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For the thousands of parents who welcomed a child in 2020, this past year has been like no other.
As the nation went into lockdown, many of the things first-time mums most look forward to - antenatal classes, visiting family and seeing friends - ground to a screeching halt.
To mark one year of lockdown, we spoke to two women about the reality of raising a baby during a pandemic, how they navigated social distancing, and celebrating their first birthdays in isolation.
First-time mum Carol-Ann, 33, gave birth to twin boys Blake and Carter in March 2020 at Macclesfield Hospital as the pandemic's deadly first wave was beginning to sweep the country.
The life coach from Cheshire had a traumatic labour experience, losing over four pints of blood and spending three hours in surgery before returning to an "eerily quiet" maternity ward.
Despite struggling to walk, she discharged herself after 48 hours. "I could really feel something was going down and I wanted to be home safe," she explains. "My intuition said something wasn't right."
Her intuition was right; Carol-Ann later found out that the hospital was in the process of turning the maternity ward into a covid ward as infections soared.
Both of Carol-Ann's parents work for the NHS and although the strictest lockdown measures hadn't kicked in yet, their jobs meant they were unable to kiss and cuddle the twins after they were born.
"I felt devastated when I realised we couldn't show the twins to their grandparents," she recalls. "It was the fear of the unknown. I had a good sob that night."
"Boris kept saying 'you will lose loved ones' and it gave me so much anxiety."
The separation also took a toll on Carol-Ann's mum who was desperate to give her new grandsons a cuddle. "We eventually tried to go on a socially distanced walk but she got so upset we had to stop."
During their first six months, the twins were blissfully unaware of lockdown. But as they've got older and started to notice the world around them, they have grown accustomed to seeing people in masks and are "really apprehensive" around strangers.
Both Carol-Ann and her husband Karl contracted covid-19 in October and November last year. "My sense of taste and smell went and I still don't have it back," she says.
Luckily Blake and Carter were fine, and the twins have since celebrated their first birthday. Both of Carol-Ann's parents have received the vaccine, providing a huge sense of relief for the whole family.
Carol-Ann hoped that Blake and Carter's first birthday would be free from lockdown restrictions; instead, they had a small celebration at home with cake and lots of balloons.
Trips to the zoo and days out in Bournemouth are a few of the things on Carol-Ann's bucket list between now and the twins' second birthday. They will also start attending nursery at the end of March which Carol-Ann hopes will help with their social interaction.
Isabelle Railton, from Aberystwyth, celebrated her daughter Charlotte's first birthday in lockdown. The 33-year-old first time mum gave birth to her daughter Charlotte in late February 2020, but had to stay in hospital for a few weeks after.
During her stay she saw a 'change' as more nurses and medical staff tried to prepare for the growing number of covid-19 cases.
"My daughter's breathing wasn't quite right when she was born and we stayed in the hospital. On the final day we were there, a nurse said they were being measured for a mask because of the new disease and it just seemed really over the top at the time.
"It got serious really quickly and friends that wanted to visit the baby made us nervous. We only had about two visitors come into the house. We didn't know if babies could get sick back then.
"We were absolutely terrified. we had a baby that was so small and so vulnerable and it was really scary and frightening."
Adjusting to becoming a mum can be challenging under normal circumstances but for the former waitress, is was particularly tough due to the introduction of lockdown by the end of March.
"The shift to being a new mum in lockdown was very odd. I didn't have my own mum close by and she doesn't live close. Health visitors had to stop coming and I was just hoping and praying that we could work everything out."
One of the biggest obstacles during Isabelle's first year of motherhood was introducing Charlotte to Isabelle's parents, which wasn't possible for the first few months of her life.
When restrictions lifted over the summer, the youngster was understandably anxious about meeting new people. "Any time someone would try and hug her she would scream when they tried to pick her up. First cuddles with the grandparents were fraught," explains Isabelle.
"I wanted them to be able to hug and cuddle her and smell her. But she just screamed; the only person she had seen other than us was the health visitor.
"My mum and dad were really patient, but I think deep down they wanted their granddaughter to like them and not just scream in their face."
Isabelle never anticipated her daughter's first birthday would take place in lockdown and, while they tried to make it as special as they could for Charlotte, her grandparents were unable to attend in person.
"Although the first birthday was really good, it was a shame it couldn't happen with both sets of grandparents," Isabelle says.
"My mum and dad haven't seen her since just before Christmas and Mark's parents haven't seen her since last August. She's a completely different baby now, she walks and can say her first words. She's a toddler now."
Friends who Isabelle had met in a mums' group on Zoom arranged a socially-distanced gift bag drive for Charlotte's birthday; presents were left at the end of her driveway to mark the big day.
Isabelle and Mark made Charlotte a cake and put her in a "big billowy dress" for the occasion.
Isabelle is hoping the next 12 months bring lots of playdates, visits to the park and a highly-anticipated trip out of Aberystwyth for Charlotte. "There are so many people who want to meet her who didn't get to have new baby cuddles which is a shame. It will be nice to see how she reacts when we leave Aberystwyth because so far her life has been like The Truman Show. She's going see there's a whole world out there!"
Featured Image Credit: Carol-Ann Reid / Isabelle Railton
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