glad this wasn’t my first (or only) maternity leave. 

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