I probably should have wrote this a bit closer to the one year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown (23rd March), but I guess nearly 3 weeks after isn’t so bad.
I had planned for this blog post to reflect on pregnancy and early motherhood during a pandemic, but it took me long enough to just talk about my pregnancy so expect the motherhood bit at a later date.
I’m a bit bored of sounding like a massive whiner, but this year has been tough and I know it’s been tough for everyone in different ways.
Going back to what feels like a lifetime ago – I found out I was pregnant in October 2019 and knew I wanted to document it since I’ve been making self-portraiture projects since 2010. Sometimes titles for projects take a long time to appear, but other times they are easy, and Waiting For Things In A Time When You Rarely Wait For Things arrived with little stress.
I thought it was smart and funny.
‘Well, it’s 2020 and you can order things via the little gadget in your hand and it will arrive the next morning. We can watch a whole series in one go and not have to spend a week wondering what will happen next (okay for some shows you do have to, but I didn’t have a TV so I wasn’t really watching programmes like that). And now I have to wait for 9ish months for this baby to appear.’
I thought that pregnancy was something that happened to other people and not me, so I was really intrigued to see my body changing and experience someone – who would look like me and my husband – growing inside me.
If I talked about the whole of my pregnancy then we would be here for a long time, so let’s skip to not long before the UK had it’s first lockdown.
Earlier in my project (Waiting For Things…) I remember referring to Covid and feeling awkward about it as I thought (like most people) that it would be something that would just pass. Now I wish I had mentioned it more, but I thought people would think I was paranoid. I remember when I first started to sanitise my hands in public that people would think that I was odd for doing it. I initially tried to do it as discreetly as possible.
(It’s weird seeing how short my hashtags used to be. I feel like sometimes I don’t know what to write about and before you know it I’ve reached the Instagram maximum of 30 hashtags and 2,200 characters.)
We had planned for a home birth, so my midwife appointments were all at our flat. I had the same midwife the whole time, but she was giving her father a kidney so was due to go on sick leave. However due to Covid the operation got cancelled so she never took her sick leave. I hope her family is okay.
I actually didn’t even reference going into the first lockdown in my project. My first post after lockdown just talks more excitedly about seeing the baby (B) moving for the first time.
As there wasn’t much to do though we got quite into going for walks. We lived in Liverpool city centre and originally we were walking along the riverfront which was really nice, but just a bit too busy for our liking. I was scared. I didn’t know how Covid might affect B (as an unborn baby) and I was anxious enough during my pregnancy before the pandemic.
Lol. Did any of us think we would still be dealing with it now?
I felt like people weren’t taking instructions about social distancing seriously enough and I got stressed out. I would wait outside of the supermarket while Tiago went in, and get annoyed by people, especially as I realised how gross and unhygienic people were.
We had been walking after dark to try to avoid the masses of people also taking walks, but soon we just started to walk in the opposite direction during daylight through the industrial area instead.
(I’m just posting pictures where the titles refer to things to do with the pandemic as there would be too many images to talk about otherwise. You can see the whole series on my Instagram.)
Tiago used to work from home a bit before Covid, but then he was always at home. Luckily we get along well (that’s always good if you’re married to someone) and it was nice to see him more. While I grew a baby he grew facial hair, which was weird as he only rocked a beard when we were on holiday.
He appeared in the project more than I had initially planned due to being around more.
Soon my midwife appointments would be changed from every 3 weeks to every 4 weeks. This didn’t really matter but I guess it meant we didn’t have as many as we should have. At one point my midwife sent someone else in case she wasn’t available when I gave birth, but otherwise she was the only person who I saw on a regular-ish basis during lockdown #1 besides Tiago.
I was looking forward to my friends and family seeing me pregnant, I wanted to know what it was like to float in water while pregnant and … actually my wishlist wasn’t very long at all. I guess the main thing was to just really make the most of our time saying goodbye to our old lives of no responsibility, and hang out with our nearest and dearest.
