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Lockdown Dads: The Stories Of Five Men Becoming Parents During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Grazia logo Grazia 28/05/2020 Grazia Contributor
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There’s, quite rightly, been a lot of focus on what the pandemic means for pregnant and birthing mums, but what’s it like for dads?

As a dad of two and an obstetric doctor working on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Will Dooley says the impact on new dads and partners has sometimes been overlooked.

He explains: 'Since the start of the lockdown we’ve been doing everything in our power to support pregnant women through these unprecedented times. But the impact on dads and partners has also been immense. Faced with the possibility of missing the birth of their child if they have symptoms of coronavirus, or losing out on the precious early days with their new baby whilst visiting is restricted, there has definitely been a psychological toll.'

Aside from his hospital work, Dr Dooley is the founder of Happy Parents Happy Baby antenatal classes. The classes are run by a whole team of different NHS specialists and they have now added extra sessions to support dads and partners through the challenges of having a baby during the pandemic. 

a man holding a baby: Dr Will Dooley © Dr Will Dooley Dr Will Dooley

'We want to give dads and partners the tools to cope with anything that comes their way. Whether that be preparing for times of separation from their partner or baby, or arming themselves with a whole host of practical tips to stay calm and in control, we will do everything we can to help them get through this,' he adds.

We spoke to five new and soon-to-be dads – all on the same antenatal course but with very different stories.

Russell and Aniket

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Russell and Aniket © Credits: Russell and Aniket Russell and Aniket

For Russell and Aniket, their pregnancy journey started over five years ago. Russell explains: 'As a same sex couple, with our baby being carried by a surrogate, our journey has always been slightly unusual.'

But it’s taken twists and turns that could never have been predicted as they find themselves in these very different times. Russell and Aniket’s surrogate lives in Minneapolis and is due to be giving birth there at the end of June. They’re due to be travelling over to America in the next couple of weeks but it’s all become a lot more complicated than it would have been because of coronavirus.

Russell says: 'An added layer of complexity is that there’s a UK/US travel ban at the moment so we’re in the midst of emergency visa applications. We’re still pending on receiving that, it feels like a bit of a waiting game.

'There are a lot of question marks. We’ve had to think about things that we didn’t want to think about - like what would happen if we couldn’t get there, if we can’t be there for the birth, who would be able to look after the baby, what would we do if that went wrong. If we can get over there, it may be that just one of us can be there for the birth as one birth partner. It’s thinking about who that person will be. We’re trying to clock what’s in our control, do everything we can do, and be positive ahead of our baby girl’s arrival. In a sea of unknowns, what we do know is meeting and holding our baby will be everything.'

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Aniket adds: 'We are in contact with our surrogate every day. We flew over for the 20-week scan and that was really special and made everything feel more real. The most exciting part was meeting our surrogate and her family as well as being in the same room as our baby for the first time, hearing the heartbeat and seeing our baby on the scan. That made it really special and made us feel more connected with the journey especially having been so far away.

'Maybe this is a good dress-rehearsal for parenting because maybe nothing ever fully goes to plan and it’s good to exercise that ability to be adaptable, both emotionally and practically – it’s definitely been an emotional rollercoaster. It’s all so unpredictable and fast-changing. But we’re focusing on just how much we’re looking forward to holding and meeting our daughter.'

James

a person standing posing for the camera: James and Susan © Credits: James and Susan James and Susan

James and his wife Susan’s baby girl is due next month, but their pregnancy journey has been far from what they expected. Around five years ago, James had cancer, so is deemed to be high risk during the coronavirus pandemic. With Susan also pregnant, they’re both shielding.

James and Susan are both doctors, working hard from home and doing virtual clinics to take the pressure off their friends and colleagues on the front line. They’re also busily preparing for parenting and all that is to come.

Whilst the last couple of months have been anything but normal, there have been some silver linings.

Prior to the outbreak, they were preparing themselves to spend the majority of their pregnancy apart. Susan had just started working in Exeter and James was working in Bristol, only seeing each other on the weekends that they weren’t on-call.

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James explains: 'Now all of that has changed and we’ve been given this gift of time together. We’ve been trying to make the most of it and have used the time to do more of the simple things like cooking and baking and getting ready for the baby of course!

'My mission is to keep Susan happy, healthy and stress-free and to get her to the end of pregnancy in the best frame of mind. There are obviously good days and bad days. We’re missing our family and friends and sometimes you really feel like you want to go out and do all of the normal things you might do before your first child arrives. But apart from that, we’re doing alright.

'The hypnobirthing sessions of the Happy Parents Happy Baby course have been truly transformative. It’s all about tackling negative associations and giving us some tools that we can take into the delivery room. Whichever way it goes, we feel positive we can make the best of it.'

Matt

a group of people posing for the camera: Matt and Ruchi © Credits: Matt and Ruchi Matt and Ruchi

Matt and his wife Ruchi had planned for an elective caesarean-section, as they had one for the birth of their first daughter Maya. As the date neared, they received a letter from the hospital saying that because of coronavirus, all electives would be cancelled.

Matt says: 'This was a big stress to say the least. It was really upsetting and we didn’t really know what to do.'

Fortunately, the decision was revised and baby Lana was born by C-section after all.

Matt says: 'Procedure wise, it was all handled very well. The team at the hospital were fantastic. Even with everything going on, they were very calm, collected and professional. They managed the whole thing like absolute pros.

'What was really hard and I can’t dress this up, is that they had to hold Ruchi and Lana in hospital for a number of nights and I wasn’t allowed to be with them. Being at home, I felt in the wrong place. It felt strange, I felt helpless, I found myself pacing. I tried to distract myself and remember that Ruchi and Lana were where they needed to be. I had to stay positive, keep busy and prepare the house for them to come home to.'

He adds: 'Throughout the whole thing, the NHS and doctors and midwives have been fantastic, but as a second-time dad, the system does feel quite different this time.'

George

a close up of a person holding a baby: George and Elisa © Credits: George and Elisa George and Elisa

For George, it was a case of accepting the situation and focusing on things within their control. He explains that he and his wife Elisa were apprehensive, but actually had a really positive experience.

George says: 'All the teams at the hospital get that this is a hard time and we were blown away by just how much they were going above and beyond. Yes, they were in masks but you almost see through them after a while because the midwives and staff were so friendly and such a calming influence. They were incredibly supportive.'

On the day of the induction, Elisa went to the hospital early in the morning. George wasn’t allowed to be with her. She was then able to go home and George says it was really lovely being together and in their own space.


Four hours later, Elisa was back at hospital and four centimetres dilated. George explains: 'Things went from nought to a hundred pretty quickly! I was back with Elisa just in time for the first push. The midwife was incredible, really positive and really going the extra mile to make things as normal as possible. Everyone’s so aware of how unusual the situation is. But in many ways, there’s no difference – the job’s still the same, they’re going to get your baby here safely and you’re going to be looked after.

'The Happy Parents Happy Baby Hypnobirthing helped us prepare mentally for it all. Elisa’s breathing was really incredible throughout the birth, that’s what did a lot of the work. Hypnobirthing helped us create a positive mindset and also particularly given the situation it helps you focus your mind on what’s important, the things that you can control.

'It’s often considered such a female experience – pregnancy, labour and all the postnatal stuff. But actually having the mixed group on the course and what’s app groups makes sure everyone’s involved and in it together.'

You can go to the Happy Parents Happy Baby website and Instagram feeds for support, free resources and to find out more about their antenatal courses delivered by a team of experts including a midwife, obstetric doctor, hypnobirthing teacher, paediatric doctor, feeding specialist and first aid instructor.


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