New Surrey mum explains anxiety, challenges and positive aspects of pregnancy and childbirth in lockdown

Virtual antenatal classes, drive-through appointments and solo scans have all been a part of being an expectant parent during a global pandemic.

Emma Smith and fiancé Tom McDonald, from Ash, found out they were expecting a baby during the first lockdown and have had a whirlwind experience since then, with anxious moments and uncertainty aplenty.

“I was too busy to notice at first,” said Miss Smith, due to lots of distractions from the news initially while working from home.

However, as the pregnancy progressed Miss Smith described the experience as “incredibly nerve-wracking”.

“I found myself at the supermarket as soon as they had opened to ensure I could shop during quiet times,” she said.

“With clothes shops closed and my tummy growing quickly, buying maternity clothes was especially difficult without being able to try on for sizes.

“My best friend was also pregnant at the same time as me; pre-Covid we would have been shopping for baby items together and grabbing a hot chocolate whilst having a natter but lots of the fun elements I imagined of pregnancy had to be sacrificed to keep everyone safe.”

Mr McDonald was not initially allowed to any of the antenatal appointments, however restrictions were eased by the 20-week scan and the couple were able to find out the sex of their baby together.

“That was the only appointment he was allowed to attend,” said Miss Smith. “I had two extra scans, four in total as there were concerns about growth and movement but I had to attend those alone.”

The couple signed up to the Birth and Beyond course with Guildford’s Royal Surrey County Hospital, and had online sessions with other couples, which Miss Smith said “really helped with our birthing plan”.

She added: “Pre-Covid, these sessions would have been at the hospital and we would have met other couples with due dates close to ours.

“It was nice to speak to people virtually once a week and be in comfy pyjamas on the sofa. We have one lesson left once all the babies are born from the group – baby massage, which I am really looking forward to.”

Newborn Riley-Dean Smith McDonald at home in Ash, Surrey. Photographer byline Darren Pepe.

The couple welcomed son, Riley-Dean McDonald, into the world on December 27 after “only just” making it to the hospital in time.

She said: “With Covid, the hospital, understandably, wants less people admitted so as it was my first baby, labour is expected to be in the first stage for a while before hitting active labour.

“The plan was to get to the hospital as soon as being in active labour, for a nice relaxing pool birth. However, once my contractions were intense enough, there was not enough time for that and we only just made it to the hospital.

“Once we made it there the midwives were excellent and my fiancé Tom was brilliant at keeping me as calm as possible, even though they were worried about the baby’s heartbeat.”

Not being able to introduce the baby to family and friends has been the hardest part of Miss Smith’s experience of having a baby throughout the pandemic, she says.

Although, it has not been all bad.

“I am thankful that I did not need to travel into work throughout my pregnancy and could work from home in comfy clothes,” she added.

Amy Stubbs, deputy director of midwifery and divisional head of nursing for women and children at the hospital, said: “At Royal Surrey we are committed to delivering the highest standards of care for parents-to-be and especially during these unprecedented times.

“We have adapted our service to ensure that women and their babies are cared for safely during pregnancy, birth and the period afterwards.

“I am proud of how our midwives have worked with positivity and innovation to continue to provide the best possible service and ensure we can maintain high standards of safe, effective care. With this, we have enabled women to have the vital support from birth partners at specific scan appointments, during labour and birth and the postnatal period.

“It is important for all women to continue to access maternity care. If you have any concerns at all, speak to your midwife. Women receiving care under Royal Surrey, Ashford St Peter’s, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals also have access to a 24-hour support and advice on 0300 123 5473.”

Surrey Live – News