Nursery Blog

Maternity leave in a pandemic

As I rejoin the working world after 9+ months on maternity leave, the powers at The Nursery thought it only fair I reflect on what starting a family in 2020 has been like.

It would be lovely to write a piece on how my experience compared to the norm. But, as a first-time mum, I have only ever known raising a tiny human in a pandemic world – a strange thought. Instead, I will leave it to the parents amongst you, to decide how our experience compares to your own.

Despite everything, we have been really quite fortunate. My daughter was born in mid-February, just as the epidemic in China had well and truly grabbed global attention but a few weeks before s**t really started to hit the fan.

My partner was able to attend every appointment, there was no time limit on how much of labour he could experience with me – though I am pretty sure he would have appreciated an extra kip if given the opportunity. There were no masks, no PPE. Just regular doctors, midwives and nurses in scrubs and gloves. All of which I am incredibly grateful for.

Even those first hazy days at home. Living on only the upstairs floor of the house; plates of hot cross buns and mugs of tea being delivered to me in bed, or in what would become the dreaded feeding chair. Gradually branching out to spend time downstairs, getting that washing machine on, venturing outside for the first walk – will all sound very familiar I am sure!

It was only as my partner headed back to work that everything changed. The outside world now seemed like a much scarier place than we left it. As the days ticked by, he got more and more nervous about the risk of bringing the virus in.

Like much of the country, we shifted into a slightly parallel existence, with the news constantly rolling in the background. But for me, it was the backdrop to the merry-go-round of newborn life…

Is she hungry?

Does she need her nappy changed?

She must be tired!

Why isn’t she sleeping?

Oh, my god she’s asleep, put the kettle on!

[baby cries just as I sit down and put my feet up]

Nevertheless, I watched as chaos unfolded in Italy and the reality of what this could mean for us began to sink in.

A naïve stroll to the supermarket on a Sunday afternoon was something of an eye opener, as fresh fruit and veg and a few ready meals were the only things left on the shelves. To this day, I will never understand why the people of Romford had such an aversion to fresh fruit and veg in a time of crisis.

All jokes aside, just think for a moment. As people were fighting to get hold of pasta, rice, and loo roll; baby formula became the new parents’ gold dust. It would quite literally be put on the shelves and sell out within the hour.  

Then lockdown…

Everything stopped. No family visits - both a blessing and a curse - no health visitor, no baby weigh-ins, in fact no baby groups or interaction of any kind. We would often find ourselves daydreaming about popping to the Grandparents house so they could take responsibility for an hour or two whilst we got some much needed shut eye. Alas, it was not meant to be - sleep deprived we remained.

The day revolved around the single hour we were allowed to spend outside. I divided it into two. The first walk was purely for my sanity, a walk in the sunshine listening to a podcast or some music. The second walk was a necessity. With a now much crankier baby, who more often than not would opt for a complete meltdown rather than sleep.

And that was it, that was the rhythm of our lives from when she was 5 weeks old right the way through until nearly 5 months old. 

We would walk and see one set of Grandparents waiving from the curbside. We would Zoom and see the Grandparents who live further afield. We were definitely more present and sociable with friends than we ever could have been if they were all able to meet in person. It was the grandparents who felt the burden the most.

The quintessential maternity leave in coffee shops and music groups has passed us by completely. A recent trip to meet a fellow mum for our first attempt at a coffee and a doughnut (outside). Resulted in two crying babies, completely terrified by the noise of a coffee machine. It was hilarious, and a perfect demonstration of how our little ones have experienced the world just a little differently.

Ideally, I would be able to round this article off having emerged from lockdown into a post-pandemic world and ready to return to work. Sadly, we are not quite there yet, but there is a vaccine! And in the meantime, I will get to experience the working world my colleagues have had to endure for most of the year. With the joys of working remotely, focus groups via zoom and childcare shutdowns due to confirmed COVID-19 cases, all yet to reveal themselves. Bring it on!

Tilly Flannery-Ashworth

Associate Director

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