Portsmouth mum reveals the reality of giving birth in lockdown
AFTER 11 years and two miscarriages, a mum has shared how she felt having her son in lockdown.
Lorraine Coram and her husband Martin had a very different experience of childbirth to most parents before them, after Lorraine gave birth to Atticus Morse Coram at Queen Alexandra Hospital, just after 8am on Tuesday, March 24 – the morning after Boris Johnson announced lockdown in the UK.
On Monday night, Lorraine was admitted alone, ready to be induced in the morning, and was worried her husband would miss the birth of their son.
The 39-year-old said: ‘I did feel quite anxious about it all and a few days before I had gone into hospital with high blood pressure but was sent home.
‘I went back in but Martin wasn’t allowed in and then luckily he made it for the birth but by that time they had started restricting visitors because of lockdown so at first he wasn’t allowed in by security so they had to call up to the ward.’
The pair were allowed to stay in the birthing suite until 7pm before Martin, a teacher at Trafalgar School in Hilsea, had to leave and didn’t get to see his newborn child or wife for 24 hours until Lorraine was discharged.
Lorraine, who is a teacher at Hayling College, said: ‘It was really hard being without him and being a first time mum for a day on my own. The staff were amazing and so supportive but I think it was hard for Martin as well not to have that bonding time.
‘The rules on visiting hours seemed to change hour-by-hour which is good as it meant the hospital were clearly monitoring the situation closely but it also felt like we didn’t know what was going on.’
Currently visiting is suspended at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust sites apart from exceptional circumstances including a birthing partner accompanying a woman in labour.
John Knighton, medical director at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘The wellbeing of women at all stages of pregnancy and that of all of our patients, individuals and teams across the trust remains our absolute priority.
‘We took the difficult decision to temporarily restrict visitors to all areas of the hospital in-line with national guidance, to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, and this remains under review. However, we recognise that having a baby presents exceptional circumstances and women can still be accompanied by a birthing partner to support them throughout their labour.
‘We are doing all that we can to support patients and loved ones to keep in touch while restrictions are in place, including introducing video messaging, a drop-off station to allow relatives and carers to leave items for their loved ones and a messaging service so that people can leave cards and messages, which are delivered to patients on the wards. We are also offering ultrasound baby scans free of charge during this time so that women can share these with loved ones.’
Today also marks International Day of the Midwife.
Helen Bland, director of Midwifery at Portsmouth Hospitals, said: ‘Midwives play such an important part in a woman’s journey throughout their pregnancy and beyond. Over the last month, midwives have been particularly challenged in how they provide this care due to Covid-19.
‘The care, support and guidance a midwife gives has never been more important than now, to ensure that all women and their families have a positive and safe experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenting. On International Day of the Midwife I’d just like to say how very proud I am of the midwives at Portsmouth Hospital, and throughout the world, for all the passion, hard work and dedication that they show on a daily basis.’
Six weeks on and the Coram family are now adjusting to life at their home in North End.
Lorraine said: ‘Having a baby in lockdown is obviously vastly different to what we would have imagined and for Atticus it has been his whole life so far.
‘I think it has been hard not seeing friends and family in person and getting that support but also because they are missing out on him being small. We have been making photobooks for the grandparents that would have been the photos they would have taken so that they get to feel part of it all.
‘Personally as well not being able to mum and baby groups and meet others going through the same has been strange. It isn’t how I imagined motherhood and being a teacher I hope maternity leave is extended as I can’t imagine going back in September and not having done any of the baby groups and outings I had imagined.’
Lorraine’s story comes during Perinatal Mental Health Week and professionals across the city and beyond are encouraging expectant mums, new mums and families to access support if and when they need it.
Charlotte Gatehouse, a specialist health visitor for perinatal and infant mental health at Solent NHS Trust in Portsmouth, said: ‘It is a really unusual time and we know this can exacerbate anxiety for families as routines, work and so many other factors in life have changed recently.
‘There isn’t the chance to get as much help from friends and family but we want people to know that we are still here for them and to please get in touch if they need us.’
Services have been forced to change due to the social distancing put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus but the teams are keeping families supported and have also launched a virtual mother and baby group called Brighter Beginnings.
Charlotte said: ‘We have had to adapt and we have been using more digital technologies like video calling as well as picking up the phone to make sure families have the support they need.
‘Our virtual group is another way for mums to get that emotional support they need and all they need to do is talk to their health visitor to get access to that. We want to make sure everyone has the support they need.’
The Portsmouth Health Visiting Team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm on 0300 123 6629.
Anyone with a non-urgent concern about their baby or older child can contact Solent Pulse (07491163277), a confidential text service where a qualified health visitor will call back within four hours during the week.
For advice from Southern Health, covering Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Waterlooville, pleases visit hampshirehealthyfamilies.org.uk/