- Countries Visited: 11
- Travel Wishlist: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Maldives again, Fiji, Borneo, Tibet, India, Nepal
- Locked down in: Montrose, Melbourne, Australia
“Stay safe, stay sane and remember to say Fuck a few times a day and have a wine occasionally, it helps! “
2019 was a massive kick in the guts for my husband Micah and I. We lost a close friend of ours very unexpectedly to unknown natural causes, he was 27. We also lost our beautiful dog Bruce and we experienced a miscarriage with our first pregnancy. Blow after blow, we kept pushing through and a mantra we adopted was “2020 will be our year!” Like the rest of the world, we had no idea what 2020 would mean for us.
In September 2019, we found out we were pregnant again! It wasn’t easy, I was having weekly acupuncture and doing everything I could to foster a healthy environment within my body for a baby to call home for 9 months! I had hyperemesis throughout my whole pregnancy (Severe constant nausea and vomiting) from 5 weeks gestation. We were cautiously optimistic, but as a newly graduated Registered Nurse, I continued to commit myself to my work and developing my clinical practice as an Emergency Nurse at our local hospital. As each week went by, we would become a little less stressed and we would really start to consider, will this pregnancy go full term? Will we actually have a family? I loved my job, but I loved the idea that we were going to be a family so much more!
As our pregnancy reached safer grounds as each week went past, I didn’t begin to completely relax until we hit 28 weeks, when the baby becomes viable if it were to be born prematurely. At this stage it was March, the world well and truly knew about COVID.
Being a health care professional, many of my colleagues and I were quite blasé about COVID. We knew it was bad in China, but naively put it down as a bad flu. And like SARS and Bird Flu, we all assumed it would be isolated to China and surrounds and we would be minimally affected in Australia. The hospital put many processes into place as a just in case but we also did this with Ebola so nothing to see here right!?
As the weeks went by, and the cases grew internationally, we eventually saw our first case of COVID at my hospital. All of our previous opinions changed instantly and we began to understand the magnitude of what we were actually dealing with. Not only at a community level, but at a global level as well. I will never forget watching an otherwise healthy middle-aged man battle COVID behind a glass window in front of me. I felt confronted with an invisible enemy that I knew I couldn’t help fight because being pregnant I was too much at risk. I was scared for myself, my unborn baby, and I felt a huge weight of guilt that I wasn’t standing next to my colleagues fighting this head on (although I did do a lot to aid in the fight, just not directly with patients). I came home that night and sat Micah down and told him ‘It’s as bad as they are saying it is. It’s not just a bad flu. Please be careful, be vigilant and I think we need to consider me getting out of the hospital”.
After that day and as case numbers and suspected case numbers grew, for the first time I began to feel unsafe at work. Despite the countless intoxicated and psychotic patients I have nursed, COVID was what made me feel unsafe. After seeing what COVID does to young, otherwise healthy individuals, I was scared to go to work. Adding to the situation the hyperemesis and from 14 weeks gestation, severe pelvic girdle pain, at 32 weeks gestation after consultation with our obstetrician, my husband and I decided it was best that I commence maternity leave early. This was mid April. I finished on a Friday, and on the following Monday my hospital opened a COVID ward with positive patients ready to fill the beds, bloody close timing!
The first stage 3 ‘lockdown’ was actually of some benefit to me. I started maternity leave half way through it and I was so sick that it gave me the freedom to stay home, rest, vomit in my own house and not feel guilty for cancelling plans. Although, I had always planned on brunching, swimming and receiving massages all the way through maternity leave! But ultimately COVID lockdown kept our unborn baby and I home and safe.
Something that most first time mother’s dream of is their baby shower. For me I was just so excited that it was my turn. I had celebrated all of my friends at their baby showers and really got into the spirit. So when we had to cancel ours in mid March, I was shattered. It sounds quite trivial but all I wanted was to share the joy of my unborn baby with my closet girlfriends and family. I was so blessed that my 2 best friends, Mum and Sister threw me a virtual baby shower via Zoom. It was far from what all of us had imagined, BUT it was beautiful in it’s own way. And now Zoom really is the pin up girl for 2020!
Our little one was due early June. Thankfully then, Micah had full visitation rights (what a statement, visitation rights, it’s his baby too!), and neither of us had to wear a mask during the birth, however, we were not allowed any visitors while we were in hospital. This broke both of us. I am particularly close with my family, especially my Sister, so it was such a devastating pill to swallow knowing that our little human would be earth side for days before our loved ones could meet him or her.
We were induced on the 3rd of June at 39 weeks due to my hyperemesis and my pelvic girdle pain. Despite some minor complications during the birth it was the most precious moment. We welcomed a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Harrison Micah, weighing 3.08kg.
