Pandemic Parenting: Bethan’s Story

Today we launch our new series “Pandemic Parenting” with our very own Bethan Jones’ story. Bethan is a single mum to Chase, who she welcomed into the world in November via C-section. This is her story.

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If you’re wanting a nice happy story of a glowing new mother, wearing a flowy white dress nursing her pristine child, this isn’t it. Buckle up folks, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Pregnancy, Birth, and the early days

I delivered my Son via a planned C-section on 26th November, as he was in the breech position, had reduced movements, and I had severe PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain). Pregnancy wasn’t an easy ride to say the least. It only took the doctors 9 minutes to deliver my Son, but each ticking second felt like a lifetime. The wait to hear those sweet sounds of his cry was torturous. It was discovered that I have a ‘Septum uterus’ and that had I attempted a natural labour, it would have had disastrous consequences. Should I have any more children, I would have to have a C-section again.

I spent the night alone in hospital. I was the only mother on the ward alone, which I suppose should have made alarm bells ring out to me about what was to come.  Once home, time went by with a blur. I struggled to feed and had to be visited daily by Midwives and health visitors, though unfortunately a different one visited daily and so I can’t remember faces or names anymore. In a flash my Son was 2 weeks old, and my days were filled with family visits, as I tried to establish some form of routine. I even had to buy a memo board so I could remember the last time I showered! I was then thrown another curve ball. I started to bleed. Rushed to hospital, it was found I had a severe uterine infection, commonly linked to remained placenta, something which I now know to be quite common following C-sections. I struggle to remember this time, however what I do remember is though my wound was checked, nobody actually asked how I was doing…

The following weeks continued to be a struggle. Unfortunately, comments were made by family members that I was lazy for struggling to keep up with the housework. The pain I was in meant I couldn’t push my Son in his Pram, let alone play the perfect housewife! I felt isolated, and by the time my 4 week check up with the Health Visitor came around, it was noticeably clear that I was struggling. Chase had Colic and screamed nonstop, despite trying everything I could. My partner hated coming home from work to a screaming child that would not stop. He took it upon himself to use noise cancelling headphones, shouting at me to make the baby stop. I felt like I was failing, that the world was closing in around me, and there was nothing I could do.  My health visitor said it sounded like I had Post Natal Depression, she said she referred me for help, but that help never came.

A Single Mum

When my Son was 8 weeks old, his Father left. I didn’t cook, I didn’t clean, I wasn’t the perfect housewife. But nor was I the girl I was 6 years prior, when I had the time and the energy to go out partying. I was a new mum. Just a normal new mum. So, there I was, a new mum and a newly single mum at that, learning how to be alone and learning how to parent alone. All while battling Post Natal Depression, and a dash of anxiety thrown in for good measure. The father of my infant child had left me for a woman who I had considered a friend. I don’t know how long it had been going on, but I do know he was with her 2 weeks after I got out of hospital.

My friends rallied around me, dragging me out to baby groups, and I loved every minute. They gave me a reason to dressed for the day, to actually leave the house! My friends and those classes were my lifeline and helped me face the difficult decisions I had to make. I was faced with the decision that I was going to have to leave the home I had created for my Son to grow up in, as I couldn’t afford to cover the bills alone while on Maternity leave.

Covid-19

In the background of all this, Covid-19 was spreading around the world. We didn’t know the impact it would have on our lives then, how drastically our lives would change. We were told if we had symptoms, we all know what they are by now, we were to isolate. At the beginning of March, my family took ill. I bit into a lemon and couldn’t taste it. Chase did a ‘poonami’, and I couldn’t smell it. We had to isolate.

2 weeks later, the Prime Minister went on TV and announced the national lockdown.

From day 1, lockdown was tough. I was cut off from the friends and groups who had been my saviours. I formed a bubble with my sister so I could look after her children while she worked. Looking after a 4-month-old baby and 2 kids under 4 was hard work, and at the same time Chase was poorly. After calling the health visitor every single day for two weeks, leaving voice mail after voice mail I finally got an answer. Chase was eventually diagnosed with a dairy allergy, so we gave him the specially prescribed milk, went completely dairy free for a month. But nothing got better. Chase was losing weight and now under the 50th percentile, but weigh ins had stopped, and so he was monitored. I was weighing him on the scales on the bathroom floor. Eventually after much arguing, the GP referred us to a Paediatrician who prescribed a drug to fix the severe gastro reflux issue my son had. It took 5 months, but he is finally doing better. 5 months of anxiety. 5 months of heartache. 5 months of my little baby suffering.

Lockdown was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I survived, by the tips of my fingers I survived. I’m proud of myself for that.

As lockdown progressed, it became apparent that childcare for Chase would be an issue if I returned to work as plans. Due to the rules around providing 8 weeks’ notice to return to work, after weeks of sleepless nights (not because of the baby this time!) and a lot of contemplation, I made the decision to extend my Maternity leave.

The Maternity Petition

I became involved in the Maternity Petition campaign and met the amazing ladies who have formed this group. A small group of women, who without which I would have been lost. This campaign has kept me busy, giving me something to focus on, improving other women’s lives as well as my own. We were incredibly disappointed by the Government’s response. To reject nearly all the recommendations made by the House of Commons Petitions Committee seems astounding to me. To reject the pain and suffering that new parents up and down this country are facing. On Monday 5th October, the campaign will be debated in Westminster Hall. Let’s hope they see sense and put in the support that is so desperately needed.

Covid-19 has affected the entire world. It seems the Government has chosen to ignore the implications on some groups. 3 million excluded from financial support packages. Children left with no education, footballers fighting to ensure they are fed. Women giving birth alone, finding out about miscarriages alone. New parents facing their ‘new normal’ alone and unsupported.

Something needs to be done. It’s already too late for some.

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