Finding the joy: Babies born during COVID19

08/06/2020
Local mum Laura and baby Odhran

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this year from 8 June 2020, the theme is ‘2020 Vision: Seeing the world through babies eyes’.

As we reflect on the impact that COVID19 has had on our lives and society, we realise life has changed. Weddings have been postponed, house buying and selling put on ice, however, babies can’t wait. During April and May 2020 441 babies were born in Altnagelvin Area Hospital and 185 babies born in the South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen – a total of 626 babies and counting!

During Infant Mental Health Awareness week, the Western Trust want to consider the impact that COVID19 is having on the baby’s experience of life during these times.  What might it be like through their eyes? Babies, are born wired for connection, they live, learn and develop through relationships with their parents or main caregivers. These interactions are their world.  For some a benefit of lockdown may be that there is less rushing about, that babies have more one to one time with parents, deepening bonding and attachment time and despite all the things happening in the world the baby remains focused on those that care for him/ her.

We asked two local parents in the Western Trust about their experience of bringing a baby into the world at the time of COVID19.

“Having a baby in lockdown is very strange.  I had a number of thoughts. The worry that you don’t have the usual support network in place, not having the health visitor calling and reassuring you everything was OK. Feeling a little isolated. The guilt that he wasn’t getting to see and meet people, and to get that special bond with his grandparents. Nobody getting to see him at that “cute tiny baby stage.

“I guess you feel kind of robbed of the sense that you weren’t getting to show them off to everyone (a little selfish I know, but you want everyone to see just how beautiful they are). Also you maybe feel a little bit more protective because the world we live in at the minute is a little more scary and you worry ‘what have I brought you into’. But it hasn’t all been negative. We have got to, in a way, hit the pause button. We’ve been able to savour every moment with Odhran and his brothers. We had them all to ourselves and lived in what felt like a little bubble and as his daddy has been furloughed it meant he got so much more time to spend and bond with him.”

Another mum said: “My maternity leave started the same week as the lockdown. I thought it was good timing as I was going to be staying at home anyway. Little did I know our little girl would only be getting cuddles from Mummy and Daddy for her first few months. I was in a bubble in hospital forgetting about what was all over the news, then the nerves kicked in when we got home! I was delighted to be packing our things for home, and happy to send my other half for errands. However, it’s so scary having a baby at this time. Getting out for walks helped build my confidence up for facing the real world again.

I feel very lucky though as the time we have had together has been precious, no visitors means pyjama days for me and little lady! The only way we could have a visitor was through the window, very hard to see family and friends so close yet so far. This lockdown will always be remembered but for me it will mostly be the most precious bonding time spent with my little lady!”

It is clear that for these mums and many like them, although the social isolation reduced their usual supports and they worried about the impact on their babies, they were still able to find the joy and that would have been reflected in their babies’ eyes.