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Pregnant in a pandemic

Living through a pandemic is a new and unusual situation for all of us. Most of us are not used to spending all of our time in our homes, seeing the same few people every day, only allowed out of the house to exercise or shop for the essentials. It’s more than enough reason to make people feel very anxious. But what about if you’re eagerly waiting to welcome a brand-new member of your family? Here Alex Pepper talks about what it’s like to live in a pandemic while you and your wife are expecting a baby:

New arrival

In late May our first baby together is due to join us so we we’ve been planning for big changes in our lives, but with COVID-19 thrown in the mix I think it’s fair to say it’s a little more disruption than we’d bargained for. We found ourselves rushing a few weeks back to buy all of our newborn essentials online; at first it seemed like we were perhaps being a bit over the top, but as the situation has unfolded, I’m so glad we did.

So much of what we bought is now out of stock now, and there’s no real information on when it might be back on the shelves. Thankfully, we’ve been able to get our hands on everything; well, apart from one of the biggest things: the buggy! However, as it’s not looking like we’ll be going many places when little man gets here, I guess we’ll manage without.

Step 1: baby carrier assembly training

With all the parcels turning up over the last week or two I’ve heard a lot of “look how cute this is” and “oh it’s so tiny” from my wife, but the all important one for me was the baby carrier. Being a cane user and guide dog owner, the buggy isn’t something I’ll be using, so becoming a pro at putting the baby carrier on and using it safely is a bit of a priority for me. My wife and daughter got some laughs when I first tried assembling the carrier and putting it on. Let’s just say it took a few attempts, and once I had eventually got there they found it equally funny seeing me practice putting baby Anabel in and out of it. (For the record, baby Anabel is a dolly that belongs to my daughter, not a baby I’ve borrowed from a neighbour).

Step 2: buy new mobility cane

Step two in my preparation for the new addition was getting my hands on a new cane that’s fit for indoor use in my flat. Obviously, I’ll want to be extra careful when moving around holding the baby, and as good as I think I am with orientation, I still get a bit cocky and have accidents, so a new cane it will be. After getting some advice from a friend who is a rehabilitation officer, I went with a lightweight 100cm mobility cane. This came early last week, and I’ve had a little practice round the flat, and can picture myself walking at a snail’s pace when I first put it into practice for real.

Step 3: learn braille

Unfortunately step 3, teaching myself to learn braille, has had to go on pause because the RNIB are out of stock of the dot-to-dot braille kits. Sadly, this will have to go on the back burner for a while. It’s a real shame, because lockdown means I do have more time to learn a new skill.

I want to learn braille so that I can read stories to my son as he starts to grow up. As a blind dad I’m always mindful that I’ll struggle to do many things with my son as he grows. I met up with another blind dad (prior to lockdown) and he pointed out that by not learning simple grade on braille I am putting another barrier in the way of an important parental activity and way of bonding with my son. Obviously, it became a no-brainer after that – becoming literate in braille is a must!

The next few weeks

As a couple, my wife and I are not quite sure how to feel at the moment, or what to expect over the next couple of months. This is a time where we were expecting to be enjoying the build-up: going to antenatal classes together, my wife to enjoy her last day at work and her baby shower. Instead we have cancelled midwife appointments, we can’t get a buggy and we’re left with lots of unanswered questions: will I be allowed into the hospital for the entire labour? Will family even be allowed to pop-over to meet little man etc.

This all just adds to existing anxieties I have about becoming a blind dad to a newborn for the first time. If I’m being truthful, some days it really does take its toll, but, like everyone else, we’ve just got to stay positive and keep on keeping on.

There have been some positives to having all this time at home though; we’ve managed to do a lot of sorting out that we needed to do to free up some space for our new resident; we’ve also had ample family time, which has involved lots of cooking, baking and our newest pastime – tactile Connect 4 tournaments. Most importantly, it has made us appreciate our families, our health and all the other positives in our lives. When our son eventually arrives with us, I know that we’ll appreciate him and all the joy he’ll bring us that little bit more.

Alex Pepper, Head of Partnerships & Projects, Thomas Pocklington Trust

Read more of Alex’s blogs here.

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