Families across Australia will remember what they were doing in March 2020, the last month of normality before covid-19 really hit. Our family had just participated in the ultimate New South Welshman betrayal – we packed up the family home in Sydney and moved to Melbourne. I was pregnant, had just started work in a new job, was running my start-up and was transitioning our two-year-old into a new city and a new day care centre.
As covid-19 case numbers started increasing daily, friends started pulling their kids out of day care but I found myself frozen by indecision. I was stuck between the pressure and expectation of being a “good parent” and the reality I would face which was juggling work and caring for a toddler at home while being heavily pregnant. The mum-guilt was consuming. We pulled our son out of day care and commenced the daily trapeze, swinging between the priorities of parenting and work all the while hoping like hell we didn’t fall.
The hardest part of being pregnant during covid-19 wasn’t going to appointments alone, being scanned by a doctor in a face shield or the threat of labour without my partner if I had any cold or flu symptoms. It was the total sense of isolation from my family. An inability to plan for who would look after our toddler in the hours and days after birth. Our plan was a flawed one. To hope that lockdowns eased by my due date and that our parents would be allowed to cross the border into Victoria.
My labour came three weeks early and with no family available, we urgently called a nearby friend to come over to help. Fast forward all of sixty minutes and my water had broken, the ambulance had been called and I was pushing. My husband had triple zero on the phone, assuming the role of our expensive obstetrician and trying to decipher instructions on how to deliver our baby, while also calming down our toddler who was determined to get in bed with his screaming Mum.
Our son was born in the back of an ambulance without his Dad. Covid-19 meant no accompanying passengers were allowed.
I thought that my isolated, back of an ambulance birth would be the peak of stress the pandemic could throw at our family. Then came Stage 4 lockdowns.
Locked in an apartment with a newborn and a toddler makes labour seem like a breezy memory. The solitary hour we are allowed to leave the apartment each day has resulted in my highly energetic toddler using our hallway as a racetrack, Peppa Pig being played on repeat and so many online purchases that our living room looks like a day care centre.
Every day I am reminding myself “it’s only for a short time, I’m not a bad parent.” Juggling young children in stage four restrictions has a name in our house: survival mode.
We will survive it, apart but together.
Julia Hardiman – September 2020