This time two years ago, the Bailiwick was in the first weekend of the original covid-19 lockdown. Freedoms taken for granted for decades were curtailed as frightening projections of the potential effects of doing nothing caused the States to impose the most draconian restrictions since the Occupation nearly 80 years earlier.
Life changed overnight. 'Normal' was cast aside. For none more so than expectant mothers and those who had just given birth. The pregnancies and early days of motherhood they might have imagined were about to become very different.
Express spoke to two first-time mums about their experiences of having 'lockdown babies' born amid a global pandemic.
Megan Cluett's daughter, Penelope, was born on 1 April 2020, less than a week into the first lockdown.
Megan said the uncertainty of the situation added to the anxiety of giving birth for the first time.
“I had been anxious about giving birth anyway, but when we went into lockdown I had additional worries about whether my husband, Tom, would even be allowed to be with me during labour. Thankfully, he was,” said Megan.
Pictured: Penelope Cluett was born in the first week of the first covid lockdown.
“At the time, I, and most islanders, didn’t know how long the lockdown would last, but I never expected it to last as long as it did.
"As new parents, we were not prepared for an extended period without any help from family and friends, or for them not to be able to meet our new-born baby.
“I was so focused on the worry of labour that I was unable to think any further ahead, so I almost blocked out what life in lockdown would be like.
“I had previously thought of all the lovely plans of baby classes with my antenatal group and meeting other new mums. I never imagined that none of that would happen for us.”
Natalia Silvester's son, Rafcio, was born on 9 March 2020, and therefore was only 16 days old when Guernsey went into lockdown.
Natalia echoed Megan's comments.
Pictured: Natalia Silvester's son was born on the day Guernsey had its first known case of covid-19.
"I remember after I had given birth that someone in the hospital told me that Guernsey had its first case of covid that day,” said Natalia.
“It was really scary because I didn’t know what that would mean for the island or for my little new-born baby."
Natalia had required surgery during labour.
“I was in recovery for a few weeks and, by the time I was ready to go out with my baby, the entire island was in lockdown,” she said.
“I hadn’t found out the gender of my son before he was born and I had intended to go baby shopping for his clothes after he was born.
"Suddenly, I couldn’t do any of the plans I had made when I was pregnant and it was really upsetting.”
A further change brought about by lockdown was that Megan and Natalia's husbands were at home more than they expected after the birth of their children.
Megan said there were advantages and disadvantages to her husband working from home with a new-born.
Pictured: Tom Cluett and his daughter, Penelope.
“It was good that Tom was around us a lot more than he would have been if he was in the office," said Megan.
"He was able to stop for lunch and spend time with us if he was not too busy.
“However, it was also difficult if he had work calls and I would be trying to keep the baby quiet downstairs.
“Tom was stressed with trying to manage everything at work and trying to concentrate when he could hear and see me struggling with the baby and also with my own mental health.”
Pictured: Lockdown meant that many new parents did not have the support from family and friends which they had always expected.
Natalia said that her challenge came from trying to run her businesses with a new-born and her husband being unable to help her.
“My businesses are in the hospitality industry and there were some really difficult decisions that needed to be made due to the lockdown and working out how to ensure none of my staff lost their jobs, which I ultimately managed,” said Natalia.
“I had a new-born baby, I was locked inside, my businesses were closed and, although it was great that my husband was home to spend more time with our son than he would have, he could not help me with the business because it is my area of expertise.
“It was a huge amount to juggle at once.
"I didn’t want to say that I was struggling because, in business, particularly as a woman, to be emotional is to seem weak.
"But I was incredibly emotional trying to balance everything in the lockdown.”
Pictured: Natalia's son, Rafcio.
Megan said she struggled with mental health due to the circumstances facing her in lockdown.
“I really struggled with not being able to see my parents. As a new mum, I really needed my own mum,” she said.
“Everything was new to Tom and I having a tiny new-born at home to care for totally on our own.