Thankfully the week before his birth, restrictions were eased to allow up to 5 people into your home. It was 4 days after Harrison was born that our families met him. The day we got home from hospital actually! We couldn’t wait to show off our greatest art project! Thankfully we were able to take Harrison to see my Grandmother when he was 9 days old, but sadly Harrison has still not met Micah’s Grandmother as she lives in a nursing home.
When Harrison was 3 ½ weeks old we then moved house, thankfully this was a week before stage 3 was reinstated so we were able to get help! But the day stage 3 was announced to be reinstated, I remember just staring at the TV, holding my baby with tears streaming down my face.
I looked at him and saw all the things we had and were going to miss out on. Baby showers, weddings, parties, lunch dates, coffee dates, walks with friends, story time at the library, swimming lessons! How were my friends going to come over and meet my baby? Mothers Group! I had been so looking forward to mothers group. My phone went pretty crazy the next 2 days with friends and family checking in to make sure I was ok and asking how I felt about stage 3 being reinstated. I was honest with the fact that I was terrified and really pissed off.
I was also trying to navigate breastfeeding, which for us was a huge battle. Harrison couldn’t latch so I was exclusively pumping for up to 6 hours a day, isolated, alone, sleep deprived and amidst a global pandemic! I sought help from 5 different lactation consultants. I begged each of them to please do a face-to-face appointment! I even suggested that both Harrison and I get COVID tested but all refused. So on 2 occasions, during Zoom appointments I had to get my nipples out. Just as an FYI, breastfeeding is a VERY hands on exercise and Zoom just doesn’t cut it. I started to develop postnatal depression and was given some pretty shit advice from my maternal health care nurse. I wasn’t enjoying my baby. I think our difficulties feeding were the primary source, but the worlds situation did not help at all! Thankfully my sister sat me down one particularly shitty day and helped me to see the bigger picture, so the next day we introduced formula.
Just as things got easier with me reducing pumping my breast milk, Harrison developed colic and then reflux and it took trialling 4 different formulas for 2 weeks each before we found the one that works best for his little tummy. Fast-forward to today, my depression is well managed with medication and Harrison is on a dairy free formula and thriving and I am no longer chained to breast pump!
So then stage 4 was introduced. By this stage I was so lonely, numb and isolated that it didn’t affect me as badly initially, but after a week I broke down. I realised that I didn’t know when some of my closest friends would meet my baby. I realised that I truly was alone. I couldn’t have family come over and help me clean my house or look after my baby when I needed a shower. I couldn’t have people pop around to bounce ideas off or compare guess what gross/cute thing my baby did today stories! I began to feel like I had been royally ripped off and that Micah and I had been let down. Let down by our health care system, our government, our community, the whole bloody world and we honestly just felt hard done by.
Thankfully we met care-receiving requirements so my Sister and Mum have still been a great help to us, I wouldn’t have coped without them! Micah is lucky enough to still have work but is working 2 hours away and commuting each day so the days were, and sometimes still are, long and cumbersome. Our friends and family have also been amazing! We have had meals left at our doorstep, gifts posted, Zoom trivia nights, Zoom discos and plenty of Facetime catch-ups.
Being able to meet friends for walks of late has quite literally saved my mental health. There are still days where it feels like ground hog day but I am very aware that is often the life of a new Mum in the early months. Having some human social contact that is not digital is so precious to me! A select few of my friends that live close enough have been able to meet my son. I attended Mothers Group! You guessed it, on Zoom, But I have met some amazing women, and women that I share a pretty unique bond with, giving birth in a global pandemic! I have been lucky enough to meet a couple of them in person whilst going for a walk with our babies strapped in prams as we compare experiences, all of which seem to be eerily similar with themes of isolation, loneliness, grief over the life we thought we would have and how ridiculous it is that our babies are meeting complete strangers before meeting relatives!
Having a baby can be pretty tough on a marriage, but after 2019, Micah and I have been pretty strong. Don’t get me wrong, we have had our moments, there have been trying times and a lot of sleep deprivation, but he has been my biggest support all along. He has kept me grounded but he has also been so real about how shitty this situation has been for us at such a pivotal time in our lives.
I read people’s stories often about COVID and 2020 and not one person has not been directly affected by it. Everyone has had his or her life changed somehow. Despite this journey into parenthood being the complete opposite to what we had hoped for, and more like a Steven King novel, we feel so blessed that we are safe, our family is safe and we have a beautiful baby boy to call our own.
COVID has taught us to slow down, enjoy walks, and to be thankful for so many things. For all you other first time Mums and Dads out there that gave birth or are about to give birth during this time, I see you, I hear you and I feel the roller coaster of emotions with you. Stay safe, stay sane and remember to say Fuck a few times a day and have a wine occasionally, it helps J!
It seems appropriate to finish my story with a quote from the worlds most inspirational and influential Nurse:
“Live life when you have it. Life is a splendid gift – there is nothing small about it.” – Florence Nightingale