What it's really like to give birth in the middle of a lock-down

What it’s really like to have a lock-down baby: New mums says they’ve been ‘robbed’ of maternity leave – with no access to grandparents, scant medical checks and a constant fear of running out of food and nappies

  • Priyanka Bhattacharya, 37, from Isleworth, gave birth to son, Aum on March 2 
  • She has struggled to get basic necessities including nappies and sanitary pads
  • Hannah Gleadhill, 25, from Manchester, is feeling ‘robbed’ of her maternity leave
  • Natalie Chappell, 26, from Wiltshire, is missing a helping hand from her mum
  • Claire Grace, 38, from South Croydon, is struggling to feed son without support 

While some might argue that having a new baby in the house puts parents in a sort of semi-quarantine anyway, those with offspring sporting March 2020 birthdays will beg to differ.  

Overstretched hospitals, empty supermarket shelves and the ongoing fear of actually getting coronavirus via the many health appointments that come with a new baby have ratcheted up anxiety levels for those who found their final trimester ending during a global lock-down. 

Add to that the ban on going outdoors too much, coffee dates, NCT gatherings and even cute photo sessions that normally come with a new baby and parenting during lock-down can be a lonely experience.  

Here, Femail speaks to four families who’ve welcomed a new addition in recent weeks about how they’ve coped with having one of life’s most joyous moments derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.    

Priyanka Bhattacharya, 37, who lives in Isleworth, gave birth to her four-week-old son Aum on March 2 in Middlesex hospital 

Priyanka Bhattacharya, 37, who lives in Isleworth, gave birth to her four-week-old son Aum on March 2 in Middlesex hospital. Pictured, with daughters Adya, 11, and Arya, six 

Aum (pictured), arrived on 2 March at 9.22am weighing 8lbs – just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting 

‘It’s such a weird time and I’m just so grateful we made it home before everything got more serious. I’ve had two babies in the past and it’s never been anything like this. We were lucky we just got out of Middlesex hospital is Isleworth when all hell broke loose.  

When we went in, we didn’t realise coronavirus would take over the world like this. It is such a weird time for a newborn to come into this world. We were really scared about what was happening. I can just image how scared the plight of mothers are going in now, as it’s only getting worse and worse.’ 

We have been most affected by not being able to buy some of the most basic things. When a new mum goes into hospital, they don’t stock up on months-worth of items, they just buy things to last a couple of days, or a week or two. 

But we came home right in the middle of everything. Even basic necessities like nappies and baby wipes had flown off the shelves – they had all just disappeared. 

Priyanka, who is severely asthmatic and is currently living with her husband Joy, 40, their two daughters, and her grandparents in a four-bedroom house, told how they are all on complete lockdown due to being high risk. Pictured, with four-week-old Aum 

The concerned mother admitted she is concerned as she is struggling to get hold of the necessities she needs for baby Aum (pictured)

We got home on the 2 March and I came out on March 5 following some complications. We had basic necessities with us but when my husband went to the supermarket, he came home and told me there was nothing left. It was scary. I couldn’t’ sleep. I didn’t believe him. I thought he was just being difficult. 

I went with him to verify it for myself and when I saw those empty shelves, I nearly broke down. Even basic things like sanitary pads – I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to get any. We couldn’t even get hold of nappy bags, so I am using other plastic bags that are recyclable. 

Luckily, we had been getting a Tesco delivery at home and had been saving up the recycled bags they put the meat and fish in – so now we use them instead.

Priyanka added that her eldest daughter Adya, 11 (pictured right, with Arya, six, left), has been giving her a helping hand 

Priyanka’s husband Joy, 40, headed to the supermarket to get baby Aum some essential bits, but was shocked to find the shelves clear of nappies and baby wipes (pictured together)

However, we count ourselves as very lucky because my parents arrived from India just a few days before Aum was born. We haven’t got any family here, so my grandparents, aged 69, and 70,  came over just to help us out. We are fortunate they made it in time, because India has had a lockdown as well and all its borders have been closed and international flights have been grounded. 

This is also the time you look forward to bonding with your baby, you want to go to new baby and mummy classes and meet other new mums. I developed such strong friendships out of them following the births of my eldest, Adya, 11, and middle child, Arya, six. 

But I fall under the very high risk category as I have severe asthma. It still scares the life out of me as we’re still not at the peak in the UK. I am really petrified, so we don’t go out anywhere. We are completely locked down inside the house.  

