Parenting a new-born in a Pandemic.
Lockdown has been tough for everyone and we’ve all been challenged in different ways. Perhaps the most vulnerable group, who have been largely left out of the media spotlight, are first time parents, many of whom have unimaginable stories to tell about how they’ve struggled through the early stages of parenthood with a new baby, without the support of friends, family and even their partner.
Polly and her husband NHS doctor Chris are one such couple. Their daughter, Sky, was born 13 months ago, just prior to the first lockdown.
‘When we came home with Sky, everything felt normal, or whatever normal is when you’re plunged into parenthood for the first time. We were both on leave and were thoroughly absorbed in our new parenting duties and feeling pretty blessed to have such a beautiful daughter.
But as Chris’s paternity leave came to an end things changed dramatically. It coincided with lockdown and, as a Junior Doctor, Chris was deployed to the frontline – straight onto a Covid ward.
Chris was thrown into contact with hundreds of infected patients, and we were crippled with fear about Sky catching Covid. Back then little was known about which groups were at risk.
We both therefore made the painful decision to stop Chris from having any direct contact with either myself or Sky So, within days, he went from doting husband and father to not being allowed to get within two metres of us.
Social distancing was almost impossible to implement. It’s our first home and tight on space. Again, after much agonising, we both decided it would be best for me to move with baby Sky to my mother’s house for the foreseeable future. This of course meant that Sky was safe. But what it also meant was that for a period of eight weeks, Chris was forced to live away from us, and in complete isolation.
Babies change day by day, if not by the hour. It was heart-breaking for Chris not to be there to witness these often almost indiscernible signs of development. By the time we were eventually reunited, Sky was a very different being to the one he’d had to leave, and he’d missed out on all those important milestones which he can never get back.
Chris did drive up a couple of times to see us. But the most we could do is wave to each other across the garden. All we wanted to do was give each other a huge hug but we just couldn’t take the risk. That was the most difficult, him being there in the flesh but not being able to touch him.
At the start of summer Sky turned three months old and we decided that, in the wake of the growing evidence that babies weren’t really at risk from Covid, it was healthier mentally for us to be back together as a family.
After 8 long weeks apart, Chris was finally able to cuddle Sky, and me!
Thrilled to be reunited, mixing with other children of Sky’s own age, as well as our families, was still a huge loss.
Getting out for walks in the fresh air, enjoying the warm weather and keeping up with video calls definitely helped us cope. But we continue to worry about her lack of physical contact with anyone outside of mummy and daddy and it breaks my heart that she’s had to miss out on cuddles from her grandparents.
In time, I will be able to tell Sky of the heroic role her daddy has played on the frontline and the sacrifices we’ve had to make to keep her and everyone else safe. But for now I’m quite happy that because she’s so young, she’s been entirely unbothered by the Pandemic. She quite literally knows no difference.
Despite all the obstacles we’ve had to encounter along the way, Sky has really kept us all going. She’s sunny and joyful and has been a distraction from the chaos imposed by the Pandemic. Yes, it was sad not to have been able to celebrate Sky’s 1st birthday in the way we wanted, but it’s really a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. But you can bet she’ll be spoilt rotten on her second birthday. I’m already planning it.
We’re cautiously optimistic about the loosening of restrictions. We’ve already been up to see Chris’s parents and had a meet outside and we’re looking forward to some lunches in a pub garden, hopefully with a few spare hands to keep an eye on Sky while I can focus on a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Sky will also be starting swimming lessons in April, her first time in the pool! It’s the social-developmental activities like swimming groups and baby toddler groups we took for granted as being a guarantee before Covid, but we can’t wait for Sky to experience what for her will be a new kind of normality