Following on from my last blog, being pregnant in lockdown, I wanted to write more about the whole experience of starting a family in lockdown, and while the COVID virus continues around us. It’s been a concerning time to bring a new child into the world, and yet it’s also been a time which has reminded me to enjoy the simple things in life and to look at each day with fresh gratitude.
I had been really looking forward to maternity leave. Looking forward to all the adventures we could have with the little one. Looking forward to introducing him to friends and family, and taking some time to travel as a family whilst on mat leave. But as the saying goes, the best-laid plans and all that, my plans just weren’t going to be as we looked at starting a family in lockdown.
What might have been
I suspect in normal circumstances, it would have been easy for me to have by now (he’s 3 months old), enrolled on every possible parent and baby group, and have my diary rammed full of exciting things to do with the little one, 5 if not 7 days a week. However, that was not to be our experience when starting a family in lockdown, and actually, and this may not be everyone’s experience, I for one am grateful.
Starting a family in lockdown with gratitude
I’m grateful for the extra time to spend as a nuclear family. Granted, that’s meant the disappointment of needing to make key family introductions through video calls and not face to face, and we haven’t had those helpful extra pairs of hands to give the baby cuddles while I get just a few things done around the house, but nevertheless, I’m grateful. It’s meant time to focus on our small family unit and to pull together to support the new arrival, as he spends his early weeks learning about this crazy world he suddenly finds himself in.
It’s meant pulling together as a family and making the whole experience an adventure. It’s meant that the little man has seen his parents more than he might have at the early stages of his life. And, it’s meant that we’ve appreciated the blessings where they are found, and the kindness of family and friends from a distance.
Grateful for freedom
I’m grateful for the need not to get our house guest-ready in the early weeks and months starting a family in lockdown, it’s given us the freedom to enjoy each moment that the little man’s awake, and also give ourselves grace if the house isn’t quite in the order we’d hoped for. In the early days, we set up camp downstairs in the daytime, setting up a bed on the sofa so we could sleep in shifts, and also made a family event of the little one’s bedtime – taking up a laptop to watch box sets while the little one fed and eventually fell to sleep.
Given the lack of visitors, this meant that we could focus in on the moment at hand, and ensure that the family was all part of the little man’s early journey. I was rarely out of pyjamas for the first 6 weeks (if not more), and that’s ok. The little one didn’t seem to mind and relished the cuddles made freely available to him. The fact that things were locked down meant that we needed to just think about the needs of the household. The dog still got time to play and enjoyed learning his new role as chief protection officer of the little one, quickly adopting a Lassie like response to the little one’s crying.
Grateful for time
I’m grateful for the extra time to embrace what’s going on in little one’s early days. I guess documenting things is in my blood, and as a documentary maker and historian, I’m keen that we create a record of what’s going on currently for the little one to look back on.
The word unprecedented has certainly been used more times recently that it should, but we are existing in extraordinary times, and I’m keen that our son has a memory to look back on. This has meant writing a diary since the first day of lockdown (6 months into pregnancy), and also taking photos of the things that will seem so ordinary to him now, but I hope will gradually seem more strange as the world returns back to some form of ‘normality’, whenever that may be.
grateful for focus
I’m also grateful for the need to make the little one front and centre of my whole world currently. I was always keen that if we were fortunate enough to have a child (I’m an older mum and I had begun to think that a family just wasn’t going to happen for us), then I would do everything I could to ensure that they felt loved. I think in non-COVID circumstances, this would have looked very different.
I would have been tempted to do lots of things outside the house, and could possibly have taken away some of the precious moments that we’ve had with him in the home – seeing him take time to familiarise himself with everyday items, explore his voice, start displaying his personality shining through in the mischievous glint in his eyes. It’s very possible that I would have missed some of these precious moments due to trying to run around and do too much, worrying that I was letting him down with not enough entertainment.
Grateful for space
I’m also grateful for the space that the season has brought. As someone who can struggle with anxiety, I think that having fewer voices telling us what to do has really helped. There are so many fantastically helpful resources online (NCT, What to Expect, NHS for three), that I used heavily in the early days when I did have questions, but each one of them carries the key message – every baby is different, and enjoy the ride.
If it’s a difficult day, this too will pass. If its a wonderful day, celebrate it. I suspect that if we had been able to travel to various things and see lots of people, the different (and so well-meaning) advice that can flood in from all areas, would have triggered my anxiety far more than being able to have the space to appreciate each moment, and reach out for help as and when needed, rather than being given it without solicitation.
I’m also grateful for the time to get into routines. The little one’s sleeping habits haven’t been the most regular in the daytime, and so needing to spend this season more at home has given us more freedom to focus on regular routines and pattens that can help him to rest when he needs it and to play when he’s awake.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t challenging days and seasons, but I’m keen to write with gratitude whilst I remember and know that these blessings can help me through the more challenging.