How to keep calm in a crisis: (i.e. when you’re 40 weeks pregnant and there’s a national Coronavirus emergency going on)
Have you, like me, been watching the news or at least catching the headlines every day? Scrolling through your social media timeline seeing post after post of empty supermarket shelves? Washing your hands raw after any contact with any potentially contaminated surface?
These are strange times indeed. Something that our generation hasn’t had to deal with at all. Although amongst all the uncertainty, media chaos and craziness of panic buying, it has never been more important to remember the old adage “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Our Grandparents penned that phrase in the war, and it has since become somewhat of a patriotic mantra for us Brits – but it encompasses it perfectly – life must go on and continue with as little disruption as possible.
But that’s all well and good, and I am absolutely of that mindset (I’m generally a glass half full kind of person). However, especially when you’re growing a baby, it is natural for the current situation to heighten anxiety and leave you feeling more vulnerable than usual.
The news around COVID-19 is rapidly developing, and things are changing on a daily basis. Even though we are a few weeks into trying to tackle this evolving problem, there are still so many question marks over how we do this effectively – and I think this is the root cause of our anxiety and worry.
Anxiety likes a focus, to fester on specific things. It mainly focusses on circumstances out of our direct control that have potentially unpleasant consequences. It is exhausting. What we need is reassurance; someone to tell us that we will be fine, but like in many circumstances, how can we do that when there are still so many uncertainties about the future?
Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball, so we must try and deal realistically with what is happening now. Nobody can reduce their risk of illness to zero, it’s just simply not possible – just as no amount of money could secure that the world would be rid of illness altogether (not to mention I’d be out of a job!). But there is always HOPE! This pandemic will not continue forever.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit fed up of seeing the wealth of information (and misinformation!) in the media and feel myself getting physically worked up when I think about how much it is infiltrating my life. Alongside the disruption it is having on the rest of the world, when I really think about it, I (rather selfishly) feel angry about the situation; about the impact it is having (and will have in the coming months) on my husband and I and most importantly, our newborn’s life. This should be one of the happiest times in our lives, yet we are clouded by the restrictions that the government are imposing. How can I tell my 91-year-old Grandma she’s unable to meet her new great-grandchild because she should be self-isolating? How must my best friend feel about not being able to visit because her two young children have had symptoms and she too has been in self-isolation? At first, I thought the virus would be a welcome “excuse” to limit visitors when we bring baby home (pre-empting the influx of family, friends, colleagues that will want to visit), however, my mindset has changed and I feel disappointed that many friends and especially extended family members may not be able to meet our baby until he is a few months old! However, I’m going to acknowledge these feelings and park them for a moment. Let’s think of this positively. This will not last forever. Advice is changing daily. This is how I feel now, things are still uncertain, but I acknowledge this, and I know I can’t control it. I know that worrying about it is unproductive; basically, wasting energy over something I cannot control (and the dreaded “what if’s”).
Most importantly, of course, is keeping myself and my baby healthy. Since the most recent government guidelines were released on Monday regarding pregnant women taking precautionary social distancing measures, although I initially felt disappointed, I also felt strangely reassured. I had read the recent Royal College of Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidelines which had eluded to this already (the only evidence-based information I could find regarding advice for pregnant women), and I had already presumed that everyone that would be usually offered a flu vaccine would be asked to take extra precautions. In this late stage of my pregnancy (currently 40+3) I feel like I have been unintentionally social distancing for the past week or so anyway! However, it’s so important to remember that “social distancing” doesn’t mean a complete lock-down. There is a saying that “time spent outdoors is never wasted” which I think is so true. After a couple of days of being cooped up indoors (due to an achy SPD pelvis) a gentle walk around Valley Gardens did wonders for my mental health! However, it felt like there was a strange atmosphere out and about (you know like when it is Christmas time and it just feels different outside? Like that!).
In addition to getting outdoors (but avoiding direct physical contact), I have been using this precious free time to concentrate on relaxing, enjoyable activities and limiting the amount of time I spend on social media. Focussing on the good, the positive and the things I can control. How I feel about labour and birth is another story – however, I have found it useful to apply some of the relaxation and coping techniques I have learnt whilst preparing myself for this to how I feel about the current situation (as arguably, to a certain extent, I cannot control the process of labour and birth).
Worrying is so easy to do. And it’s something that I feel has definitely become more apparent for me since becoming pregnant… (I’m sure I never used to be like this!) I now know that this is completely normal when you’re growing a human and somehow feel completely responsible for a process that (again to a certain extent) is out of your control. I also imagine that these feelings won’t go away for the foreseeable (my Mum still worries about me at 32 years old) so all the more reason to acknowledge, accept and learn to deal with them when they surface.
This baby is so longed for, so wanted, and so incredibly loved already that I will do as much as I can to protect and nurture him during these uncertain times, both whilst he is still womb-side and whenever he decides to make his entrance into this world! And after all, this little miracle will be entering the world soon and will be like the beginning of all things – “wonder, hope and a dream of possibilities”.
Guest blog by Elfie Astbury – wife, first-time mum-to-be, and Sister at Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre, Harrogate.