Claire Grace, 38, from South Croydon, had her second child Ellis, two weeks, via C-section on 18th March at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Locksbottom, after suffering four miscarriages following the birth of their six-year-old daughter, Matilda

‘We had Ellis at hospital just before the stronger restrictions came in. I had to be induced two weeks early because I had gestational diabetes, and was discharged 36 hours after he was born. 

My daughter Matilda, six, wasn’t allowed in the hospital at all, but my husband Daniel was there. The logistics of looking after Matilda were a little tricky. She was at our home with Daniel’s parents while we were in hospital, but by the time Ellis was born, the lockdown came in. Daniel’s parents stayed until the Friday and then went home to isolate by themselves.

Claire Grace, 38, from South Croydon, had her second child Ellis, two weeks, via C-section on 18th March at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Locksbottom. Pictured, together

Ellis (pictured) has tongue tie and needs an operation, but Claire doesn’t yet know when this will be, meaning he will continue to struggle with feeding

Our son has a tongue tie and as a result needs an operation, but we don’t yet know when or how this will be arranged and up until that time, feeding is and will continue to be tricky. For me, I breastfed my daughter and that’s something that’s quite important to me, so it really has been a challenge this time around. 

Ellis is a lot more restless and he’s not sleeping as well. You can tell he’s struggling to feed and you can see he’s not comfortable or getting what he wants or needs. And feeding is a lot more stressful and painful for me as well, as he can’t latch on properly. 

There’s no breastfeeding cafes at the moment as everything has been shut down, so I haven’t been able to get any feeding support which has been really challenging. I haven’t had the normal health visitor or midwife visits at home either, and some have been by telephone instead – which isn’t ideal.

Claire breastfed with her daughter Matilda, six, pictured with Ellis, but says it’s a real struggle trying to get her newborn to latch on

My mum is very close by and she helped out a lot before the baby arrived. She helped with bits of housework when I was heavily pregnant, so to have lost all of that support and to not see her, is hard. I know she’s struggling as well – your instinct is you want to go and visit and have baby cuddles. I’m in tears most days, but I guess some of that is to be expected as there’s a lot more hormones flying around. 

Because we’ve had miscarriages and because Ellis has been such a longed for baby, not to have people come and see him has been really, really hard. 

We can’t register the birth yet either, meaning we can’t claim child benefit. I work for my own company, Assistant Quarters, where I give virtual business support to other small businesses, so I’ve had that added stress with the self-employment factor as well. 

My husband, an engineer for Sky, is classed as a key worker, but as it’s a change of situation day-by-day, week by week, there’s still that uncertainty there with what the future will hold.

The lack of child benefit money hasn’t affected us yet, but because we don’t know what the future holds in terms of how long the restrictions will be in place, it may have more of an impact as time goes on. 

Abi Wood, Head of campaigns and communications, NCT, said: 

‘The coronavirus pandemic is understandably causing concern amongst many new parents and worries can often be heightened during the early days with a newborn.’

‘We’ve seen an increase in enquiries from parents who are concerned about a number of things, including the lack of usual services, isolation from families and financial fears.

‘It’s important that new parents know where to go for accurate information and support and that they still feel connected to others. We’re constantly updating our website with a wide range of information, including FAQs about the coronavirus.

‘And our network of around 325 volunteer-run local branches across the four nations connects parents through a range of online activities. New parents need strong, trusted local networks now more than ever in these uncertain times.’

Hannah Gleadhill, 25, from Manchester, a NHS children’s cancer nurse, has seen her dream wedding postponed and her maternity leave plans thrown into turmoil. 

The new mum was due to wed her partner Simon Lines, a BT engineer, in June at a luxury wedding venue in the pretty Ribble Valley in Lancashire. 

However, the couple’s big day has been put on ice until at least 2021 because of the global pandemic – and Hannah says her dreams of spending vital bonding time with family getting to know her baby daughter, Cuba have also been derailed by the pandemic.

Hannah Gleadhill, a cancer nurse at the Manchester Children’s Hospital and her partner Simon Lines, a BT engineer, from Manchester, hoped to wed on June 7th but now face rescheduling into 2021 or beyond because Hannah is due to return to her job in September and fears she – or many of her friends and family who also work for the NHS – won’t be able to take leave 

Hannah, 25, says she feels robbed of her maternity leave too, as she’s left feeling ‘lonely’ while isolating at home, as partner Simon, a BT engineer, 26, is still working full-time and she can’t spend time with her parents or grandparents

Hannah, who works at Manchester Children’s Hospital on the oncology ward helping young cancer patients, says she can’t re-plan her wedding because – even if the current restrictions are lifted – she’s due to return to work from maternity leave in September and knows she’ll be needed on the front line until the crisis abates.  

