The last of my midwife appointments was a pre-op meeting, a week ahead of a scheduled C-Section at the Royal Stoke Maternity Unit.
It was different to all previous appointments. The waiting room was partly cordoned off and mothers-to-be had to attend alone.
The midwives that met me wore masks, gloves and aprons and revealed that due to timing and the new rules around not mixing households there would not be time for anyone else from the wider family to self-isolate for two weeks ahead of the birth.
That meant my partner, Andy, would need to stay at home with our six-year-old rather than being with me when I went in for the delivery. Two weeks of worry about what might or might not happen erupted and I couldn’t help but cry.
The midwives were fantastic. “We’ve been crying all day,” they said. “This is so hard for everyone.”
This was to be the first of many tear-filled moments, and in fact the past three weeks have been punctuated by regular bouts of crying; at least for now, I can blame my hormones.
At first I was told that it wouldn’t be possible to have an alternative birth partner from outside our household, so I had a few days to get my head around giving birth alone.
Thankfully, two days before I was due to go in for the procedure, things changed, and I was allowed to have my mum there to support me. This was an enormous relief but still, when the delivery day on April 1 came around, our journey into hospital in the morning and saying goodbye to my partner was very hard.
Birth partners had to wait in the car until mothers were due into theatre. In the end this meant my mum was waiting in her car from 9.30am until just after 5pm, as I was last on the list of c-sections for the day.
The wait was hard for both of us, but I was grateful for the care and compassion shown by all of the surgical team, who explained what was happening at every point and made sure we got plenty of photographs for Andy of his daughter being born.
As soon as baby was delivered and I was out of recovery my mum had to go, but having someone there to hold my hand through it all was amazing.
Once on the ward the midwives and support staff were kind, but were absolutely rushed off their feet.
Maternity wards are busy at the best of times, but the need to change PPE between attending to each patient is adding additional pressure to already very busy staff.
No visitors on the wards also means that mothers with their new babies, who would usually have partners and family members to help in the first few hours after delivery, are either trying to cope alone or relying even more on already stretched midwives for support.
For this reason, and for everyone’s safety, the maternity team are working hard to support new mums to go home as soon as is safe after giving birth.
I was very pleased to be going home less than 48 hours after my daughter entered the world not least because, not having met her dad yet, she was still waiting for a name.
The process of leaving hospital was a logistical juggling act. Once medication had been organised and the official discharge had taken place I rang my partner. Partners could come to the entrance in cars with baby seats and then phone up, at which point a midwife would help the new mother downstairs with baby and bags.
The first meeting for Andy and his new baby girl took place hurriedly at the entrance to the Maternity Unit as we unceremoniously bundled our new arrival into the car next to her big sister.
The first thing we did once safely home was to have introductory cuddles for Andy and Rowan and to agree a name for the newest member of our family. It was unanimous.
Our daughter’s name is Vita. Her name means life, and she is already bringing us hope for the future.
Anna Francis, aged 41, is Associate Professor of Fine Art at Staffordshire University and a mum of two. Anna lives in Hanley with her partner Andrew Branscombe, 37, an art technician at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and their daughters Rowan, six, and Vita, born during lockdown. Anna will be sharing her experience of having a newborn baby during the Coronavirus lockdown and home schooling a six-year-old.