The Howells family hit the headlines recently when their second child Wilf arrived slightly earlier than planned… in a supermarket car park! We caught up with Hannah and asked her to share her experience of Wilf’s unconventional arrival and life with a newborn in lockdown.
“If someone had told me that from one day to the next, a virus that was spreading across the world meant that I could no longer go in to work as a teacher as I was considered vulnerable as was I pregnant, I wouldn’t have believed them. If someone would have told me that I’d be spending my last trimester in lockdown, I wouldn’t have believed them either. If someone would have then told me that weeks later, I would be bringing my second child, Wilf, into the world in the front seat of my car in a Sainsbury’s car park, not quite making it to the hospital, I certainly wouldn’t have believed them either. None of this is at all what I expected and not at all how I imagined becoming a mum for the second time around would be.
Together with my husband, Andy, who incidentally is on the Board of Trustees for Mayfield Nurseries, and my three-year-old son, Theo, life soon changed for us as a family in lockdown, as did our routine and ways of thinking. In an effort to find the positives, and look after our mental wellbeing, I learned that it was OK to build a den in the bedroom at 8am and not make the beds until later in the day. I learned that a whole day of fun could be had from turning a cardboard box into a car garage. I learned that baking could be bring so much joy, mess, learning and creativity. I learned to really develop our play and engage in a little person’s world and I noticed so much more than I usually do. In some ways I am thankful for lockdown, as I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life so much more. Whilst this isn’t at all what I had wished for, the timing at the end of my pregnancy has in some ways a blessing in disguise.
Pregnancy and parenthood in a pandemic is tough, but there are ways to feel hopeful and supported. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt during our time in lockdown:
Make the most of it
When lockdown was announced, whilst I completely understood why, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. With six weeks until our due date, our support networks were suddenly removed, forcing us to get to grips with the everyday challenges of isolation: keeping our pre-schooler entertained without actually being able to go anywhere, whilst my husband worked from home. Heavily pregnant, not only did I feel tired, but I was also now anxious about the birth given the pandemic. At first, I panicked – and cried a lot. But I knew I had to change my thinking.
Rather than feel disappointed about all of the things I now couldn’t do, I embraced all that I could.
I tried to see lockdown as a way of making bonus memories. When are we going to get this time again? I was able to nest and we could embrace the simple things in life, it really was so lovely. I opened baby gifts over video calls and made time for a little pamper session at home. I embraced the fact that I spent all day every day with my son, totally immersing myself in activities with him. I made the most of time I didn’t expect to have.
Stay up to date
With ever-changing advice, it was important that I stayed up to date with maternity services in my area. It was easy to get caught up in social media posts and news stories, but I had to be careful to limit my news intake so that these didn’t overwhelm me.
I remember going for a growth scan at 36 weeks which meant stepping out of our isolation bubble for the first time. Experiencing that hospital environment, I’ll be honest, was quite terrifying at first – doing it alone, seeing midwives with masks and gowns on, the black and yellow tape up to enforce the two metre rule. It was all so odd and so clinical. Yet, strangely, I actually came away from this feeling more positive. It mentally prepared me for what was ahead and I told myself to just focus on the reassuring eyes behind the masks. Little did I know that because of a very quick labour and delivery in my car, I would in fact spent very little time in a hospital!
Staying positive and keeping calm allowed me to just go with it, which is so important in these uncertain times. Being prepared and willing to adapt are really important… as is leaving plenty of time to get to the hospital!
Make the most of virtual worlds
Lockdown has made me realise how lucky we are to have these virtual worlds. From online pregnancy yoga classes to regular Facetiming with family and friends, online support has been a lifeline for me during this pandemic.
New to us is involving grandparents virtually; from online story times or treasure hunts we’ve found they provide excellent entertainment for older children, which then gave us time to focus on the new baby or have a cup of tea in peace! We’ve found this time to be magical. When Wilf was just two days old, my sister Facetimed Theo to read him an afternoon story. Theo absolutely loved it, as did we – it was the first time since the birth that Andy and I stopped, sat down together and just enjoyed a quiet moment, as small as it was, gestures like this really can mean the world.
Equally important is to keep in touch with other expectant or new mums – middle of the night Whatsapp exchanges are great support, as are regular check-ins. We’re all in this together, after all.
Lockdown parenting has made me realise more than ever the importance of teamwork and sharing the load. This came into play even more so with a newborn – suddenly we had double the love and half the time to contend with, without the usual support from family and friends.
Having a newborn is full on, even more so in lockdown. Balance is key. With your partner, try to grab little moments throughout the day where you can be kind to yourself – a shower, a lie down or a nice cup of tea. Tag teaming gives you that chance to recharge, and feel human again.
When paternity leave ends and it’s time to reintroduce a home-office to an already chaotic household, just do your best. Perhaps the wash basket will stay full for longer and there will be more fish finger teas and slightly more screen time… but that’s ok. It’s all about finding your new normal and taking things day by day.
Go with it
Our lockdown days have been action-packed. At first I clock watched and wondered how we’d possibly fill our days, but I soon realised that Theo and I would cram so much in, going from one activity to another! I then found it hard when Wilf was born as I’ve been unable to maintain that level of stamina. Instead, I might be glued to the sofa feeding, trying to explain to Theo about being patient. This was hard. Sometimes we’re in our pyjamas until midday (which Theo loves!) and that’s ok. We sometimes watch more Paw Patrol than we probably should, and that’s ok too.
Whatever the case, just go with it. Take each day as it comes and enjoy achieving even the smallest of goals.
Becoming a mum of two, I am learning to divide my time and double my love. It’s not easy, and with it comes huge waves of varying emotions, all heightened by lockdown. But this pandemic won’t last forever; relatives will one day get their cuddles, friends will still be there and life outside our homes will begin ticking once again. In the meantime, we must look for the positives and learn from lockdown parenting; though it might not feel like it at the time, it really is making us stronger.
Follow Hannah on Instagram, @Howells_at_Home, to see how her family are coping with life during the pandemic.
If you would like to find support for any of the themes in Hannah’s story, take a look at our following resources:
- Our Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Helpline is for anyone experiencing poor mental health or wellbeing challenges as a result of the pandemic in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.
- Our Free Wellbeing Toolkits can help you find ways for the whole family to stay well at home.