Lockdown with a newborn: All my baby knows is the two of us

Covid Stories: Will he take fright when he realises there are other people in the world?

Carol Taaffe with baby Ben

Carol Taaffe with baby Ben

 

We have been in near lockdown for 12 weeks. We stole a march on the rest of the country. At 8.42am on a January morning, a Holles Street doctor cried “3-2-1, baby!” and raised a squalling child ceiling-wards. Day 1 of our life with a newborn.

We had it easy; of course, at the time we didn’t know how easy. “It’s a nightmare,” we said. Through a month of fretful crying and sleeplessness and feeding troubles we had supportive visits from grandparents, community midwives and public health nurses. I took the child to breastfeeding clinics and for his scheduled check-ups with the GP.

About five weeks in we began to say to each other that things were getting easier. He is our first baby and tiny milestones feel like major triumphs. I ventured a little farther on my walks with him each day. I went for a solo swim at six weeks. The child slept through his first mother-and-baby class only to roar with hunger once I was out the door. “I’ll take him back when he’s older,” I said.

After promising and promising visits, we were finally confident enough to plan the first long road trip to see his Cork relatives. It was only the night before that we realised we should not make the trip. Things were beginning to change.

I went to the pharmacy and had to inch the pram around a cluster of people crowding a display of hand sanitisers. The next day his grandma insisted on travelling to Dublin to be with him for his first vaccinations. She held the baby close while I ineffectively squirted Calpol around the GP’s waiting room. That was four weeks ago. We haven’t seen her since.

In my daily calls I reassure her that he has learned to smile and vocalise, delighted with his newfound voice. The baby refuses to perform for cameras and phone screens. Live people are more interesting.

At a 2am feed I tell him, ‘there is a big world waiting out there for you, baby. You just have to trust us on that for now.’ Photograph: iStock
At a 2am feed I tell him, ‘there is a big world waiting out there for you, baby. You just have to trust us on that for now.’ Photograph: iStock

Now when I take him out for his daily walk I will him to keep his eyes open to see the blue and grey skies, and the trees in new leaf. But the pram’s motion quickly makes him fall asleep, so it’s more likely that his only sense of the world is our small apartment. His parents are the only two people he sees in real life. Sometimes I wonder if he will take fright when he realises, weeks from now, that there are other people in the world.

But I also think of other parents whose babies are just arriving, and who won’t have those first weeks with family and friends. I think of women and partners who are more than usually apprehensive as they attend hospital for birth; women whose fertility treatment has been cancelled; others who are losing much-wanted pregnancies in lockdown. I’ve been there, too, but not like this.

The baby doesn’t care about any of this. Day by day he is opening up to his little world. He snatches and grabs, kicks his legs and does his best to charm us. Sadly, his grandparents, and the rest of his family, live too far away for visits through sitting-room windows.

I look forward to the 2km limit being lifted. I don’t think beyond that. At a 2am feed I tell him, “There is a big world waiting out there for you, baby. You just have to trust us on that for now.”

To reflect the many ways life has changed in Ireland by the coronavirus outbreak, The Irish Times is inviting readers to share their Covid Stories. You can submit yours here

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