Coping with COVID-19 – Elizabeth’s story

Elizabeth describes how she is adjusting to social isolation in order to stay safe during the COVID-19 outbreak and shares the wisdom her neonatal experience has given her to get through these challenging times.

Ugh, it’s just awful isn’t it? So many different stresses and anxieties going on for all of us at the moment. I’m trying to compartmentalise mine and I think the two main categories are my child and my own mental health.

Firstly, my son...

This week escalated pretty quickly. From a Monday evening meeting at work, about how we could facilitate remote learning for our students should the schools close, to suddenly, the very next morning, being told that I should socially distance my son because of his underlying health complications, I feel it’s all been more than a bit manic.

I didn’t want to stay off work, but I had to protect my child. Being a premmie mum, there are extra precautions I have to take in everyday life. My son might look like an average, robust toddler now, but he isn’t, and therefore I have to manage certain aspects of his life accordingly.

This is then coupled with my own anxiety as a parent of an early baby. Once you have experienced the fear of believing your child is about to die, or may have already died inside you, you will do absolutely ANYTHING to keep them safe. So discussions were had, with, to be fair, a very supportive staff team at work, and that was it. I was working from home. However, of course it didn’t just end there.

My son’s grandparents are a central part of his life. The luckiest boy in the world, he doesn’t have just one or two, but six main attachment figures in his life. The thought of having to distance him from them has broken my heart, yet we have to keep him safe. Thank goodness for FaceTime is all I can say right now. Otherwise I don’t know how we’d maintain the fantastic relationships that he had with his grandparents, for however long this situation continues.

In the meantime, looking after him is our number one priority. The lawn has been mown and we’ll go out in the garden daily. He has new toys to play with, ample books to read, and we can keep to our home workout routine on the days I’m not working from home thanks to online classes which will also bring some structure to our week.

Which brings me onto my mental health...

Had I dealt with our NICU experience yet and the impact it had on me? Mostly. Was I prepared to feel all those emotions again? No.

The isolation that COVID-19 has forced upon our family feels the same as when we were in the NICU. During our hospital stay, we couldn’t touch our son’s grandparents, they couldn’t touch him, and handwashing became central to our lives. My child and I were isolated on the ward, cut off from the outside world. All these things are beautifully and horribly mirrored by our current situation. So whilst it is of course a completely different situation, for me, the emotions are very much the same.

So what can we do?

This is a difficult time for everyone. Not just in the UK, but across the world. I’ve seen wonderful messages of hope and support being sent via the Internet this last week. Thank goodness for technology in this case!

Kindness goes a long way. I think we all need to be kind: to ourselves and to each other. We need to hold compassion in mind and practice it in everything we do. Our amazing key workers – those in the NHS and those in other vital industries – are doing everything they can to hold our nation together. Think of them. Think of your family. Think of yourself. Do what is asked of you - if you’re told to stay in, stay in. Let’s not put these amazing people under more pressure than they’re already under. Look after yourself and your loved ones (remotely if necessary!)

This will end.

One day, this will all be over. Until that day comes, let’s all be there for each other. Spread the love, not the germs. Stay safe.

Emergency COVID-19 Appeal

Covid-19 is affecting all of us, including the neonatal community. Families of premature or sick babies need us more than ever, which means we need your support. While you're here, please donate to keep our vital services open.