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Covid 19 – One Year On

The 23rd of March 2020 is a dark day in the UK’s history. That evening at 7pm, Boris Johnson announced that the people of the UK ‘must stay home’, schools would close, businesses would close, and we had to protect the NHS. How terribly exciting for someone who had never experienced any social adversity – no war, no smog, no extended periods of rioting. Covid-19 was a bit of drama in a mundane life, but I had no idea of the true impact it would have on the nation.

As soon as Boris made his announcement, Dan and I followed his instruction. I did a weekly shop during the great toilet paper shortage, and took Ted for a daily walk, then spent the rest of the time indoors at my laptop. The school had been preparing for this eventuality, and we had Google Classroom set up for online education. I spent hours sitting at my dining room table, reading rushed work online.

Related: Covid-19: My Very British Experience So Far

Related: Covid-19: My Very British Experience (Part Two)

Then I didn’t feel quite right. On 4th April, almost two weeks after lockdown began (and the day I was meant to fly to Canada to see my friend) and one pregnancy test later, I was pregnant during lockdown. I was going to have a Covid baby. Dan and I didn’t know what to do at first – we couldn’t see family to tell them, and I was only 4 weeks along, so we spent the first 8 weeks of my pregnancy at home, terrified. Doctors didn’t want to know until I was 10 weeks along, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and the death rate was steadily rising, so we were expecting to find bad news alone, and have to go through it alone.

At the end of April, after a month without seeing my family at all, we made the decision to see my parents. Although we weren’t technically allowed at the time, I was 8 weeks pregnant, about to have our first private scan, and I didn’t want to keep it from them any more. I needed some support. I needed someone to know. By the end of the day, my parents knew they were going to be grandparents, and I had heard one of the most precious sounds in the world – my baby’s heartbeat.

Then time flew by. I worked hours non-stop in the morning and had breaks in the afternoon. I felt horribly nauseous all the time so thank God I was able to work from home the whole time! In early June, though with shops still shut, I went for my first NHS scan. I know many people were nervous to go to the hospital in case they caught the virus, but I was so anxious with first pregnancy concerns, it didn’t even cross my mind. I was alone. I didn’t have to wear a mask in the hospital, but I had to go through the stress of my first dating scan alone, while Dan sat helpless in the car park.

While all this pregnancy drama was going on, Dan and I were trying to decide what to do about our holiday. We’d booked a luxury trip to Santorini for late July, but didn’t feel safe going during the pandemic. We didn’t want to risk something happening to me, and knew that our experience would be drastically affected, so we decided to cancel. Until we spotted a loophole. We could transfer our holiday for free, and anything we’d already paid would get refunded. Honestly, it was the best result of the pandemic so far – we were able to book a holiday for June 2021 AND a chunk of money back.

By the time our second scan came around, most freedoms had been restored (in Essex) and Dan was able to join me. We wore masks in the baking July heat, but at least we both got to see our baby on the screen. Our sonographer couldn’t get a full scan, so we had to return a few days later for a consultant meeting. I felt sick with worry, thinking that there was something wrong, totally unaware that she was just the wrong way round.

In the very last week of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, we went on a trip to Dorset. The holiday was a great change of scenery, and Dan and I gripped the opportunity with both hands – it would certainly be our last holiday before we would be parents. We had a great time. I felt safe, and I felt optimistic that the disease was ebbing away. We might be free by the end of the year.

In September, I was waddling through school corridors, and sounding like a broken record: ‘Put your mask on properly… 2 metres please… We’re in a pandemic… Where’s your mask?’ Trying to manage teenagers is difficult enough, let alone adding extra social distancing/compulsory mask wearing rules. Again, a minute amount of excitement bubbled as the entirety of Year 11 and Year 7 had to self isolate for two weeks due to a case – I got so much work done! But once again, the death rates began to climb, and the ease I felt started to become anxiety. I was in my third trimester. In the first lockdown, people in my position had been told to shield, and there I was, mingling with hundreds of people a day. I was actually terrified.

My workplace did as much as they could do – reducing my timetable, giving me a bigger room – but I still felt nervous. Especially as Lockdown 2.0 started in October, so I took my maternity leave a little earlier than planned.

In early December, Essex was launched into Tier 2, meaning I wasn’t meant to see family and friends. However, as a woman who was very, very pregnant, we had to make choices. I needed people around, just in case I went into labour while Dan was at work.

Luckily for us, it happened on a weekend, and my little Covid baby was born! Dan was able to be with me the whole time, even when I was rushed into theatre after her birth, but visiting time was limited. The worst part of the whole experience was spending the night in hospital alone with a new baby, but for an hour and a half.

Only a couple of days after she was born, Essex was plunged into Tier 4. Christmas was ripped away from us. I am so thankful new mums were added to the list of people able to make a bubble – I don’t know what I would have done if they weren’t. Being pregnant and giving birth through Covid-19 has been so, so difficult. I’ve never felt so isolated, even now as we are still in a state of lockdown in England.

But I’m thankful. No one in my family has fallen to the horrible disease. Our most vulnerable family members have had their vaccinations. I truly feel lucky that we’ve been able to come out of this with an addition to the family, rather than a subtraction.

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