This week I had chance to chat with some families about their experiences of pregnancy, birth and new family-hood within the pandemic.
I always like to chat with the families I work with – building relationships has always been important to me in Midwifery and is no less so in Tiny Toes Bumps and Babies. Creating relationships means that I can offer the support that individuals/families need and tailor my classes and change what I do to suit that.
During Lockdown and the ‘new world’ left in the wake of lockdown I have, to a degree, lived in a little bubble. Like so many people I had a prolonged period of time at home with my children and for the most part I enjoyed this, they ate us out of house and home but we were lucky, my husband and I were both able to work from home (all be it very different for me) and the kids were focussed enough to get on with their school work.
I missed my face to face work more than I ever imagined I would and although I had done a lot of reading into the impact of the pandemic on families I really hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with families about this.
What did we talk about?
It was heart breaking to listen to people retell their stories of birth, nobody had anything negative to say about the professional who were caring for them, but the experiences were not the positive ones they had hoped for non the less.
I think we all accept and appreciate the measures that have had to be put in place throughout the pandemic, the primary aim is to protect those within a hospitals care, however, the impact of these restrictions is not small.
- Imagine if you will being the partner of a woman walking through the doors of maternity thinking they are in labour while you sit in the car and wait for news, to be told if you are allowed in to support your other half or not. A minute feels like a long time while you are sat waiting for news.
- Imagine being that woman having a contraction on their way to maternity and having no one there with you to hold your hand, remind you to breathe calmly and tell you that you are doing ok.
- Imagine being assessed by the midwife and being told you are in established labour and having no one to share the equal fear and excitement with.
For many of the families I have spoken to they didn’t need to imagine this, they experienced it first hand.
Baby being born they had that all important ‘golden time’ before daddy was asked to leave and mum and baby were left on the ward, this felt like a lack of support, not only physically but emotionally too.
Even getting home wasn’t plain sailing:
There have been some benefits to the period of lockdown for some people and this must be acknowledged – that protected time with the new, little nuclear family for some was precious. Indeed, in both my NHS Midwifery days and my antenatal classes I have often discussed with families this precious time. The need to acclimatise to life with a new little person in your own four walls and how that is going to look without the pressure of hosting visitors. – Usually this isolated bubble will last a day or two, perhaps a week at the most, but for some families their baby is still yet to meet key members of their family months following birth.
We have been in the midst of the pandemic now long enough to see ‘papers’ beginning to appear with statistics and anecdotes showing the impact that restrictions have had on families through birth and beyond.
Again some of the parents I have had the pleasure of chatting with have felt a little like they were abandoned due to the restrictions which were put in place. Support and visits via a call are never quite the same as face to face meaning that for some feeding struggles continues or mental well being became a bit of an issue for them.
A document was released in August called ‘Babies in Lockdown’, this mirrored much of what parents have said to me, but somehow hearing it straight from the mouths of those impacted holds a greater sense of sadness.
The Babies in Lockdown report was put together by Best Beginnings, Home Start, and the Parent-Infant Foundation who interviewed 5000 families. Below I have shared with you some of their findings which clearly mirrored those of the families I have spoken to:
- 61% of parents shared significant concerns about their mental health
- 87% of parents were more anxious as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown
- It has been isolating and lonely for many
- 38% of pregnant respondents were concerned about getting reliable pregnancy information and advice
- Digital health appointments left women feeling exposed and humiliated
The impact of the lack of support after a baby is born has been huge, not including statutory services such as health visitor clinics and health appointments classes and groups were cancelled for many months. Indeed many are still not back and active. Tiny Toes Bumps and Babies before lockdown was running 3 baby massage classes seeing up to 20 families a week in these classes alone, I am now currently running one class (with more to come) with a capacity of 4 to ensure that my building remains covid safe.
We cant underestimate the benefits of classes such as baby massage, yoga, sensory etc, they do not just provide a social environment (although reducing social isolation is a key part of these classes) they are a support function and support not only mental and physical well being but that of the extended family too.
I have already been working hard behind the scenes to offer more to families, however this week has shaped further where we will be heading over the next few weeks.
The main aim of Tiny Toes Bumps and Babies C.I.C is to support families through pregnancy, baby’s first year and beyond – if we can do this in anyway for you, just shout.
I just want to touch a little on Health Professionals during his time:
As a registered Midwife with friends who are actively working right across the NHS I want to also acknowledge how difficult the restrictions have been on them (and continue to be).
Focussing on Midwifery – it is not what any of us trained for, most of the midwives I know have worked in their area of practice for many years, we didn’t train for how to work in a pandemic and it has been flipping hard.
For every story I have read about and heard from a parents perspective there is a Midwife who comes to mind, Midwives who I know hate the place they find themselves in, caring for people over the phone goes against everything they believe in, so much communication is lost over a phone line – those relationships that mean so much to me in the work environment came from my years working in the community and I know that if I was back there now that I would hate the idea of not being able to give support in the way I wanted to, in this I know I am not alone.
We find ourselves in a time and place where things change rapidly, in truth I never know if I will be able to run my classes the next week due to changes in restrictions BUT I do appreciate that this must be the case, at least for the near future.
It really does bother me that the effect that these restrictions are having on families is so profound, and understandably so, it flies in the face of everything I built my Midwifery practice and the TTB&B on and I will continue to develop and support in the best way I can.
Know that even though there is so much uncertainty TTB&B are here to support you, even if it is a simple as signposting you elsewhere.
I thank those Health Professionals that are doing their utmost to support the families that they care for despite all the restrictions that are in place.
What have been your experiences of lockdown in pregnancy, birth, new baby or indeed as a Midwife or Health Visitor – I would love to know: