independent.co.uk, Lifestyle features:
On the morning of 19 March, my baby son Samuel was wrenched into a world as unfamiliar to me as it was to him.
This new order was frightening, but blurry. A few days earlier, Britons were advised against all “non-essential travel” and there were vague suggestions that we should start “social distancing”. My colleagues took their laptops home while I bounced aggressively on a birth ball.
Things had become increasingly jittery during those early weeks of March. Pregnant women were warned to self-isolate. Passengers on the Underground were wearing face masks. People jumped out the way in supermarket queues, desperate not to graze other shoppers. Eleven days before my son was born, when I was admitted the hospital for bleeding and told it was safest to induce the baby at 39 weeks, there were looks shared among the doctors: “It’s better we get him out now.”
Countries all around the world were shutting borders and isolating their citizens. Friends in Asia cautioned that it wouldn’t be long before the UK was locked down itself. I came to realise that perhaps he was better out than in.
Continuing to incubate only meant increasing uncertainty. Hospital guidance would change daily. One birth partner only; partners could stay for the birth only; then no birth partners. Cafes inside the hospital slowly shut down. The poster hung on the labour ward door that stated “if you’ve traveled from Hubei province in the past 14 days, do not enter” aged very badly. Hand sanitizer bottles were ripped from hospital walls – and when we did find one, our hands were red raw from slathering it on so frequently. Kind, ever-professional midwives still showed up for work, having not been ordered to wear personal protective equipment yet. The maternity ward became a little bubble from which I was reluctant to leave.