THE past year has changed the shape of motherhood and how we have been able to relate to our own mothers, in ways we are only just beginning to digest. Things happened during this pandemic, we could never previously have imagined. Elderly mothers found themselves isolated or trapped in care homes, unable to receive visits from their children. Some people lost mothers. Across the country, mothers found themselves caught in a double-shift of home-schooling and home-working.

For new mums entering motherhood for the first time, or those, already mothers, having another child, the experience of giving birth was unlike that of any other time.

May Rouse, hairdresser

“The first time Reuben saw his dad he had a mask on. That was very strange. But now I notice that if he sees anyone with a mask on, he smiles because he sees their eyes.

“I had a planned section in July. Reuben’s dad, Alasdair, was allowed in when he was born. We were very lucky. He was allowed to visit between the hours of one and seven. I was worried in the run up, during the first lockdown. I remember going to cut the hair of some of my friends and my sister rang and asked me, ‘Are you aware you’re vulnerable because you’re pregnant and you shouldn’t be working if you’re in a face-to-face job?’ I stopped working in the salon. Not long after that we were into lockdown.

“In that time it was horrible. You felt alone and confused. We were going into an unknown. There was a lot of anxiety anyway. I remember describing it to Alasdair that going in to have a baby is actually one of the most isolating times ever.

“That’s a normal feeling to have – but I felt that way before I had Reuben, rather than after. I felt it whilst I was still pregnant. I didn’t know anyone else who was going through it and knew how weird it felt. It felt really quite lonely. Everything I’d anticipated for my maternity, was changed.

“Ali’s mum, who lives in Edinburgh, didn’t see us for ages, but then when Reuben was just a couple of days old she was able to bubble with us because she’s on her own.

The Herald: Leith mum May Rouse and baby Reuben who was born last summer with siblings Ewan (13) and Maggie (10) STY Allan. Pic Gordon Terris/ Herald&Times.9/3/21 EDI...

“She is the only other person who has held Reuben apart from Ali and my other kids, Ewan and Maggie, and also one of my sisters. But my mum hasn’t held him, my dad hasn’t. They’ve seen him but they haven’t held him.

“We visited my mum outside her house in Yarm in September. We met on the doorstep and she gave Reuben a little present and my older kids some pocket money. There was a nervousness about it. It was strange and surreal, as it was when my dad met him too, in the park, saying hello to Reuben from a distance.

“But I know in the grand scheme of Reuben’s life this is a tiny part he’s never going to remember. He’s going to be one of those children where people will go, ‘Oh you were born in 2020?’ And he’ll just be like, ‘Will you be quiet. I don’t know a thing about it. Only what my mum and dad tell me and they’re boring.’”

READ MORE: Waving at windows. Those missing their mums this Mother's Day


Zoe King, assistant stage manager

“I went into labour as Boris Johnson was announcing the first lockdown. The Sunday evening before, my baby, Maeve stopped moving so I went into hospital. The minute I got there she kicked. They said to me, ‘Can you feel those contractions?’ I went home and had very mild contractions that continued all night and all day. At 4pm my sister, who was my birthing partner, called and said, ‘Do you need me?’ I said, ‘No, I’ll be fine.’ But the contractions got much more frequent and we arrived at the hospital at 7pm, by which point Boris was making this announcement that the world was shutting down. When I was in labour and it got really painful, to distract me, my sister read to me what she called “the boring bits from the new Covid rules”.

“Maeve is an IVF baby but it was definitely harder because of the pandemic. My worry initially was that my parents, who had been going to come up and stay with me for a week, couldn’t. That was the hardest bit. They didn’t meet Maeve till she was nine weeks old.

The Herald:

“Maeve was born at 1.15am in the early hours of the day lockdown started. I had two days in hospital because she couldn’t feed properly and when I came out the world was completely quiet. It was like a zombie town, everything had stopped. At that time you had to queue outside so I was standing in the rain with a new born, outside Tesco for half an hour. It was awful.

“I saw nobody for nine weeks except medical professionals. It felt like I was counting down the days till I could see another adult.

“Back then you couldn’t have a bubble. There was one point when, after the third night of no sleep out of seven, I thought I’m going to fall asleep with this baby in my arms – I don’t know how I can possibly stay awake any longer. Maeve always wanted to be held to begin with. It was really hard not having someone who could hold her.

“Among the things that helped was that I chatted a lot to people online and people sent me stuff which was so kind. I lived for chatting to the parcel delivery man and the post lady.

“When she was nine weeks old, I went to my parents in Herefordshire, which was great, but one of the most difficult things was the journey. It took eight hours and I had to get the train by myself, all the luggage in the buggy and the baby strapped to me, and because the buffet car was closed, I had to take enough hot water to make bottles on the way.

“I think having Maeve is the best thing I’ve ever done. The best thing in my life happened in the worst year for everybody. No matter how hard it is having a baby, it’s probably harder for people who have been alone through the pandemic. Maeve gives me routine, something to get up for in the morning.

“This is also so much easier than infertility. I often think of people who had their treatments cancelled. Not knowing if you’re going to have a baby and it not happening is also really difficult, whereas this is just hard in moments. The sleeplessness is tough, but then in the morning she wakes up and she giggles and it’s wonderful.”