Morning snack: Homemade (not by me) peanut butter & oat cookies (as good as they sound) & an oat milk latte. Actually drove to collect these this morning because baby woke us up at 5am so we needed a little pick-me-up! Thankfully, she is now having a nap but I have never been able to nap during the day… so, caffeine it is! 😐
Today’s post is a personal one. As I type this I’m in my last week of Maternity leave and, although I’m going to be returning to work part-time, I’m feeling emotional about my journey over the last year. When this pandemic hit the UK and we entered the first lockdown I was just entering my third trimester of pregnancy. Up to that point, despite a few concerns (I was put on a high risk pathway due to something they picked up at our first scan – which, as the doctor promised, turned out to be ‘nothing to worry about’ but that, believe me, I did my fair share of worrying about!) things had been going relatively well. I was like any other mum-to-be – excitedly, nervously, anxiously, elatedly preparing for our lives to change.
My partner and I are actors, we met at an audition for a musical (Blood Brothers) which saw us tour the UK for two years. We had an incredible whirlwind couple of years touring with fantastic people and visiting every square inch of our country – the good, the bad and the downright awful – but, when you’re with good people, you don’t care where you are! We laughed till it hurt, shared brilliant memories and experiences with these wonderful people – saw each other through ups and downs and became part of an extended family from which, I’ve been assured, you can check out – but never leave. So when our time came to leave the show it was heart-wrenchingly difficult but, for some reason, it felt like the right decision at the right time.
A few months later, that reason became clear.
In September 2019 we were both touring with different shows, we had since moved in together and made the decision to try for a baby. Unbeknown to us… we didn’t have to try for very long. The day we found out our happy news my other half was in Cambridge with his play, I was at home having just been to a costume fitting in Windsor… I remember thinking as the Wardrobe Mistress laced up my corset that it wouldn’t fit for very long! Trimester one and two flew by in a haze of fatigue, daytime naps (which, as I mentioned earlier, are extremely uncharacteristic for me!) nausea and over-indulgence. I wasn’t the most glamorous pregnant lady. Let’s put it that way. By Christmas, we were buying baby clothes and cutesy little bits and bobs – our biggest concerns were the usual new parent anxieties. Little did we know the giant tidal wave of concern that was about to sweep across the world.
I know many who have suffered terribly during this pandemic – personally, physically, mentally, financially – and for this reason I promise I consider myself very lucky to have had a baby and new family to enjoy. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. Because it was hard. There were moments of real fear in the early days, knowing I was bringing a fragile new life into a potentially dangerous environment, about which we still know very little. It added a heightened sense of worry to what is already a stressful time. It was hard accepting that my own family (who live hundreds of miles away) wouldn’t be able to visit freely or hold their new grandchild. It was hard going to scan appointments alone, particularly as we’d been told we were high risk, knowing my other half was sat in the car outside, unable to hold my hand. It was hard arriving at the hospital in agony and having to be left at the entrance, perched on my hospital bag, because my partner wasn’t yet allowed to come in. I sat alone for three hours as the midwife wasn’t allowed to sit with me either – until I was in ‘established’ labour. Having never given birth before, nothing could prepare me for the pain, I had no idea whether this was normal or whether I was in fact (as I presumed at one point) dying in agony. I eventually pulled the lever to call for the midwife and begged her to sit with me – she did.
Midwives are actual angels.
Ada-Mae Rosabella was born on Thursday 4th June 2020 at 4:57am, after an utterly hideous labour (although, I’m not convinced there’s any other kind…) she was placed in my arms – my little pudgy, swollen, perfect princess with a mop of dark hair, ten beautiful fingers and ten beautiful toes.
The ten months since my daughter’s birth have been the happiest, most fulfilling and magical of my life. She makes me smile and cry happy tears (genuinely – becoming a mother has thawed my once icy heart) every single day. I am filled with a joy I couldn’t have imagined before she arrived. She is the best thing ever. Ever.
And now, as I sit here in my final week of maternity, contemplating the missed opportunities – the cancelled antenatal classes (which saw me make the grand total of zero new friends with babies my daughter’s age), the closed mum and baby groups, the travel restrictions which mean I can count on one hand how many times my mum has been able to visit my little girl and the lack of shopping/lunch trips, days out, classes etc… I’m also reminded of the wonderful times – and there have been plenty. The moments I’ve been able to share quietly with my little family at home, I’m blessed with lovely in-laws who have been a brilliant support and company when I’ve needed it most and I’ve had the BEST daily distraction to keep my mind occupied during a time which could’ve been extremely anxiety inducing. And so I wonder, has this pandemic really robbed me of anything? Has my experience with my little girl been any lesser because of all this? I choose to believe it hasn’t. This past year has been a testing and difficult one for all of us but there is always so much to be grateful for. I’m so thankful to have my healthy, happy, beautiful little girl that, actually, little else matters.
Maternity leave might not have been what I expected but it’s not an experience I will ever forget. So, as I move into phase 2 of motherhood and become a ‘working mum,’ I’m happy to reflect it hasn’t been all that bad. And who knows… perhaps when I look back on 2020/21 in years to come I won’t even remember face-masks, social-distancing and hand-sanitiser (though perhaps those things are here to stay?), but I’ll definitely remember my snuggly newborn, my funny, cheeky, bouncy, ever-changing giggly baby girl – a heart full of memories I can cherish forever.
Reflection over. Cookie demolished. Coffee long gone. As I said, a somewhat personal rambling today. Longer than intended but actually very therapeutic and I suddenly feel LOADS better about going back to work. Phew! Who knew blogging was going to be so cathartic?
Happy Sunny Tuesday everyone! (“,)
Thanks for reading – AJ x