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Running a business and having a baby in the midst of a pandemic… among other things…

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It’s a funny thing – life. It carries on regardless of everything happening around it. I knew my baby was somewhat mis-timed when I first carried out the pregnancy test, but it didn’t matter. We were still overjoyed. After two miscarriages – one ectopic, one ‘just normal’, we had begun to wonder if a second baby was even possible.

BUT, the timing was a little unfortunate. I had just gone back to working full time and had also agreed that when our financial Director – Kathy – retired at the end of March, I would take over the bookkeeping for Mulberry. Baby was due in April – the end of our financial year and my first month as financial director (among all the other hats I wear).

Perhaps I should explain that, as a boutique agency, my fellow partner and certified angel – Claire – and I have to take on multiple roles. From actually doing the work we love and have trained in, to now also running the business and everything that goes with it. Understanding employment law, becoming an expert in the finer details of BT contract wrangling, keeping up with the latest office tech and support programmes, plus HR, client liaison, etcetera etcetera.

So April was always going to be a little challenging, but we were ready, we had prepared. Plans had been made. Then the world decided to throw Corvid-19 into the mix and it all got a little weird.

But baby was coming all the same so there was not a lot we could do except – accept, do our best, try and stay sane… and DON’T PANIC!

Oh! AND we were also meant to be moving offices … which we sort of did but not to where we expected… by the 17th of March we had all moved to working from home.

Having a baby in the midst of a pandemic is an unusual and somewhat unsettling experience. My final midwife appointments and hospital scans were very different to those early on in the pregnancy – when everyone was blissfully unaware of the sh#t storm heading our way. Now my appointments took place in virtually empty hospitals and waiting rooms.

The friendly reassuring faces of consultants and midwives were covered with masks, and everyone was frantically following my every move with antibacterial wipes and sprays. Any receptionist I came across had a 2 metre barrier around them, so I had to hand over notes awkwardly, while my feet carried on social distancing.

The most stark contrast to my previous pregnancy was the birth itself. For my second born I ‘chose’ an elective c-section. In the weeks leading up to the birth, my husband and I looked out for news about whether he would even be allowed into the hospital. Helpful people warned that he may not be allowed at the birth at all. I don’t mind admitting that the prospect of not having him there to hold my hand, and meet his son in the immediate aftermath, terrified me. It was an added anxiety to what was already a worrying time.

As we headed towards the inevitable birth, I also had the additional
pressures of running a business impacted quite severely by coronavirus. Many of our clients have big events over the coming months – these were all cancelled, much to everyone’s disappointment. It meant that all the communication materials we designed around these events were also cancelled, significantly hitting our income. As a result I had to furlough a number of our team – including myself. Our clients were equally worried and making big sacrifices – many of our contacts were similarly furloughed and any communications they were creating had, in many cases, been taken in-house to reduce costs. All eminently understandable but equally very worrying as we saw our income dwindle.

I was left to navigate the government website to find information on claiming the furlough costs back, along with hunting out how to apply for the small business grant – absolutely fundamental to our survival. This of course was on top of sorting end of year accounts, plus all the other usual financials a small business has to do each month. It all needed to be sorted before I went into hospital.

We also had to decided who was going to look after our little girl while we were in hospital. My parents and my husband’s parents are classed as vulnerable. So it didn’t seem right to leave our first born with them, or have them over to our house to babysit. Fortunately my sister is fit and healthy – and available to come to ours to look after our daughter. She had to come the night before because we needed to be at the hospital by 7:30am. We were very lucky she could stay a couple of days because we knew I would be in hospital for at least one night if not longer.

When the day came, the rules in place meant I had to enter the hospital alone. This felt very strange and overwhelming. I went up to the pre-natal ward, where I was prepped for theatre (this predominantly consisted of filling out paperwork and donning some very attractive compression stockings) and awaited news of when I would be taken to theatre. This was dependent on the other planned c-section women and who was a priority case, plus if there were any emergency c-sections, which would naturally take priority too.

My husband waited in the car, in the hospital car park, not knowing if he would be there for minutes or several hours. I was told that I would be able to call him to join me once I was about to go into theatre. He would be there for the birth and then allowed into the recovery room with me, but as soon as I was moved to the post-natal ward (probably around two hours later) he would have to go home.

I was extremely lucky. We got to the ward early – because, quite frankly, I couldn’t really sleep and was up at 5am. There were no emergencies and so I was first into theatre. Everything went relatively smoothly and baby arrived at 10:08am. My husband got a few very precious cuddles in with our little boy before having to leave me at around 12pm as I got wheeled onto the postnatal ward.

What a major difference awaited me to my first experience of post-natal ward life. The ward was virtually silent. Last time the chatter of excited couples filled the space. Now with no husbands and partners by bedsides everyone was virtually mute. There were hushed phone calls and occasional babies’ cries for milk or comfort, but that was it.

Last time we were surrounded by intimate family life – some of it beautiful, some of it positively lewd and crude – as couples adjusted to the latest addition to their family. This time there was an eerie quiet that would have been very restful, if it wasn’t for a palpable feeling of fear of the unknown and anxiety of what was to come.

In the middle of the night the woman in the bed next to me developed a fever. This caused mild panic on the ward (although I have to say the midwives and Doctors seemed to take it in their stride – how they remain so unflappably reassuring at such times I have no idea). My baby was wonderfully peaceful for most of the night but I don’t think I slept a wink. I worried about the poor woman next to me who was shivering and scared. I was on high alert to every noise – not just to the snuffles of the baby sleeping comfortably by my side. When breakfast arrived I was grateful that it was now a respectable time to be awake. The woman in the next bed seemed to be improving and I overheard the Doctor say they were certain it was not CoronaVirus but an infection. The whole ward breathed a collective sign of relief.

It became clear as the day progressed that anyone fit to go home would be discharged as soon as possible. I was hoping that my little boy and I would pass all the necessary checks and be allowed home too. We each got through the various tasks we needed to as morning turned to afternoon. Our home seemed to be getting closer by the minute. Unfortunately for the woman beside me, her stay would have to be extended and I felt so sorry for her.

I finally got discharged at around 4pm. The midwife helped me down to the reception area with all my hospital and baby paraphernalia, along with more drugs than Keith Richards takes in a month of Sundays.

I was so pleased to see my husband and finally head home. I had an extremely excited toddler waiting to greet us. She was clearly so pleased to see both of us back home and meet her baby brother for the first time. We had tried our best to prepare her for Mummy going into hospital and baby brother coming home, but a few days after we were back she was lying in bed and suddenly said, “I missed you when you went away and I couldn’t come.”

“When I went into hospital to have your brother you mean?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied “I wanted to come too!”

“I know” I said, “but you know why you couldn’t?”

“Yes,” she responded “…because of stinky rotten CoronaVirus!”

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