I spent the entire weekend on my own in tears in hospital

We found out we were pregnant with our second baby a month after I had gone back to work (after a year off with my first). It was a bit of a surprise. We knew we wanted a second one before I turned 40 but seeing as it had taken us four years to get pregnant the first time it was a bit of a surprise. Taking care of a toddler while growing number two was tricky, navigating parental leave entitlements after not being back a full year in between babies was tough but we could have never anticipated having to give birth in a global pandemic. 

My due date was 25 March 2020 (the night we entered level four lockdown). I remember hearing about the level system on the Saturday before after coming out of a prenatal yoga class to a flurry of messages from concerned friends about whether I would be induced early to avoid the lockdown. Unfortunately with my first we had tried induction (as I had polyhydramnios with both pregnancies) but had laboured for 44 hours before ending up with an emergency c-section, which was so far from the water birth I had dreamed of.

When my first baby was 5 days old (less than 48hrs after we had discharged) we were rushed back into hospital in the middle of the night when I had a fever of over 40 degrees. Five days on an IV drip later, the infection from the c-section had settled and we were allowed to have a second go at heading back home as a family. Unfortunately this affected my milk production and I had to pump to try and increase supply for the rest of the fourth trimester and still ended up having to supplement with formula, which just made me feel like my body was failing all over again. I was still taking painkillers for the c-section when my first was eleven months old (when I got pregnant with my second), so obviously was pretty keen to avoid going in early for another induction that might lead to another c-section.... 

On my due date I had to go in for a scan to check babies position, growth and my amniotic fluid levels. Because we were heading into level four that night I had to attend the scan on my own for the first time without a support person. It took the hospital a little while to process the results. I was feeling fine and going for walks with my 20 month old in the buggy around our local area for the first couple of days of the lockdown. However at 7pm on Friday night my midwife called to say the hospital wanted to admit me that night so they could monitor the baby and it was likely that I wouldn't come home until they were earthside.

I was distraught, I would have to go into hospital on my own without saying goodbye to my toddler (as she was already asleep) and not know when I was coming back.

Thankfully my Mum was in our bubble so could come over and stay at the house while my husband drove me into the hospital. He could only come as far as the maternity wing doors and had to leave me there and go back home.

I spent the entire weekend on my own in tears in hospital. After 48 hours the consensus was that my baby was tracking large and was nestled into my hip so it was unlikely for him to move toward the birth canal (despite the excess fluid...) and thus unlikely for me to go into labour naturally. They scheduled a c-section for Monday morning. My husband was only allowed into the hospital for the operation and to stay with us while we were in recovery (for just over an hour afterwards) before he got sent back home and I was on my own in hospital again, but this time after major surgery and with a newborn to take care of.

Thankfully his latch was better than his big sister's and I was very pleased it wasn't my first as it is hard to receive breastfeeding support from a distance! The post natal ward was scarily quiet without the visitors and support people. Without my husband in with me I had to push the buzzer for a nurse / midwife every time I needed help getting my baby out of / back into his bassinet pre and post feeds, and would sometimes have to wait 20 minutes for someone to come - while having to listen to my baby cry out for me and not being able to pick him up. I was only hours post surgery and was scared of getting an infection again like last time.

The staffing on the ward was not adequate to make up for the additional support required of new mum's who now didn't have a trusted person in the room with them. As staff were more and more stretched (and I understand, working in a very strange environment) unfortunately they got snappy and expected me to push myself more than I was physically comfortable to carry / move / sit down while holding baby etc and it was apparent very quickly that I would have way more support at home so got my husband to come in and pick me up. I had to meet him down in the carpark this time because he wasn't even allowed in the building - with our newborn (who he had only seen for a couple of hours on the day of his birth) in a rolling bassinet and all of our bags.

Thankfully he fed much better than his sister (probably helped that he was 9 pounds rather than her 7.5 pounds) and it seemed like my milk production was going better second time around and I didn't end up with any infection from the "cold" caesarean this time around, which was a bonus.

Unfortunately when he was ten days old (Good Friday), my midwife did a weigh in an he had dropped below the comfortable level of weight loss (10%) so we were rushed back into hospital. My toddler went to stay with my Mum as we didn't know how long things would take at the hospital but unfortunately my husband wasn't allowed to stay once we were admitted from A&E on to the paediatric ward so I was on my own again with a ten-day old. Because he was the patient and I was his one support person I had to sleep on a fold down bed with him in his room (which was practically on the floor) which was so painful to get in and out of ten days post c-section.

They promptly started topping him up with formula to try and combat the weight loss. He turned a corner very quickly and it was evident I just didn't have enough milk for him (again) which I had come to terms with. However just as we were being discharged after two rough nights in there (and my husband was down in the parking lot ready to pick us up) I noticed blood in his nappy - which the doctors said was a telltale sign of a dairy allergy - and so we weren't allowed to leave as planned. This sent me in to quite a spiral when I had only just been managing to hold things together. It took them most of a day to find a tin of dairy free formula in the hospital so I had a pretty upset and hungry baby to try and handle on my own on top of everything else while they put an IV line into his hand just in case things went south again and they had to take quick action.

Thankfully they eventually managed to find a tin of formula and after a couple of days the blood stopped and his weight wasn't decreasing anymore so they finally let us go (third time lucky) back to a house where I couldn't eat any of the meals I had prepped before having him (as most were comfort, easy to heat meals like lasagne) and I had to completely switch my diet to dairy, egg and soy free to keep on feeding him (at two weeks postpartum) as they weren't sure exactly what his tolerances were like.

Somehow we made it through the fourth trimester, but the fifth bought even new challenges with him "waking up" and struggling with digestive issues and never being comfortable to be put down (but also not wanting to be a frontpack - just in my arms). I had an episode in one of his really prolonged crying patches and reached out to Maternal Mental Health.

I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from the traumatic birth, post partum rage and post partum depression which I am still struggling with now. Unfortunately support / therapy session have dropped back from weekly to about once every three weeks now that he is over one. Obviously the maternal mental health sector is really stretched with a number of women (and thus their families) still really struggling after having to give birth in such an "unprecedented" situation.