My mind is pretty chaotic right now. Most new mums would say that’s the norm anyway. Our little bundles of joy are also like hurricanes passing through every day.
It’s a whirl of feeding, playing, nappy changing, bathing, wiping away tears and other bodily fluids (!). And you have to fit in your own meals, shower, household chores and sleep! My daughter is 4 months old and has started to be interested in the outside world. However, that world is now a very different one to the one she was born into.
As a mother with MS, placing me in the vulnerable group for COVID-19, I’ve had moments of acute anxiety during lockdown.
Isolation – it can be overcome
Being a new mum can be quite isolating in itself. I had only just got used to being able to get out for a walk on my own with my daughter. And this was after about an hour of preparation - or longer if there was an unexpected poo from her! I'd started to plan meeting up with other mums and reconnecting with friends. The lockdown has put all this on hold.
I’m too scared to leave the house for a walk so I only venture out into the garden. And coffee meet ups are out of the question.
However, technology has proved to be so useful in keeping me connected to my support network. My use of email, WhatsApp, video calling and social networking has at least doubled during this time.
It's not only helped me and my daughter keep in contact with friends and family, but also with my healthcare team, and other healthcare professionals. That’s meant I can get advice for managing my MS and answers to my queries on childcare. Websites for MS, like the MS Society's, have provided vital information for managing MS and COVID-19. And I’ve been reading baby websites for information on which milestones my daughter should be reaching, and help on things like breastfeeding and weaning.
I pondered the other day what this lockdown would’ve been like 20 years ago when these tech tools weren’t commonly used. And I count myself lucky that we do indeed have them so isolation is not as bad as it could be.
Anxiety - it’s not just about me now
I have always been anxious during virus season. Winter time for me is a constant battle between wanting to go out and do things and wanting to avoid catching a bug, because it’s well known that infections sometimes make MS symptoms flare up.
However, that anxiety is not just about me anymore. I worry about my daughter and if she falls ill. Or if I or my husband fall ill, how would we be able to look after her?
Under normal circumstances, friends and family would help out but in the current situation, this isn’t possible. This means that even simple things like picking up the post, or my husband going out to get groceries for us, becomes a big worry in case the virus gets into our home somehow.
The panic buying which ensued in the first few weeks left me worried about whether we would get enough basics like nappies and formula.
Babies don't care about pandemics
So what has helped with this anxiety? It’s actually been my daughter. A baby is very grounding. They don’t understand what is happening in the big, wide world. All they want is to be loved, fed, changed and cuddled, and I can provide that in spades!
I actually feel less anxious during the times my daughter is awake because she doesn’t give me time to think about the bigger picture. And when she smiles at me before going to sleep at night, it makes me thankful we’ve made it through another day.
Not everything about the lockdown has been bad. It's giving me one-to-one time with my daughter without trying to juggle other tasks like my own hospital appointments (mainly cancelled). My husband has been working from home which means he’s able to spend time with our daughter which he would otherwise miss.
Having a quick cuddle with her between phone calls or feeding her during his lunch break are precious moments he wouldn’t have if he was working in the office. He gets to see her when she’s at her most cheerful, rather than in the evening when she’s tired and grumpy and just wants to go to bed!
Other new mums have told me that while they miss the support of family and friends, spending time with their children without distractions has actually been a good bonding experience.
And like all new parents, we all adapt and cope with the new situation.
My social life is flourishing online
There have also been new opportunities. Online classes for fitness and hobbies have proliferated during the lockdown, enabling me to take part in something other than childcare without the hassle of leaving the house or juggling times with my husband.
I can fit in a Zumba class while my daughter is sleeping or watching me (and sometimes joining in!) from her play mat. I hope at least some of these opportunities continue after the lockdown is lifted. They provide options for people who find it more difficult to leave the house because of their disability.
Finally, the lockdown has actually given me time to connect with friends and family more often, albeit through technology. My husband and I arranged a family quiz through an online meeting app, something which would never have happened previously.
And a friend’s birthday was celebrated the same way. Nobody missed out because they weren’t busy with other things and there was no need to arrange childcare! The silver linings are there, it’s just important to remember them during the days which seem darker.
We are in this together and are never alone.