Hannah on the oncology ward at Manchester Children’s hospital before leaving to take her maternity leave

‘This is not going to be over anytime soon, the pressure on the NHS will be long-term and we wouldn’t want to risk trying to get married this year. 

Potentially, I might not even be able to get time off for my own wedding.’   

Lock down has been particularly tough because Simon works full-time as a BT engineer, so I’m alone with Cuba all day every day. You feel selfish for moaning about it, but it’s such hard work being stuck in the house with a baby. 

‘She’s not really at an age where she wants to play a lot either.

‘Every day we used to go to a baby class and on weekends, we’d be out and about. She had so much social interaction before.

The week before lock-down we went to our last baby sensory class. It’s so hard, it can be lonely being at home with a baby. Some days I think, why am I even getting dressed?’ 

Simon has been coming home from work at lunchtime to try and give Cuba some social interaction and we Facetime her grandparents every day. But it’s been hard on other family members, as my grandmother, who has dementia, doesn’t understand why she can’t cuddle her great granddaughter. 

Just the two of us: Hannah says: ‘Some days I think, why am I even getting dressed?’ when herself and baby Cuba can barely leave the house

After a tricky start, Cuba’s health is now thriving although the NHS have cancelled all regular check-ups, such as weigh-ins

Big plans: the couple pictured shortly after Cuba’s birth at the end of last year

The cancellation of her dream wedding left Hannah in tears but she says that she knows there are lots of people ‘in worse situations’ 

What’s killed me has been in, is that there’s no aim. It’s not like they’re telling us that in three weeks we’ll be allowed back out.

I’m also worried about the risk to Cuba’s health. With my nursing background I obviously knew it was a pretty dire situation and it is just trying to protect Cuba. 

At first they were saying that no babies could get it but obviously we’ve all seen the stories in the news that show they do get it.

I just feel like I’ve been robbed of my maternity leave with my first baby… but as much as I’m sad, there are so many people in worse situations than us. It just didn’t seem like it was going to play out like this.

Natalie Chappell, 26, from Wiltshire, who runs her own digital marketing company, Zest for Media, gave birth to son Finley by C-section on March 17th at Salisbury Hospital

‘I had a difficult pregnancy, suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) for 16 weeks. I also had anaemia, too much amniotic fluid and was also told my baby was large, so I was a high-risk pregnancy.   

I gave birth 12 days early to Finley and while I tend to not watch the news, what I do for a living means I’m on social media a lot and I watched the coronavirus story unfolding in the months before but still didn’t feel too worried – I was busy winding down my business and had so many other more immediate concerns with my pregnancy.

Natalie Chappell, 26, from Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, gave birth to son Finley on March 17th at Salisbury hospital; despite receiving ‘amazing’ care from midwives, Natalie says she’s found it really hard not being able to have the support of close family (pictured with fiance Ali and son Finley)

When it really hit was when we arrived at the hospital, we were told we couldn’t have visitors and that’s when the panic and the upset started for me. 

I endured a 37-hour labour that ended in a C-section, with Finley born weighing 8lbs 4oz, and my fiance, Ali, was only able to stay after the birth because we paid £5 an hour for one of three private rooms available – totalling £235 for my two-day stay in hospital.

During that time, Ali, couldn’t eat at the hospital and how many times he left to grab a sandwich from a supermarket was monitored because the staff, who were amazing, were worried about raising the risk of infection on the maternity ward. 

Now home, I’m recovering well and Finley is thriving but one of the hardest things has not been able to have contact with my mum, who I’m really close to. 

The new mum says not being able to have any photographs of Finley with his grandparents weeks after his birth feels really difficult 

He’s going to change so much in the coming months and family are not going to be able to hold him. We’re not going to have photos – memories – of him being really tiny with both sets of grandparents. We won’t be able to take him to baby classes – and he won’t be able to bond with other babies. 

The practicalities have been hard too, I burned out our bottle steriliser by accident and trying to get another one right now isn’t easy. Normally you’d just go to Tesco, but we can’t do that anymore. 

Once a day, I have a wobble and go into panic mode asking ‘is it all going to be okay?’. Everybody in our close family is deemed a vulnerable person; I feel like, health-wise, I’m the strongest person in the family and so it’s hard not to get worried. 

How we’ll get through it is to look ahead, we’re trying to plan where we’ll be able to go in six months with Finley, all the things we will be able to do. We’re trying to be excited about the future and not focus on what we can’t do now.’  

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