It’s funny how you can take such simple things for granted.
We (my husband Tiago and I) moved to Liverpool in late 2018 and we had a small group of friends there, but a lot of our friends lived elsewhere. We had both lived in London for a number of years (me for 8ish and Tiago for 10ish), and Tiago was born in Portugal. We still haven’t seen any of Tiago’s family since December 2019 when Tiago’s brother invited everyone (their parents and us) for Christmas, otherwise we wouldn’t have seen them for a much longer time.
We had had all our compulsory scans before the lockdown, but I was meant to have 3 additional scans due to my BMI (if it’s under 20 you need more scans and mine was 19.9). These got cancelled, which was fine as I didn’t think it was necessary and didn’t fancy going into the hospital for them. It also meant that Tiago never missed an appointment due to restrictions, which was lucky.
We had tried to find out at previous scans, but B would not ‘present’ and I was not so secretly glad that this was the case. Due to our other scans being cancelled we did not have an opportunity to find out, so we waited until I gave birth to see that B was a girl. (I thought she was a boy at first as I could only see the umbilical cord.)
I was thinking the other day that I really don’t miss a lot of things. Maybe that’s because I’ve had a baby and things are more difficult. ‘Would it be worth the hassle of getting someone to look after B to go to a music gig?’ Not really.
I do daydream about going out to a private view or something though, but Tiago wouldn’t be bothered about joining me so he could look after B.
I really did not know what to expect when pregnant, but I knew it wasn’t this. My mental health has always been a bit over the place, and my art is therapeutic for me and the main way that I try to deal with things. I felt lucky to have something to count down to during this time and I was glad that I had already started a project to work on and vent into.
Sad, but small things. My daily highlight at the moment is getting out for a walk, but I do now really like this dark chocolate sea salt almond butter – I was just eating their plain stuff before which is still really good. (Yes that’s a lot of money for nut butter, but a kilo does last a long time. Some people spend money on alcohol – I like to buy nut butter.)
I do remember this quite clearly though. Asshole. Can I say that on my blog? It’s my blog, so yeah.
I had imagined that at some point there would be some kind of big goodbye to not being a parent. I didn’t want a baby shower, so I was relieved that I would not get one, but yes I thought I would celebrate with friends and just experience doing things for the last time child-free while realising it was the last time. Bizarre.
In February 2020 I had gone to Norway for my first solo show at Vasli Souza in Oslo, and Tiago had joined for a few days. I had imagined that we would go on another small trip before B was born, but nope. Norway is expensive and I felt bad for spending money on things, but if we had known what was to come then maybe we would have just stayed longer and done more.
At this point we are not sure when we will risk going to see Tiago’s family (it’s two flights, and it was already a lot of faff before we had a baby and Covid to think about).
The first photo was taken pre-lockdown #1, but it shows how things changed for both of us between February and May.
Oh, it’s been a ride. I definitely need to save it for another post as this is getting way too long.
And then as my due date got nearer I seemed to not worry so much about the world’s situation, as my main thoughts were about giving birth and becoming a mother. Covid was just something we learned to deal with. We went for our walks and Tiago did the food shopping. We both worked, and I spent my days off doing my own work.
(I now realise how much time I wasted and faffed. I wish I had been quicker and spent more time relaxing, but oh well.)
We figured we wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon, so we just tried to make our flat nicer as we planned to stay there for a while. (Spoiler alert: We moved to Birmingham at the end of October.)
Just laughing at this as I really thought I’d be a 42 weeker giving birth at home, but B came before 38 weeks and there was no home birth.
This is the last photo that I took for the project while pregnant.
Our new normal just became staying at home with a daily walk. I felt lucky to still be working, and that Tiago was still working, and that we hadn’t really been affected too much by Covid. I was just really unsure of how giving birth would be, but I just kept practicing my breathing that I’d learned through hypnobirthing (it was super useful in the end).
