My Covid Maternity Leave
Date: 26 Jan 2021
Marketa shares her story of maternity leave during the pandemic and the mental health challenges she encountered.
My second child was born in November 2019. I found the first couple of weeks challenging as many new mums do, but managed to get back on my feet by around Christmas time and started to get out and about again. It all seemed pretty normal, like the first time round and I began to enjoy some baby classes and create a sense of routine… then LOCKDOWN came, and everything changed overnight.
At first, I was able to maintain an optimistic outlook. I was actually excited to have everybody at home. It’s hard to remember back to that time, but none of us knew how long the pandemic or lockdown would continue. My husband could work from home, my daughter, age 7, didn’t have to go school and I was full of ideas of how I would sail through the home-schooling and be the super-mum I always wanted to be!
We cheerfully started our mornings with Joe doing PE, but really quickly the fun bit started to disappear… It became obvious that my love for routine and schedules wasn’t replicated by my daughter, nor my husband. At least my baby was still having three naps a day, so I tried to squeeze maths and English in between cooking, cleaning and everything else.
Luckily, the weather was lovely, not like the cold, rainy winter days of Lockdown 3.0. Our daily walks became very important to us. We just loved our bike rides and spending as much time as possible in our garden.
Mental Health Challenges
But despite this, over time, my mental health deteriorated. I massively missed the interactions I’d had the first time with other mums sharing our worries, funny stories and giving each other support and forcing ourselves out for coffees and cake.
I used to get angry when my husband was trying to suggest to me that I need to get help. Actually, I used to get angry over anything and everything and the feeling would be so intense I would turn into a Hulk-like figure seething with fire and rage. I couldn’t sleep and would start cleaning the house in the middle of night and rage over how unfair the whole world was.
Deep down I felt exhausted, out of control and totally overwhelmed. I felt that nobody cared about me, I wasn’t being appreciated and couldn’t see a way to escape from the overwhelm. After my emotions erupted like a volcano, I felt totally drained and so guilty afterwards.
Looking back, I wasn’t eating particularly well, my sleep was badly broken, and I had zero time just for myself. At the same time, watching news about the latest Coronavirus updates and death rates only increased my anxieties and feelings trapped.
I suffered from postpartum depression and it was not until August when I finally admitted I had a problem. The moment I admitted I couldn’t handle the situation on my own was my first step towards my recovery. I reached out for help to my local charity, SMILE and they connected me to an absolutely amazing counsellor within a week.
I’d never had counselling before, but I found it so useful. Just by ‘talking’ to her I started to heal. I found I could express my feelings and that helped me to start making sense about what was happening around and to me. She reminded me of the importance of self-love and self-respect and I started to come to peace with myself. I realized that with all the thrills of parenthood, life can be up and down but Covid had obviously made it extra challenging.
September was a healing time for me. My baby finally started to sleep better, my daughter was back at school and I started to be more open about my feelings to my friends. Pretending that everything was fine was equally exhausting. It was such a relief when I realised that I wasn’t alone and so many of my friends were finding this time equally difficult.
My mum was able to visit during the relaxation of restrictions and finally my husband and I had some time to be on our own. Looking back, it was crucial that we could have honest and open conversations outside our home, on neutral ground. We went on many walks and just talked and talked – reconnecting felt good.
Towards the end of the year, I returned to work and then slap! We went back into a new lockdown. Thankfully, this time my baby is not a newborn(!) has settled well into nursery. Even though I now have to balance work with home-schooling, I am determined to look after my mental health better.
Now, I have better understanding of my symptoms and the triggers, which I just couldn’t see at the before. It’s important to be kind to myself. I’m not going to sweat the small stuff and stress about the homework so much. My new top priority now is to have fun back in my life and if I achieve just that, then that will be enough.
Afterall, we are all only humans, trying to do our best in this very difficult circumstance.
If you are struggling with your mental health, contact our Speak to an Service or take a look at some other supports available from these mental health charities.
Where To Find Support
- NHS Every Mind Matters for general mental health support or the NHS’s list of mental health helplines
- Tommy’s - The baby loss charity also has useful advice and personal stories on post natal mental health
- The Samaritans provide a free 24-hours a day, 7 days a week support service on 116 123 or email email@example.com
- Mind - the Mental health charity's advice on postnatal depression and perinatal mental health