Parenting, pregnancy and a pandemic
Finding out you’re going to be a mum or dad for the first time should be one of the happiest days of your life. But pregnancy in the time of COVID-19, for so many, has been overshadowed by the pandemic.
Often, the greatest challenges have been dealing with isolation and a nagging fear of missing out.
Under lockdown, new and expecting parents have been isolated from their family, friends and work colleagues.
Most of all, many have missed out on the little celebrations and rituals you go through, like:
- breaking the news to your family face to face
- your last day before maternity leave at work
- the community you build with other mums and dads before, and after, the birth
A different experience
Alongside my role as a doula, I also run workshops for Peppy, a digital employee healthcare benefit that connects new and expectant parents to expert practitioners.
In a year when we’ve never been more disconnected physically, I have seen the positive impact of a virtual service like Peppy. It gives users access to personalised perinatal support at home, via instant messenger and video or phone consultations.
Amandeep Khasriya, a senior associate at Moore Barlow, believes this form of virtual support has never been more vital, having just given birth to her second child in December.
“I found out I was pregnant right at the beginning of lockdown and it filled me with anxiety,” she says. “There were so many unknowns. I was worried about my health and the baby’s health. Above all, the prospect of doing it alone filled me with so much worry.”
Giving birth during the pandemic
Amandeep counts herself lucky that it wasn’t her first pregnancy, but right up to giving birth she remembers being overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and isolation. “The birth itself was pretty horrendous,” she says.
“My husband was only allowed in for the last hour of the birth. For the whole labour I was in a room on my own, no midwife, nobody. It was so awful.”
Fortunately, her daughter Lara was born safely but Amandeep says she wouldn’t wish the experience on anybody – especially those going through it for the first time.
Peer and carer support
Giving birth was also only half the battle. Being unable to ask her elderly mother for support due to the virus, and feeling detached from the vital peer support of her work colleagues has also taken its toll.
When a baby is born, a parent is also born because your life is totally different, and this year has been especially hard on new mums and pregnant women.
They have missed out on the continuity of care – and continuity of carer – that we know is key for good outcomes for parents and babies.
Pandemic or not, people need to know they’re not alone when they’re going through major life transitions like becoming a parent.
The upside: flexible working
Despite all the uncertainty 2020 has thrown up, Amandeep, like many others, is optimistic that important lessons will have been learned. She’s also identified one upside of becoming a parent during a pandemic that she hopes will benefit all women long term.
“Widespread, flexible working is one of the few silver linings from all this, and it has got to stay,” she says.
Amandeep believes the onus will be on HR teams to be innovative and use virtual tools, like Peppy, to support the hybrid workforces of the future.
“If we can help parents feel more connected when working from home, we’ll start to see an equal number of fathers and mothers taking shared parental leave,” she adds.
“When we see that, we’ll finally level the playing field for all women in the workplace, and put an end to the penalty of motherhood once and for all.”
How to beat the new baby blues in a pandemic
Be kind to yourself
“Throughout your pregnancy and after, always be kind to yourself,” says Amandeep. “Make sure you still carve out time for yourself, whether that’s virtual catch-ups with friends, seeking out new mums, or joining baby groups virtually.”
Remember it’s good to talk
Find someone you can confide in, and crucially, someone who will really listen. That could be a friend, a colleague or even a Samaritan. It’s so important for your mental health.
Manage your expectations
Both for yourself, and others. You’re under enough pressure as it is, without heaping more on yourself with unrealistic expectations.
Also, remember your partner and friends and family are not mind readers. Be specific about the kind of support you need.
Lean on your HR team
When it comes to employee benefits, don’t be passive. Find out what support is offered by your employer.
For example, law firms BCLP and Clifford Chance give their employees free access to the Peppy app. This allows their employees to remotely connect with perinatal experts over chat, video, or phone consultations when they need it.
Ask for help
“Seek out a mentor,” says Amandeep, who also runs a community called Women Back to Law, that helps to inform and inspire women returning to work after leave.
“They can help you overcome any confidence issues or fears you might have, so you can hit the ground running when you feel ready to return to work.”
To find out how you can support your team through pregnancy and early parenthood with Peppy, click here to join a 20 minute Lunch & Learn.