Ooh I love a nod to a project title with the last image in a series.
The hashtags are a very quick account of what happened. You can read B’s birth story here and about our hospital stay here.
I miss those early days of feeling high on life and feeling okay about everything. In the early days she could not do much and it was nice to just learn about parenting without the pressures of having to see people and feel judged. I’m glad that I did not know how long this would go on for though.
But overall with my pregnancy – Yes I wish I had seen more friends, yes I still haven’t seen most of those friends, but I do not really think I missed out that much. The main thing that upset me was being in hospital for 4 nights without Tiago being able to visit us. It was bizarre. I was in a parallel universe in a hospital (after not being in another building besides our flat for months), with a baby and without a husband (who I had not been away from for a night since February).
The big missing out for me though has been since B has been born and it has been super frustrating. Moving to Birmingham has meant that we’ve got to be closer to some of my family, but I just feel like we’ve been locked at home for months unable to do the things that people with babies are usually able to do. I’ve felt worse lately after some good weather – which meant some nice time sat outside and a change of scenery – soon went away, but hopefully with summer on its way and more things starting to reopen soon it can only get better. She’s still yet to meet a lot of people, we haven’t been to a baby class in real life since before Christmas (we have one this week, phew!) and I get super obsessed about her routine because I haven’t had much to mess it up for a long time.
I guess I should save this for the next post though, which I will try to do soon but this has taken me way longer than I expected.
One last note though: I’m really glad that I made this project as I remember being pregnant, but it doesn’t really feel like it happened to me and that I dreamed it or something? I find it weird looking at the photos that THAT happened to my body. It’s bizarre. I definitely never imagined that I’d be pregnant during a pandemic, but I was, and thanks to Tiago for helping me get through it.
I haven’t posted about this project since July. I was just having a morning stretch and thought I should post about it again – even if they’re just short posts. Before I was making my life difficult by digging through outtakes, so I’m just going to focus on the photo/s that I chose for each set of hashtags.
So here we go…
So I took this photo in November when there wasn’t even a whiff of pandemic in the air (ooh so poetic).
I really do not know how I got that scratch; I’m guessing it was a rogue fingernail.
The photo is cropped and rotated – I don’t like having to crop my work for some reason, but too much boob felt unnecessary. I do like that the picture is a little abstract.
Typically it was the first day that I had actually been sick. Later on I would realise that eating a little bit when I felt sick would make me feel better, but at this point I did not know that.
Afterwards before every blood test I would make sure that I drank plenty and ate something. Usually my appointments would be in the morning so I would have less time to eat, and I went off a lot of food so I’d at least try to eat something that I could tolerate (usually some light crisps – like the oven baked ones).
Back then there were more options, but it did seem super early. I remember calling the hospital when I found out I was pregnant and they were like ‘so you’re having the baby here?’ I did not know what my options were; I hadn’t researched or talked to anyone about them yet.
Then I was surprised at my first midwife appointment that when she asked where I wanted to give birth that she said ‘at home?’ first. She said she had never registered someone for a home birth before. I thought maybe I should think about it more as she straight away referred me to the home birth team, but she did say I could change my mind.
I really wanted one, but I was worried about the neighbours in case the birth was during the night…
I told T and he wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea. Back then he was very much ‘you go to hospital and you do what the doctors say as they know best’. Luckily, we did an online hypnobirthing course together and he completely changed his mindset.
Now if he finds out that anyone is pregnant he really recommends the course to them; he says it made him feel empowered (so imagine how it made me feel). There is so much that we never knew about pregnancy before doing the course and it just explained things in a way that made things less daunting. T always says that ‘knowledge is power’ and with the knowledge you know how to advocate for yourself.
