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.