Having a baby might be one of the best moments of your life – but a global pandemic probably wasn’t part of the plan.
Pregnancy and labour can be stressful at the best of times, never mind having to worry about how coronavirus will affect your experience and expectations.
In Calderdale, the rules surrounding antenatal appointments, scans, labour and planned cesarean sections have changed to keep mums, babies and hospital staff as safe as possible.
Understandably, some are worried about what to expect and how to cope if their partner isn’t allowed in the hospital all of the time.
So, we’ve spoken to three new mums who gave birth in Calderdale during lockdown, and had wonderful, positive experiences.
Marcia & Baby Aubrey
Already a mum-of-two, Marcia Brierley knew what to expect from pregnancy and delivery.
But as her April 30 due date crept closer, she worried about being in hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
Who would look after her two boys while she and her husband were at the hospital? And how would she cope with the new rules around birthing partners, now they could only stay for labour and two hours afterwards?
“When I had my first son I was in hospital for a week and the thought of not seeing my husband and boys for a length of time was worrying,”explains Marcia. “I decided not to get too worked up about it all though. Nothing could change the situation and I completely understood why these measures had been put in place. I decided to just go with the flow and try not to overthink the whole situation.”
Marcia toyed with a home birth, but decided being in hospital was her best option – having a four and almost-two-year-old at home with nowhere to send them.
When she felt tightenings on April 24, she listened to some hypnobirthing recordings, checked her hospital bags, and called maternity assessment when contractions picked up.
Her second child had made a speedy entrance into the world, so she wanted to be organised and ready to go.
“They were really lovely and said if I could talk through the contractions it might be best to stay at home as it’s more comfortable,” said Marcia. “We decided between us that if they increased in intensity and became closer together then we would just make our way in. By 8.30pm they were every five minutes and I was unable to talk through them so we decided to head in.
“When we arrived, my husband was asked to wait in the car so they could examine me and was told he could join us when I was in established labour. This could be tough for some women, especially if it’s your first baby, but I think if you are prepared for it then you can get your head around the fact that you’ll go in on your own to begin with.
“The midwife who examined me was so lovely. She was very positive and reassuring and sensitive to the fact I was on my own and it turned out I was 6cm dilated and contractions were coming every few minutes so Matt was allowed to come and join us.
“She took me through to the labour ward at about 9pm, where she handed us over to another lovely midwife called Rosie. At this point, contractions were very strong and coming thick and fast. Rosie was lovely and very shortly after I felt the urge to push and in a few pushes our beautiful baby girl, Aubrey Joy Brierley was born at 9.21pm.”
After having some stitches, Marcia enjoyed tea and buttery toast while listening to the special songs on her birthing playlist. Matt squeezed in some skin-to-skin and cuddles with Aubrey during the two hours he was allowed to stay.
“The staff on the postnatal ward were all lovely and me and my new daughter had a gorgeous, calm night of cuddling and bonding,” shares Marcia. “I didn’t feel like we were being rushed out on the Saturday, but I felt like if you wanted to leave, they would ensure that they carried out all the checks on baby so you could go home. A lady across from me was really keen to go home and she was discharged fairly quickly, which was nice for her.
“It is definitely a strange and unnerving time to give birth, but I would say to try not to worry too much. Yes, the midwives are all wearing masks but apart from that, the births and labour ward didn’t feel any different to my previous births. The maternity units are very separate to the rest of the hospital and were extremely clean. Nothing can take away from the magic of your baby being born and it would be a shame to let the current situation hinder your birth experience and beautiful memories in any way. The staff at Calderdale Royal are amazing and they are sensitive to the fact that this is the most bizarre and scariest of times to have a baby.”
The hardest part is not showing off Aubrey to family and friends as a gorgeous, squishy newborn, says Marcia. And she misses not being able to get out more with her older children.
“But on a positive note, if it is your first baby you can enjoy all the beautiful bonding/cuddle time with them at home with no interruptions from visitors,” she adds. “Just think of the stories that we’ll have for our amazing Covid-19 babies when they grow up too! There is nothing in the world like the moment your baby is born – and not even coronavirus could take away from that.”
