By Natalie Fish, first-time mum to Penelope
Until 6 weeks ago, we were a social mother and baby. From 6 weeks old, we were lucky enough attend a free baby massage course at our local children’s centre. We enjoyed meeting up with our friends at soft play and planning play dates to make use of our free bump to baby pass at Falmer Palmers.
I enjoyed taking my daughter to be weighed every other week at healthy baby clinic. Not only to track her weight, but also to have brief chats with other mums. They may have been small-talk chats, but those smal- talk chats helped keep me sane (purely my own fault for singing 'there were ten in the bed and the little one said' 100 times a day as musical words of stimulation to encourage my daughter to roll over)!
They were small moments in time where I could talk to a human and they would talk back. With my partner at work all day and most friends and family at work in the daytime, I would have little adult interaction until the evenings. This makes me sound like I am unappreciative of my child, I am not, she is nothing less than a miracle. However, most mums will understand how much chatting to an adult means after having one way conversations with a baby all day long.
Fast forward to March 2020. I have only been on maternity leave for 3 months when our Prime Minister puts our country into lockdown. Prior to this, baby groups and children’s centres had already closed in fear of Covid-19, and life as we knew it had changed and we had no idea when and if it would go back to normal.
Time spent on maternity leave is for bonding with your baby. While there is plenty of bonding happening at home, it is just with Mummy and Daddy. My daughter hasn’t seen her family for 6 weeks. Yes, we have FaceTime, but it is not the same. We have had no social or engaging baby groups to attended to help her development and socialise with other babies. I feel like I have been robbed of this special time with my baby.
I wanted to raise my daughter to be an independent baby, but even as I write this, my baby girl is having a nap in my arms. Something she very rarely does this (both napping and napping in my arms). I fear she will develop separation anxiety. I fear I will develop separation anxiety. I’m getting anxiety thinking about anxiety! It is a daily struggle to keep on top and on track of your mental health too. Especially at a time where there is little or no help available.
I am very lucky I have a very supportive partner who is a hands on Dad. In recent weeks I have had times were I have been more emotional than usual and these emotional episodes have lasted days at times. Putting on a brave face for my baby and smiling through it until she goes to bed because I don’t want to be sad in front of her, even though she probably doesn’t quite understand at four months old!
I am sad. I am sad we can’t see our friends and family. I am sad my friends and family are watching her grow and meet milestones through a screen. I am sad we can’t go to groups and meet other mums and babies. I am sad that we will never again get this time back.
I have discovered an app called Peanut, which is basically like Tinder but for Mums to meet other mums! I have connected with a few mothers with babies of a similar age to Penelope and hopefully, it won’t be too long until we can arrange play dates!
There is a petition to extend maternity leave to mothers currently on maternity leave for 3 extra months. If you feel the same, please sign so mums like myself can spend a little more time with their babies in normal circumstances. You can sign it here:
Thanks for reading :-)
And remember, stay home, stay safe.