Quarantennials: Becoming a new parent during the pandemic
By the time Christmas 2020 arrives, it will officially be 9 months since the UK was plunged into national lockdown. While the ramifications of COVID-19 swept the world, life (and love!) were not canceled. The result? In the next few weeks, we will start to see the arrival of the first babies conceived in lockdown!
Navigating the early stages of parenthood is always a rollercoaster – but doing so in the middle of a pandemic brings its own set of challenges that no one saw coming. Here, we share our top tips on getting through the first important months of motherhood during these #unprecedentedtimes – while looking after your mental health in the process.
Preparing for birth
The lead up to your due date should be an exciting, joyful time. However, if you are due to give birth in the coming weeks, you might be concerned that lockdown restrictions could impact your birth plan. With ever-changing guidelines and the (often unclear) Tier System, it’s important to get your head around the rules – but also be ready for them to change. As with any birth plan, adaptability is key, and the priority will always be a safe delivery for both you and baby.
In the UK, hospitals and maternity units are doing everything they can to ensure parents can still have the birth they want. Home births are still possible – as long as deemed safe – as are elective C-sections. Whatever happens, your maternity care team is going to be with you every step of the way, so keep lines of communication open and they will be able to advise you on any changes. For more reading, the NHS website also has lots of useful information to keep you up-to-date.
In most cases, birth partners are allowed – but they probably won't be able to join you until you're in established labor. It's important to remember that if your birth partner is displaying symptoms of the virus, they won't be allowed in the birthing suite. This might feel like an unsettling prospect – especially if your birth partner is also your life partner – but preparing for eventualities will help you regain some control. It’s a good idea to consider having a network of backup birth partners that can step in at the last minute.
Once your baby has arrived safely, you'll naturally want to introduce them to the world! However, the pandemic has made it difficult for us to socialize in the ways that we're used to, and we know how important the sense of community is for new parents to feel less isolated during the first months of parenthood.
During the first lockdown, new mothers were particularly impacted by tight restrictions which meant that they couldn't see friends, family, and other new parents. It’s scientifically proven that face-to-face interactions have a positive impact on our mental health, and being unable to do so had a huge impact on the wellbeing of new mothers. Luckily, the government has seen the error of its ways (thanks to pressure from parenting groups including Pregnant Then Screwed), and restrictions for parents have become more lenient.
The good news is that in areas where you are allowed to meet one person from outside your household for outdoor activities, under-5s are not counted. So, if you're allowed to meet your friend for a walk and chinwag, you can do so with baby in tow! There's also been progress for parent-baby groups, with the latest government guidelines stating that organized groups can meet in numbers of up to 15 (excluding children under 5), but these must take place at an events space as opposed to a private home. Organizations have also adapted and found new ways to facilitate socializing for new-parents. NCT groups often form the backbone of a new parents' community, and they have adapted to the rules for local Walk and Talk events, which allow parents and their babies to meet while following government guidelines.
However, it’s important to remember that in areas where a ‘Rule of 6’ guideline is in place, babies and toddlers do count towards your total – if you live in England. In Scotland or Wales, the rules are slightly different, and children under-12 can be part of your group without being counted towards your total.
The magic of online community
Despite these changes in government guidelines, there may be times you are unable to meet people in person. Maybe you have symptoms and are isolating, or have a medical condition that means you are shielding. It may also be that you are simply wary about too much face-to-face interaction while the virus is still prevalent – and that’s ok! It’s important to make decisions that feel right for you and your family and there are still plenty of ways to feel part of a community from the comfort of your own home.
The internet has been a real blessing for fostering connection during these difficult times. It’s allowed us to keep in touch with old friends – and even make new ones. The online parent community is huge and there are various groups you can join to share your concerns. Peanut is one of the fastest-growing communities for mothers at all stages of their parenting journey and has become one of our favorite virtual hangouts during the lockdown. All of their resources and forums can be found in one handy app, so you can easily dip in and out of conversations whenever you need it. Once again, NCT groups have adapted with times and have moved many of their regular meetups to a virtual format. Many of these are still segmented by local area, meaning that once you are ready to socialize in person again, you’ll have a bunch of new-mom friends just waiting to welcome you! They also have online and on-phone breastfeeding support, where you can get advice from experts on everything from latching to sore nipples – hugely important for those first few days of feeding.
While the pandemic may have changed everything this year, nothing can change the love you’re about to feel for your new baby. Things may not be the way you expected them to be, but you will have support in many different forms and this will still be a magical time – and one that will go down in history, as we greet the generation of the lockdown babies! Welcome to the world, Quarantennials. 💖