Last week we were delighted to speak to Rebecca, a first-time mum to be from North West Belfast. Rebecca tells GLOW her experience of being pregnant during lockdown, how her mental health was impacted and how she feels with another lockdown looming.
NOTE: This interview was held prior to the Northern Ireland Executive’s announcement regarding the circuit breaker lockdown which is now in force across Northern Ireland.
So Rebecca, what stage of your pregnancy are you at and when are you due?
A: I’m at 30 weeks now and due on the 21st December 2020, just four days before Christmas! I hope I don’t go over as my husband Ben’s 30th birthday is on the 1st January! Although it would be a lovely gift for him!
When did you find out you were pregnant and how did you feel then?
A: I found out I was pregnant in April 2020, the beginning of lockdown! When I found out, I rang my doctor to get an appointment, but they couldn’t see me. I had to do a self-referral to the hospital who sent me a form to fill out to get me on their records. Then that was it, I just had to wait until my 12 week scan. Under normal circumstances, I would have been able to see my doctor and get that reassurance, so it was an anxious time!
What position were you in with work at the time?
A: The company I work for are great, really understanding and I was able to work from home which at first, I enjoyed. The novelty soon wore off however and I found it challenging not having a proper routine. Team that with severe nausea and I was honestly quite miserable those first few weeks.
How did the restrictions affect your experience of being pregnant?
A: It was a long wait to my 12 week scan without seeing any medical professionals. At 7/8 weeks, I found out that Ben wouldn’t be allowed into the scan with me. To be honest, I was very distressed because I was worrying about possible complications. Even if all was well, we are first time parents. I would be experiencing seeing our baby for the first time alone and he would miss out. The more we discussed it, by the time we got to 10 weeks, we decided to go private. He was allowed to go in with me then.
It’s not fair on the fathers, they have every right to be involved. Not even just fathers, every woman should be allowed to have support whether it’s a family member or friend. It’s been taken away and I don’t understand the logic behind it.
By the time I got to 15 weeks, there had been some amendments to the restrictions meaning partners could go to your scans with you. However, at 16 weeks I went to a community midwife by myself and was told they wouldn’t be changing their rules.
For my 20 week scan, I was able to have Ben with me and felt very lucky as I have several friends who did not get that opportunity. This is quite an important scan as they check the baby’s heart, brain development, spine etc. It was great having Ben there to ask the questions I hadn’t thought of.
How do you feel about the remainder of your journey through pregnancy?
A: I feel unsettled. I mean, we are supposed to be having another lockdown and apparently the NHS is days away from being overwhelmed. I hope the next 10 weeks fly in for me, but I don’t know what it will be like. I’ve had friends who have had babies over the last 3 months while restaurants and pubs have been open. Yet their partner wasn’t allowed into the delivery room until they were 5cm dilated. It doesn’t make sense; they can go to the pub with a group of people but can’t be in a room with their partner when they are in the same household anyway.
How has COVID-19 and being pregnant during a lockdown impacted your mental health?
A: At the start of my pregnancy, I was very anxious. I suffer from anxiety and take a low dosage of anxiety medication, so I had to come off that. I don’t rely heavily on it but being off it alongside severe nausea and changing hormones made the lockdown so much worse for me. I’d say the first 13/14 weeks were the most trying.
When I went into my second trimester, I started to feel more like myself again. I don’t know if it was my hormones regulating or the fact that society was returning to normal with shops and restaurants opening. Probably a mixture of both!
What is Christmas looking like for you this year?
A: We are a big family. Usually there would be 19 of us over at my mum’s house. It will be very different this year but I’m hoping we will be able to have that family time together. It would be lovely for the baby to arrive by then!
What advice would you give to mums in a similar position to yourself?
A: If I could go back and talk to myself at the start of lockdown, I’d advise of the emotional ups and downs of the first trimester. Know that it will pass and there will be a time when you will start to enjoy your pregnancy. You’ll start feeling your baby move and seeing your body change (a bit daunting at first). Just embrace it. Whatever is happening in the world, it’s out of our hands. Yes, it’s difficult that restrictions are in place meaning Ben and I can’t share some special moments. I’m not going to let it ruin my pregnancy anymore. I have the choice to enjoy it and as long as the baby is healthy, that is all that matters to Ben and I. I’m sure when I meet my wee baby, it will all have been worth it.