I have heard it said that the first few weeks of parenting feel like they are some of the most isolated weeks, due to waiting for immunisations, and waiting for parents group to begin.
Imagine going through pregnancy and childbirth without access to birthing classes, education sessions, local parent groups or even the ability to visit the local Maternal Health Nurse. Now add to that, not being able to take your partner to ultrasounds to see the baby, appointments to discuss the arrival or potentially even have a support person in the birthing suite.
I can tell you, the most isolated are the first few weeks. During a pandemic.
Due to the current pandemic, there are even less visitors allowed to come over, minimal face-to-face meetings such as Maternal Health Nurses, and for the most part, you are required to stay inside.
We have recently had our second child, born in a major hospital in the city. There were many restrictions, beginning with no escorts to appointments, and extending to all persons (even the mother) being screened upon arrival. One visitor/support person was allowed for the entire stay, so if I was to get sick, there would be no other visitors allowed. Luckily, I was allowed in the birthing room, although that was in doubt for some time. No one under the age of 18 (unless it was a parent) was allowed in either, so our first daughter was unable to meet her little sister until we arrived home again.
I thought that it was rather extreme, but then I stopped and thought about it. Imagine going through this as a single-parent, or someone with no support network. As a first-time parent, it must feel so daunting! Although in some ways, if it were their first child, they would not know any different.
We were lucky. After the safe arrival of our daughter, we were allowed to stay for 36 hours. Friends of a friend were first-time parents, and had twins. They were sent home after four hours.
Thankfully, we have had visits from a Midwife and telephone calls with the Maternal Health nurse, but compared to the first child, this is a far more isolating feeling. We are very glad that we are still in touch with our parents group. I cannot imagine going through it all, and having no local network of similar parents.
Friends of ours are expecting their first child in June. They have not been able to attend any classes, information or education sessions. There have been some YouTube sessions, but no easy way to ask questions.
And yet, with all of the uncertainty that surrounds everything in the world these days, childbirth remains a certainty. It will go ahead, no matter what.
With everything seeming so isolated and lonely, please know that it doesn’t have to be. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Zoom, SMS or even a simple phone-call can open up the world to you, albeit not as well as a face-to-face meet with a friend or relative who has gone through it all before. Yes, things are different, but it won’t be forever.
I recently learned that my grandmother spend her first few years living through the Spanish Flu pandemic. She was born in 1917, so her parents raised her through our last pandemic (and had six more children!). They did not have ANY of the connections to the community that we have, not even parents groups. They had books and candles. And we all know how fantastic that would be in current days… We are going through extreme times, but it could be much worse. And just like with the previous pandemics of history, it will pass.
So if you know a new-mum, a new-dad or even a parent of a new arrival to their family, perhaps reach out on social media, zoom or even the good ol’ phone (SMS only in case you wake the baby!), and check that everything is going okay. They might be very glad to receive contact with the outside world, or even have some questions for you!