Pandemic Mums: How Healthy Valleys helped supermum Lisa through trauma

Lisa with her eldest son Kevin and new baby Anthony

Becoming a new mum is a joyous, overwhelming and terrifying time and the last year has only exacerbated the issues which affect thousands of new mothers such as isolation and loneliness. In this blog series, we’ll be speaking to mums who have welcomed a baby in the pandemic to hear about the highs and lows of their experiences and how National Lottery funded projects have supported them.

Lisa’s Pandemic Pregnancy

Lisa Bruce, 31, from Lanark has a 20-month-old son called Kevin and baby Anthony, who was born on 2nd February 2021.

Lisa was thrilled to find out she was pregnant at the beginning of June 2020, but alongside that excitement she carried anxiety about the months ahead.

Lisa told us: “Having suffered a miscarriage in February 2020, I was extremely nervous that this pregnancy may end up in the same way therefore I booked for private scans at 8 weeks and 17 weeks to ensure that my baby was still doing well.

“At around 6 weeks old I suffered from heavy bleeding with clots, and due to Covid, my husband was not allowed to come to any scans at the early pregnancy unit with me.

“Waiting for the scans and not having my husband hold my hand was an extremely anxious time and we were both preparing for the worst news, as my miscarriage earlier in the year had not been my first.”

Thankfully, baby Anthony was developing well throughout the pregnancy though pregnancy was far from easy for Lisa.

“Throughout pregnancy I was petrified of losing my baby and then towards the end I became more and more anxious about the birth and risks of complications. I was also extremely anxious that my husband would not be allowed in for the birth or would miss it if we arrived at the hospital too early.

Healthy Valleys and their support for mums-to-be

Thankfully, National Lottery funded Healthy Valleys were there to help take care of Lisa from bump to motherhood, helping her get ready for her new baby, helping her learn new skills and speak to other expectant mums.

“I joined an online Zoom class called Healthy Bump, Healthy Baby and it was so nice to speak to other expectant mums where we could discuss all subject matters on how to keep our bumps healthy.

“However, the main thing I took away from these sessions was the fact that I no longer felt like I was going through this pregnancy alone, there were other women who were experiencing similar things to me.

Lisa with newborn Anthony

Giving birth during a pandemic

At 36 weeks pregnant, Lisa was admitted to hospital overnight for a partial membrane rupture. She decided to go home to take up bedrest from the next day, as she was unsure how long she would be there – and she wasn’t allowed to be visited by her husband or son.

At this point,  Lisa was diagnosed as in pronominal labour where she experienced regular contractions that did not develop into active labour – which she experienced until she went into labour with her son at 41 weeks.

After 24 hours of contractions, Lisa was sent for an emergency C-section as baby Anthony showed signs of distress.

“I am extremely grateful to the paediatric team, as my son needed assistance in breathing for the first 12 minutes of his life – and I owe his life to them.

A different start to motherhood

After a painful and scary birth, Lisa and baby Anthony had to stay in hospital for five days due to his breathing issues.

Lisa said: “He stopped breathing twice and turned a horrible shade of blue. This for any new mum is terrifying, however, when you are in hospital without the support of family and friends it is awful.

“We are lucky that the hospital allowed fathers to visit for three hours a day, however the rest of the time you are sat alone with the baby. The feeling of loneliness and vulnerability was overwhelming.”

Balancing two children under the age of two whilst recovering isn’t easy, and on the first time Lisa was left alone with her babies – she was left terrified when eldest son Kevin accidentally tripped and hurt baby Anthony.

Anthony became and was rushed by blue-light escort to hospital where he was taken to resuscitation and given oxygen and suctioned.

After a long five minutes, Lisa and her husband were given the good news that the baby was doing well and had no lasting damage from the head injury or breathing issues he had.

Kevin with his new brother Anthony

Learning to cope in a new way

Lisa said: “The accident really undermined my confidence of being left alone with both boys, and the lack of support was deafening. No-one can come in and help or visit the boys due to lockdown.

“It has been extremely difficult as none of our families (minus my brother) have met Anthony and have only ever seen him in photos or videos. He is now 5 weeks old, and we still don’t know when we can take him to meet his Nana and Papa.

“However, throughout all of this – I have been able to attend Zoom sessions with Healthy Valleys including ‘Play, Read, Sing’ and ‘Apritots’. Apritots is a class where other new mums are able to meet and discuss motherhood and we are taught from weekly topics – but again, it’s not necessarily about what they are teaching me but it’s about the social aspect of not feeling alone.

“I also attend a peer support group with the Healthy Valleys mums, which again they have useful topics that are relatable to everyday life – however, it’s the cup of coffee with others I enjoy most.

“I have now done several days alone with the boys whilst my husband is at work, and we are still adjusting to two under two and some days it is really hard work.

Thanks to the support of Healthy Valleys and Lisa’s Health Visitor, Lisa is now enjoying motherhood and able to balance the care of her two young boys better.

“However, knowing I have Healthy Valleys at the end of the phone is a relief – as I know there is support there. I cannot sing their praises enough, they are always trying to find new ways to engage and adapt to the times and their support and teachings are invaluable”.

“If I were to give any advice to new mums is although we are all isolating do not ever think you are alone, reach out through the online communities on offer, speak to others and don’t compare yourself to other mums.”

Healthy Valleys were awarded £362,455 of National Lottery funding for their Resilient Families project to support disadvantaged and isolated families with children under five who are experiencing complex and challenging circumstances.

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