On our website, we’ve been following the experiences of Hannah and her partner, and her children Wilf and Theo. Here she tells us what it’s been like parenting a newborn baby and a three year old during the pandemic.
When Theo came into our world nearly four years ago, our lives instantly changed. This little person was suddenly the centre of everything and all that we did. A love that I didn’t know was even possible had appeared and taken over, and so when we found out two and a half years later that I was expecting again, I began to grow anxious about what things would be like second time around.
How would we love our next little one as much as Theo? Would the birth be another positive experience? Would we have another healthy, happy baby? At no point, however, did it enter my head that second time around we would be in the thick of a global pandemic which would turn our world upside down.
This wasn’t the start of maternity leave that I had planned
At eight months pregnant, we were on lockdown. Theo was no longer at pre-school and Andy was working from home; our house soon became a mix of an office space and nursery, and our days were filled with endless activities, limited resources… and a great deal of chaos.
Looking back, there were so many positives in that I had bonus time with Theo before the baby arrived, and I love that we learned to slow down and enjoy simple things.
But, at times the days did drag and there were many occasions where I felt cheated – this wasn’t the start of the maternity leave that I had planned. I was exhausted, we couldn’t see family or friends and of course I was growing apprehensive about bringing a baby into a world filled with so much uncertainty.
Wilf’s whirlwind entrance shone a new perspective on things though. For all my initial worries, he had his own agenda and he clearly wasn’t too keen to be in a hospital during a pandemic either, hence arriving in my car on the way to the hospital one Sunday morning.
It’s as if the birth was the icing on the cake of the strangest, most unpredictable few months. The worries I’d had were instantly eleviated because our love suddenly doubled as another happy healthy boy became part of our little family. And of course, seeing Theo as a big brother, doting on this tiny little baby, brought about an even newer, even richer love.
Our Walk & Talks have been helping parents who have felt isolated during the pandemic. Exempt from the rule of six, they have been running since August. Check your local NCT Facebook page to find one near you.
Nesting as a four in many ways was wonderful. Our little bubble felt safe and so special too. We were forced to get on with things and find our way without being inundated with visitors, and all of our days were spent at home aside from an hour’s walk each day.
This was so different to when Theo was born, when each day we would have family or friends over or we ventured out of the house more. Lockdown with a newborn in many ways could be seen as a blessing in disguise, but equally, it brought many challenges too.
To this day, and for many more I am sure, I struggle with the fact that we were unable to share newborn baby Wilf with our family and friends.
We made the most of window visits and FaceTime calls…it wasn’t easy
There were no cuddles like there were with Theo. There was no closeness. Yes, we made the most of window visits and facetime calls, all of which I have such fond and wonderful memories of, and we learned to be creative with distanced visits and virtual meet ups. But it wasn’t easy.
I try not to let it sadden me that we will never get those days back and instead I focus on the different memories that were created – memories that we will comtinue to relive as we tell Wilf when he’s older about when he was born into this world.
A friend whose little one is a month younger than Wilf summed it up perfectly when I saw her – that the focus on these pandemic babies has been so much about protecting them, that at times its it’s taken away from celebrating them.
Things were harder this time around and there were challenges that I didn’t face when Theo was a baby. Going out with the two boys on walks, I became terrified of anywhere that was remotely busy. I became angry at those who weren’t keeping their distance.
I became upset seeing families together with grandparents, knowing that they were breaking the rules. Suddenly, having a newborn almost became the easy part. The hard part was managing everything else.
It took me a while to feel comfortable with even distanced visits with family and friends. It all felt so odd and unnatural, and whilst I was desperate for contact and for people to properly meet Wilf, I worried so much too.
I understand the severity of the virus but I still struggle with what we can and can’t do.
Particularly in those early weeks and months with a newborn, things have felt very fragile. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined we would be raising two young children in this chaos.
As lockdown eased, it took a while for me to get to grips with venturing out. I remember my first trip to the supermarket when Wilf was around three months old. For all my worries, I couldn’t get over how safe it actually felt – there was barely anyone around and I managed the whole mask, anti-bac and baby-wearing routine pretty well.
Theo once asked me for anti-bac because another child touched his hand in the park
Plus, Wilf was fascinated by the lights and the colours, and to him this was a whole new sensory overload. The same trip with Theo in tow though was quite different. Aged three and a half, he is hugely inquisitive and I found myself forever asking him not to touch things and stay close to me. But, we’ve found our way and I’ve now learned to manage that this is now the new normal.
But be it the supermarket, going to the park or even out for lunch, life is certainly different not only with two children rather than one, but now managing the new ways of life because of the pandemic.
As well, I’m not sure whether I should have felt proud or sad that Theo once asked me for anti-bac because another child touched his hand in the park. How brilliant that he is so aware, I first thought. But at the same time, surely this sort of thought shouldn’t be going through the head of a little one.
Wilf is nearly six months old and is yet to have had snuggles with our friends. He’s met Andy’s parents once and we have no idea when the next time will be. It’s hard to believe that this is the way, but it is, and that’s why I find it hard when we compare things to those early months with Theo when there was so much freedom. It’s not what we would have imagined or wished, but these circumstances have definitely made our little family stronger and the bonds even tighter.
And as the theme of new normal continues, we now have Christmas to contend with. Wilf’s first Christmas isn’t going to be what we imagined, yet that has become something we have grown used to this year and now, like with other moments, we are adapting and making the best of it.
It’s hard knowing that we may not see all our family and friends or that get togethers will be different, and of course as protective parents we are still navigating our feelings and worries about the virus very much being out there still. But in an effort to keep up our festive cheer, we are fully embracing the fun and magic of Christmas with children.
Wilf has recently mastered crawling and pulling himself up on furniture (just in time for de-decorating the tree!) and Theo is fully immersed in all of the make-believe and excitement. So, it might be different this year, but it is certainly wonderful nonetheless.
You can read more of Hannah’s blog at another-mama.com and on Instagram at howells_at_home.
Our Walk & Talks have been helping thousands of parents feel less isolated. You can find if there is one in your area on your local NCT Facebook page. We urgently need help to raise money to support recruiting volunteers to help, and providing them with the right equipment. Please donate here.
If you’re finding parenting during the pandemic isolating, read our article on combatting loneliness during the pandemic.
Our infant feeding support line is open every day from 8am to midnight, including bank holidays. Call 0300 330 0700 (option 1).