Wishing For More Time
I’m still trying to find my feet as a mother, let alone as myself, through lockdowns and a pandemic. You definitely need to have lived through it, to understand what’s it’s like having a baby and experiencing that first early year during a world wide crisis.
I think back to March 16th 2020, when I was told to not come into work, as pregnant women were now considered ‘at risk’ regarding the virus. I then spent the next few months before maternity leave working from home. My final goodbye was a close of a laptop in my own living room.
The baby shower we had planned so much for and organised at the National Marine Aquarium: Cancelled. I put on an online alternative which was good fun, but I missed showing off my bump to family and friends.
Close-to-none of my family saw me with a blossoming baby bump.
Close-to-none of my family have seen me become a mother.
Close-to-none of my family have seen my son grow into a cheeky, happy little dude.
Had there been no lockdowns, I would have visited friends and family all over the country. I probably would have explored more of our neighbouring counties, Cornwall and Dorset. Instead, I gritted my teeth, put on my walking shoes and explored my local area. It was all I could do.
We didn’t go to playgrounds as much as I would have liked, due to me thinking they weren’t ‘clean’ or ‘safe’ because of Covid. I mostly avoided ‘busy’ places and peak times to keep myself and my family safe. I went through peaks and troughs with lockdown anxiety.
Don’t go out it’s dangerous!
Enjoy what you can!
Others don’t stick to social distancing!
Try and make the most of it!
I have to protect my family!
The constant back-and-forth started playing with my mental health. The indecisive nature of ‘Lockdowns’ and our Government will have surely affected everyone in the country some way or another.
I should have had a full maternity. Instead I compacted what I could, when I could. I want to have new places in my arsenal as my little one gets older. I want to share the world with him, let him grow and develop through experiencing new sounds, smells, sights and textures. When we’re out I explain everything we see and encourage him to engage with it. Seeing him taking the world in is amazing, I love watching him learn. Therefore, it felt necessary to make the most of every second before returning to work.
In my opinion, those on maternity leave between a certain timeframe should have had extended leave. It’s a difficult time and baby groups and mama friends are meant to be there to help.
It really annoys me when people say – ‘no one does anything on maternity anyway, you just have an excuse’. Err, no! I am a doer! I am constantly moving – like a shark! These are the same people telling me, I ‘really didn’t miss out on much’ and that ‘it would have been the same anyways’. These are the same women telling me about their friends they still talk to from their antenatal group eight to ten years ago… you know, the antenatal groups I never got to go to. The friends, and the support, I never got to make.
The absence of support and mama friends made me question my parenting skills and resort to Google searches way too much. We see ourselves through others, so when there is no-one to bounce my reflection off, how can I see what I am, what I have become?
I do feel like a mother. I’ve always been ‘mothering’ and the one who looks after everyone else, and so being an ‘actual’ mama feels natural. It’s just sad that the transition of me, Karen, into Wife, Sister, Friend, Daughter and Mother didn’t blend very smoothly. My family never saw me develop into the mother role and we never got to really ‘celebrate’ our little one. As well as our baby shower being cancelled, I wasn’t seen in the ‘blooming’ final weeks of pregnancy and the newborn cuddles for my family and friends were forbidden. It’s odd not celebrating my first born, especially when my heart is so full that I could shout from the rooftops, how much I love this perfect little person.
And just like that, my maternity leave was over. It was not the year I had planned for me, my child nor my family. I expected plenty of family visits, trips to see friends, a first family holiday, regular baby classes, baby swimming lessons, meeting lots of new mothers and so much more.
I know we are all healthy and others have had it so much worse, but I still can’t help but grieve the maternity leave I was looking forward to.
Looking back now, I really wasn’t ready to return to working life. Mainly because of grieving the maternity leave that I expected and longed for. I didn’t feel ready to close that chapter because I’d only skimmed the pages, grasping at straws and tightly squeezing the last drops of ‘time’. The rushed and compacted trips, walks and days out were lovely but equally, they shouldn’t have been necessary. I shouldn’t have had to take my maternity ‘freedom’ right up until the last day.
I should have been ready to see my colleagues and friends again.
I should have been ready to return to my well-loved job.
I should have been ready to ‘take a break’ from parenting.
Instead, I held my little one close to my chest and wished for more time.
Karen is a first time mama navigating her way through parenting. Working part-time, she balances her days to help support her family financially and emotionally. She has always had a passion for stories, whether through self-expression, lyrics in songs, poems or novels. The power of words has amazed and captivated her through the years.