When you imagine your first steps into motherhood, you think of family members greeting you in the hospital with flowers and balloons, of being overwhelmed with offers of help and support just so that you can grab a quick nap or a shower, and of photographing the first time your newborn’s grandparents get their first cuddle.
But for parents who gave birth during the coronavirus pandemic, all these lovely parts of welcoming a baby haven’t been possible.
Bex Renshaw, 26, from Stafford, and her partner Ben Foster, 27, who has been working throughout the pandemic as an operations manager, have still not allowed their parents to hold their now 11-week-old daughter, Charlotte, as Bex is still feeling incredibly anxious about the spread of Covid-19
Bex gave birth to Charlotte during lockdown via a planned C-Section, which she also had with her first child – her son Sammy, two.
Though Ben was allowed in the room for the surgery and during Bex’s recovery, he had to leave the hospital once she and Charlotte went down to the postnatal ward.
Bex had to stay in the hospital for four days due to Charlotte having breathing and feeding issues. Once they were cleared to go home, the family went into total quarantine.
Both she and Ben made the decision that people wouldn’t be holding Charlotte nor meeting her in-person until they were comfortable with it – and 11 weeks later, bar some very recent socially distanced meets with Bex’s parents, this still stands.
Bex tells Metro.co.uk: ‘We had made the decision prior to her birth that people wouldn’t be meeting her properly. We did either window visits or FaceTime calls, no one was allowed in actual contact with her.
‘My family has been supportive and understood my decision. We told them before she was born so there was no disappointment at all.
‘The decision was first made because I was having major surgery and she was a newborn so neither of us would have a full fighting immune system, but as it got closer and the pandemic continued spreading it became obvious that it had to be a long term decision to protect our family.
‘We have recently (the past two weeks) started meeting people outside. I know we have been ‘allowed’ for longer but I didn’t feel ready and again my family understood that so continued visiting us at our window.
‘She has now met both of my parents, my sister and my nephews during socially distanced garden visits.’
Bex says her mental health has taken a ‘massive blow’ during the pandemic, the main reason being that she has only recently started seeing people outdoors because her anxiety was so severe.
‘I am terrified of this virus and feel like stepping out of the door is putting us all at risk,’ she says.
‘My brain goes into overload and thinks of the worst situations that could happen.
‘My partner has been so supportive and understanding, he has totally let me go at my own pace.
‘I don’t know when I’ll be comfortable enough to let [my family] hold her. I feel like this is going to go on for a long time.
‘But I’m at the stage where I’ve been so careful for so long it seems like such a big risk.’
Bex is devastated that her family has already missed out on ‘the squishy newborn stage’.
Though she doesn’t judge other parents who have allowed their own families to hold their newborns, Bex can’t help but feel hurt every time she sees it happening.
She said: ‘Seeing other people’s families cuddling their newborn babies is such a stab in the heart. It almost feels unfair, how come they can but I can’t?
‘But I know I am doing what is best for us as a family. It has definitely not been the experience I expected or wanted but there have been pros and cons to being stuck at home.’
Bex, who has been furloughed since March and is currently on maternity leave, says that when the time comes that she does allow her family to hold Charlotte, she fears she will still be incredibly anxious.
She continued: ‘I think it’s about weighing up the risks and benefits for her.
‘Currently the risk is higher than the benefit for me, but as time goes on the benefit of socialising and family will become more than the risk of the virus, that’s my hope at least!’
Though it has been difficult and devastating, Bex’s mum understands her daughter’s worries – and agrees that it is for the best, as she works in a supermarket.
‘She’s in total agreement that she is too much of a risk to us’, says Bex.
‘There has been multiple outbreaks [of the virus] within her store and while she’s been lucky not to have been ill, none of us would want to risk it.
‘She’s been visiting us multiple times a week at the window and has brought us essentials whenever we need them.’
Ben’s parents have also not had cuddles with Charlotte, and his dad has been understanding.
‘Everyone has been so much more understanding than I expected,’ said Bex.
‘It was probably the hardest on my sister as she was here daily when I had my son three years ago – so for her to not even be able to give my daughter or cuddle, or to help me out, really hurt her.
‘But, she was understanding and wasn’t negative towards us at all – although she has told me I need another one after all of this so that she can have lots of cuddles!’
Bex has now taken a massive step to overcome her anxiety by allowing some socially distanced meetings – but she has been taking strict precautions to make sure she’s comfortable.
She said: ‘I’ve seen my mum, my sister and my best friend. The first time, I went alone. Then I went with just Charlotte and the last time I took both children.
‘We have also started doing in store shops and walks around the estate now but nothing more yet.
‘I just don’t feel like it’s necessary for us. It’s about weighing up the risks and benefits.’
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