In the end I never got a home birth, but the course definitely empowered me to say no to a c-section (if I had needed one then fair enough, but I didn’t) and to ask for a vaginal delivery. T wasn’t there during the discussions due to Covid, so I did not have anyone to back me up. Luckily it worked out in the end, though I didn’t get a home birth or water birth. It’s just really good to know your options and think about your preferences (though my birth plan never accounted for a breech baby – so if you’re reading this while pregnant please think about it and what you would want to do).
I also learned that staying calm will help labour continue (adrenaline stops surges), so I focused on doing the breathing techniques that I had learned on the course and danced to music and tried to relax as much as possible whilst waiting on the maternity ward. If I had got stressed out then I probably would have had to have a C-section as they put me on a countdown (at 9am they said if I wasn’t in established labour by 6pm then I would not be allowed to have a vaginal delivery). I do love a challenge…
Funnily enough with Covid and all, those who weren’t so keen on me having a home birth in the beginning actually saw it as a good idea in the end. It seemed less risky going somewhere where I could possibly get Covid and everything. However precautions were in place there (I had a lovely swab up the nose) and it was so odd but nice to be around a lot of strangers for the first time in months.
You can read my birth story here and about my hospital stay here.
I had planned for this blog to be more than ‘just’ a place for posting my photography and video, so in this post I thought I’d share exercise videos that I did whilst I was pregnant.
(Scroll down if you just want to see my favourite YouTube pre-natal exercise videos and not read my preramble).
We moved to Liverpool at the end of 2018 and we signed up for the gym not long after. I didn’t like going, but watching Pointless (a TV quiz show) whilst using some equipment made it somewhat tolerable. Fact: I cancelled my membership after they stopped showing it on their TVs.
I enjoyed the classes, but I didn’t like that the ones I wanted to go to were quite late in the evenings and I felt like planning my time around an exercise class wasn’t that productive. I then got pregnant after I stopped going to the gym. I had been looking forward to answering yes in a class whenever they asked if anyone was pregnant, but never mind. Covid would have cut short that experience anyways with the closure of gyms…
When we lived in London I mainly did YouTube exercise videos, as the gyms close to me were expensive/I just felt like I didn’t have time to go to one. At one point I did go to a bootcamp in a park by me, but it would take up most of my day and after meeting Tiago (and making him go with me for a bit) I realised that that wasn’t how I wanted to spend a big chunk of my weekend.
I had planned to get into pre-natal exercise earlier than I eventually did. The intention was there, but the motivation was lacking. In the end it was hip/pelvis pain that made me start, as getting a maternity pillow wasn’t enough. I wanted to just workout at home due to the ease of it.
Other pregnant people I knew wanted to wait until the pains got bad enough that they got referred for physio, but I didn’t want things to get worse. Surely with physio they would just give you stretches anyways, not some magic pill that would make the pains and aches magically go away? Covid probably put a stop to most face-to-face physio appointments anyways…
Warning: I’m just a regular person sharing what exercise videos I liked whilst I was pregnant. Talk to your doctor/listen to your body about what you can and can’t do. It’s meant to make you feel better, so don’t push yourself too much. If you can’t do the complete video without stopping that’s fine – I also used to get through a lot of water during them too.
In addition, I tried to go for a walk everyday (particularly once lockdown started). The earlier you start exercising in your pregnancy, the easier you’ll (hopefully) find it. As I got more pregnant I wasn’t able to do what I could earlier on, but it wasn’t such a shock to my body as I had been doing these videos for a while. It was funny doing them the first time and thinking ‘I can’t believe I’ll be that pregnant’, but before I knew it I was more pregnant than the teachers in the videos.
One of the hardest parts of working out at home is just getting yourself onto your mat/into your space where you exercise with the intention to exercise. Having a baby adds another hurdle to getting there, so enjoy one less block whilst you can!
Anyways, here are the YouTube videos that I did the most whilst I was pregnant.
A good one to start with
10 minutes a day is a good start if you really don’t feel up to exercising. I think my morning sickness also made exercising unappealing. I moved to longer videos after feeling like I was just getting into the video, but it was over already.
