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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Dear Darling: a letter to my daughter on growing and raising her in 2020

As I write this, you’re fast asleep for your afternoon nap. We’ve played, giggled and cuddled all morning. You are and will always be my deepest joy. You were worth every moment of carrying you, growing you in my tummy, and bringing you into my arms. I’m sure as you grow, lots of people will recoil when you say the year you were born. A 2020 baby. A ‘real pandemic baby’. You, and all your friends. As you develop your understanding of the world, you might ask what it was like, growing you and raising you at the start in these ‘unprecedented times’. So, here’s where I’ve got to where I am right now, as you sleep blissfully unaware at 10 months old.

In November 2019, I found out about you. You were so wanted. We were thrilled! Those first few months had a fair bit of anxiety. As someone with diagnosed generalised anxiety, it was on the cards. With CBT I made it through, though. At Christmas, we watched a documentary on Netflix about pandemics. I still shudder at that.

Then signs started appearing in the university where I worked.

If you have returned from Wuhan, isolate. If you have a continuous cough and fever stay home. My friend in China tells me they are under complete lockdown - not allowed to leave their houses apart from essential duties. It sounds ridiculous to me, like something out of a science fiction novel. Not a big deal though, I told myself. It won’t happen here. Then, we’re told to wash our hands. Wash them again. 20 seconds. An office colleague starts isolating. Hand sanitizer stations are put up across campus, though there isn’t any sanitizer to fill them as there is a national shortage. I hoard a tub I have in my locked desk drawer. I'm ashamed to say it, but I do a huge online shop to get essentials in as there are whispers of a food shortage (I'm pregnant and scared). We change the radio station in the office to Smooth, as they’re not counting the death toll on there. Then, my manager calls me from her office across campus. Do you feel safe at work? No, I don’t. She sends me home. The government announces that pregnant women are vulnerable. I see my parents for the last time before you are born - not hugging them, as it doesn't seem right for some reason. We watch the news. I’m absolutely terrified.

March 23rd. I start having remote CBT. It doesn’t help. Thankfully, I’m able to self refer to the mental health specialist midwife who thinks I should try going on medication. I decline that, as I’m scared it could hurt you, even though not having it is hurting me. The days and weeks pass in a painfully slow blur. I watch a lot of TV. I FaceTime my parents every day. I cry a lot. You’ve started kicking, and I focus so much on your movements, I’m regularly at the hospital having you monitored. You are fine every time! Things seem to calm; and then at a scan, I’m told you’re a bit big, and I need a diabetic test. Nothing to worry about, I'm told - I'm slim and young with no risk factors. Then I get a call, and I’m told I have gestational diabetes, and need to adjust my diet entirely and test my blood four times a day. Various scary risks are thrown at me by a less than kind consultant at the hospital as I sit in a sterile room while your Dad sits outside in the car - he's not allowed in. I’m even more terrified. I live off salad, cheese and fish (despite being vegetarian for seven years) as it’s all that stops my blood sugar spiking. I watch a lot more Gossip Girl.

Then, precious relief. Despite being told it was extremely unlikely I'd go into spontaneous labour before 40 weeks, being told I'd likely need to be induced due to the GD, and mentally preparing myself for a C section, as early inductions are less likely to be 'successful', I get a spasm down by back as I go to bed. 38 weeks and 6 days. Contractions down my back, the day before induction. You are making your entrance a little early. I really believe you knew I’d hit the point where I needed you in my arms. The 6th of July, I first saw your face. Every single ounce of worry melts into nothingness. I am whole, you are here, you are safe. The last three months are forgotten. I get to see my Mum and Dad, after so long apart, and I’ve never cried so much in my life. With joy, with anger, with relief.

Darling, it was so hard. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was overwhelmingly worth it. If you are finding things hard one day, reach out to get help. I will be here too. I will listen and I will not compare you to me. I will say your feelings are valid. I will encourage you to get support. Without the support of our wonderful NHS, which despite being under huge strain in a worldwide health crisis, took my and your weight and helped us through, it would have been even harder. Reach out to our services, and please, vote for the party that will sustain it. And while you can, hold your family and friends dearly - as it was all I wanted when I couldn’t do it myself.

I love you - and I would do it again for you every single time.


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