"Friends and family were not allowed around to help us or to be a shoulder to cry on when things were tough after a night of no sleep.
“I became very anxious and depressed during this time.
"I struggled with being stuck indoors. Even daily walks were a struggle for me because I was not healing well after labour.
“Whilst I was thankful for video calls, they really are not the same as face-to-face help and contact with loved ones.”
Pictured: Megan used video calls to contact her family during lockdown.
Megan credits Bright Beginnings Children’s Centre for providing invaluable support.
“I reached out to Bright Beginnings when I was feeling very unwell and they really helped me, and many other women, during the lockdown,” she said.
“I have made some good friends from these groups and we all really helped each other by being at the end of the phone or on a zoom call.
“I am also thankful for my yoga practice, which mentally helped me through the lockdown and allowed me to move my body when I was feeling ready and well enough to do so.
“I was also able to integrate Penelope into my practice with some mum and baby yoga at home. This was special to me.”
Pictured: Megan said yoga helped her mental health during lockdown.
Natalia said that lockdown changed her ways of thinking.
“It was incredibly difficult having a new-born in lockdown," she said.
"It was scary and only other mums will understand how frightening it was to be responsible for a little, vulnerable new baby who you need to protect.
“I was quite anxious going out because I was worried about people coming too close to me and my son when covid was spreading. It was overwhelmingly stressful.
“A positive thing from the lockdown is that I spent more time at home with my son than I ever would have in a normal situation.
"I breastfed him and have continued to do so because I had the time to be able to do that when I otherwise wouldn’t have."
Pictured: Megan and Natalia found lockdown walks with their new-born babies difficult for different reasons.
"I am an overthinker, but I had to change that in the lockdown and learn to take each day as it comes because I couldn’t think of the future when it was all so uncertain," said Natalia.
“That mindset change is something that I have continued with. The fastest way to get anywhere is slowly.
"I am really grateful to the lockdown for giving me that amount of time with my son and that it changed how I think about things.”
Megan and Natalia found things easier as lockdown restrictions were gradually lifted.
Megan said: “I am grateful that, during the second lockdown, the States realised how tough it had been for new parents in the first lockdown and they allowed a support bubble for anyone with a child under one.
“We fell into that category and so could bubble with my parents which was a huge relief and made things bearable.
“I also returned to work and so the support bubble helped with childcare.
"In addition to our jobs, Tom and I also run our own business, All About Yoga, so I was juggling an office job, a baby and teaching online yoga classes.
"Juggling all these things made it easier as I was distracted and busy.”
Pictured: Natalia and her son, Rafcio, enjoying the outdoors.
Natalia said she had to adapt as a new mum returning to work.
“As soon as I could go back to work, I did, but with Rafcio right with me," she said.
"I had to deal with my fear of leaving him with other people while I worked.
"I am happy to say that all of my staff are absolutely brilliant with Rafcio, which has been a huge help.
“I have the support I need to balance my son and my businesses and I am thankful for that.”
Pictured: Natalia takes her son, Rafcio, to work with her.
Megan reflected on the impact lockdown had on her as a new parent.
“It still makes me sad to think of how many people didn’t get to have a new-born cuddle with Penelope or meet her until she was older,” she said.
“We are generally trying to live our lives as normally as possible for now as we feel that so much of our life and Penelope’s early life were affected by covid and we are determined not to let that continue.
“We are biding our time until the current variant gets to us and we will be isolating together again.
“This time, we will be sure to make the most of family time knowing that it is a limited period only and not unknown like the lockdowns.”
Pictured: The Cluett family - Megan and Tom with daughter Penelope.
Natalia said she is grateful to have had her son in the lockdown.
“When I look back on that time, I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she said.
“It was extremely stressful, but it allowed me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“Rafico is an extremely happy two year old and a bundle of joy.
"I think that he sees the outlook we have of just taking everything as it comes and no longer overthinking the future and that has a positive impact on him.
“If I had the choice, knowing what I know about the lockdown now, I would still go back and do it all over again."
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