Catherine & Baby Amelia
Catherine Fawcett felt very nervous leading up to the birth of baby Amelia, mainly because she didn’t know what to expect.
She was also disappointed, because she had wanted both her mum and partner at the birth – but safety restrictions meant this wasn’t possible.
When labour started, she phoned the hospital and was told that her partner should wait outside while she was checked. Once she was in established labour, he was allowed to join her.
“Once he came in to the hospital, he had to stay to ensure safety for all,” explains Catherine. “At the hospital, the midwife was amazing. She was very supportive and calm. We had the same midwife throughout the labour and she was the only one that came into the room until the actual birth. Amanda made us feel at ease and not under stress with the current situation. The midwives wore PPE at the birth for safety.”
Amelia – Catherine’s second child – was born on April 25 at 5.55am.
She added: “I wish I had been told what to expect before the birth because I was so nervous about it all and I really didn’t need to be. After my daughter was born, the midwife took a photo of us together.”
Catherine’s partner had to leave two hours after Amelia was born, then met them at the hospital door when they were discharged.
“I can’t say enough to how supportive the midwives at Calderdale Birthing Centre were; they were amazing and made us feel at ease. A massive thank you to Amanda.”
Roxanne & Baby Quinlan
Before Roxanne Armitage went into labour, she admits to being worried about catching Covid-19 in hospital – despite receiving fantastic support beforehand.
“I didn’t want to go into that environment and was worried about seeing the midwives/doctors who will have had contact with lots of people,” shares Roxanne. “I had been strict in staying home during my later pregnancy so hadn’t been in contact with anyone, hadn’t seen family, hadn’t been to the supermarket or parks etc, and the thought of going somewhere so public like the hospital was quite intimidating.”
When she went into labour, she stayed at home as long as she could and was already 6cm dilated when she arrived at Calderdale Birth Centre on April 17. She had to go inside alone, but her partner was soon allowed to join her.
“It was very quiet in there and we didn’t see any other ladies in labour, or many staff – just the midwives that were helping me, which was great as it meant less exposure,” says Roxanne. “Everything went as planned until baby got stuck at 8cm and his heart rate kept dropping. The midwives were very reassuring and explained the next steps. I ended up being taken up to the labour ward. To be honest, by this point I wasn’t even thinking about Covid as the contractions were taking all of my attention so I had no worries about this. I just wanted to do what was best for me and my baby.”
On the labour ward, she was seen by a doctor and other midwives, who all kept her calm.
Staff had to monitor baby’s heart rate and take a blood sample from him, but Roxanne felt supported throughout.
“Baby was still stuck and they had to use a suction cup to turn his head and help him out. I just wanted to do what was best for baby so although I wanted a birth as natural as possible, I was more than happy to have this help. I also had an episiotomy but I didn’t feel any pain from that as they numbed the area. Before I knew it, the little man had arrived and the midwives cleared everything up. Afterwards, they brought me tea and toast and when I asked, they talked me through my labour and what happened when, which was great to hear.”
Baby Quinlan weighed a healthy 7lb 12oz, and the pair stayed in hospital overnight because of Roxanne’s blood loss, but she was well looked after, had her own room and was able to shower.
“Other than the PPE, the only real difference I noticed due to Covid-19 was that my partner had to leave two hours after the birth,” said Roxanne. “This wasn’t so bad though as I needed to rest anyways and it gave me time alone with my new baby.”
What are the rules?
In line with national guidance, Calderdale and Huddersfield Maternity Services only allow the expectant mother to attend any prenatal appointments, including scans.
One named birth partner can accompany you for the duration of labour – your partner will be asked to wait outside until you have been examined and labour is established – and for two hours after your baby is born
If you have a planned cesarean section, your birth partner can accompany you to the ward, then will be asked to leave until 30 minutes before your surgery. They will be asked to leave two hours later.
No other visits are allowed outside of these hours.