In the beginning I’d exercise just once a day – usually just in the morning. Before long though I realised it wasn’t enough and I’d exercise in the evening too.
After doing the one in the previous section for a couple of weeks at least, I moved onto doing this one pretty much every morning (after letting my muscles recover from the first time).
After a while I got bored of doing it everyday, so I started to do it every other day (alternating the next two videos on the second day).
After a while I started to do the 3 videos on a 3 day cycle.
Then after no longer finding it comfortable to sit on a chair and sitting on an exercise ball instead, a friend recommended the video below, and it became a 4 day cycle.
In the evenings I started off doing the below video (there is a morning yoga routine, which seems the same so I preferred doing different ones).
And then I wanted to try other ones, so I did this one below occasionally instead.
Then I began to alternate them each night, but after a while I knew the routines off by heart so I started to watch TV and do a mix of the two videos from memory. I found myself doing a lot more than if I was doing one of the videos.
I feel like with the videos there should be two versions – 1 for people who have never done the video before/are doing it for the 2nd or 3rd time, and then there should be one for people who don’t need the explanations. Particularly with the pilates one as once I knew it by heart I would carry on and do the routine, occasionally skipping the video forward to where it was useful to be in time.
Also I would just add my favourite stretches that were missing from the video I just did to the end of my practice – and did extra kegels when I thought about it, particularly with squats.
One last video that deserves a mention as I enjoyed it, but then managed to forget about it…
And the image with its original Ulterior Monologue hashtags – it shows it in a very different light.
Ulterior Monologue is the project that I first started to use hashtags with. It was my response to my awkwardness of using hashtags and wanting to use more text with my images, but also feeling awkward about that.
The project was about wanting to be pregnant but not feeling able to talk about it. It started to come to a natural end when I found out I was pregnant, though there was some crossover with my new pregnancy project. I didn’t announce my pregnancy on social media until I was 20 weeks due to feeling worried that something bad would happen and not wanting to ‘curse myself’. It also took me a while to figure out what I was doing project wise and how to go about posting without revealing I was pregnant; in the end I went for the ‘post all the projects I’ve ever done’ archive approach on my Instagram.
I had forgotten about how I felt during this photo, but having never been pregnant before every little pain made me nervous. Pregnancy is thought of as a beautiful time, which it is, but I found it very stressful – even before the pandemic.
I never went to get the cramps checked out. It could have been wind (I think I had forgotten the scenario so I never had to share hashtags about trapped wind, but after having a baby you talk about bodily functions A LOT) or it could have just been my uterus stretching (makes sense as I was growing a baby inside it) or something else.
It is said that a photo says a 1000 words, but I don’t think a picture can tell you everything or even that much sometimes. Maybe a picture just makes you think what you want to think based on your life experiences and personality. Show a picture to 100 people and I wonder what they would all say and how differing the opinions would be about what the image is really about. Obviously it depends on what the image is of – show a picture of a cat and I’m sure there would be a mixed crowd of ‘that’s cute’ and ‘I hate cats’.
These two sets of hashtags really show two different sides to the image and if you only see one set then you miss part of the story. How would you know that I was pregnant and stressing out about cramps just by looking at a picture of me in a hat? It’s true I don’t look happy, but I’m not about to open the can of worms that is ‘why don’t people smile in photos these days?’ Does it really matter though about only knowing part of the story? I’d forgotten half of it myself.
Anyways, I think using hashtags with my work really brings another level to the pictures, though whether people choose to read them or not is their choice.
I love text with photographs and back when I used to go to exhibitions (used to because of Covid) I’d often spend more time reading the accompanying image text rather than looking at an image. I wonder if this will change when I finally go to a show again – will I want to hang around? Will I be able to with a baby anyways? Will I feel comfortable using a public toilet and changing her in one? How will I feel about breastfeeding in public or will I just choose to express and bottle-feed her?