Scared, Anxious, Overwhelmed, Alone. This is how a lot of new Mums feel a lot of the time anyway. Add Covid 19, the social distancing and service cuts that happened because of Covid and you have just doubled, if not tripled those feelings of isolation and anxiety.
Giving birth is scary anyway, especially if you haven’t done it before but to be alone, no birthing partner, no husband, mum, best friend to hold your hand. In fact, no one to hold your hand. Worrying about catching a virus that was new to the experts that were looking after you and no one knew the effects on newborn babies or pregnant women. It was quite frankly terrifying.
The real worrying then begins. No breastfeeding support – just messages of ‘breast is best’ leaving you feeling like a failure because you can’t work out how to get your baby to latch, even though this is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world! No weigh-ins so you literally do not know how your baby is getting on and whether they are well fed. No baby groups to meet other mums in the same situation. No family allowed to visit to support you. Just feelings of I am not good enough, I’m not doing it right, I don’t know what the hell I am doing, Is my baby OK?
This can prove too much for some mums. Post-Natal Depression is a real issue amongst new mums anyway and the Independent reported in June 2020 that ‘Postnatal depression has almost tripled during coronavirus pandemic’.
The NHS describes Post-Natal Depression as more than ‘baby blues’ which can affect women for a couple of weeks post-birth and leaves you feeling down, tearful and anxious. Post-Natal Depression will continue past these weeks and intensify leaving you with a persistent feeling of sadness, struggling to enjoy and be involved in the world, feel exhausted, suffer insomnia, and leave you struggling to bond with your baby. Some people have thoughts of harming their baby.
There is support out there for Post-Natal Depression, but you must identify there is a problem. Where the midwife and health visitor would do regular checks in those first weeks of the baby being born, checking up on not only how the baby is doing but how the mum is doing too…. these have been dramatically cut back during Covid and so people can go undiagnosed and lose valuable weeks or even months where they could have been treated.
Of course, it is not just new mums that are struggling. After 3 weeks of lockdown, I remember reading a post about a single mum with three kids, the dad would not help, and she didn’t have the normal support from the grandparents. Social media posts of “together” mums successfully homeschooling their little ones and photos of what different craft activities they had completed left this mum feeling like a failure.
The post was a cry for help too late as she asked someone to collect her kids and not to go into her bedroom – where she had hung herself. It left me in tears because I only have one kid, he was only 10 months and I didn’t have to home school, but I knew how she felt and I wept for her, except I had a partner to help me in the evening. I cannot imagine how it must have been to be completely alone.
People are cruel and judgemental. Facebook posts of ‘don’t bring your kids to the supermarket, it’s not a day out!’ do not help. Some people do not have the option to leave them with a partner. They are the only caregiver and everything they do feels wrong. Being shamed for visiting family during the lockdown, for driving to a forbidden park as they were crammed into a tiny flat with no outdoor space. Some people had to break the rules to survive.
For some, it’s not just the pandemic they are fighting.