When lockdown began, I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second child. My first child, Tom, is two years old. While lockdown for me personally would be a challenge at the best of times, several circumstances have overlapped to make it exceptionally hard. Tom has been through some very serious issues with his health (including several operations for his congenital heart defect and severe sepsis).
Towards the end of 2019, I started to realise that I was suffering from severe anxiety and possible PTSD from everything he has been through. I wanted to do what I could to recover from this before having a second child. It’s difficult to admit that the child you adore is also the trigger for your anxiety and has been for two years. I was extremely lucky to get some therapy via the NHS that started in March and is now happening once a week by telephone. I went on sick leave for a few weeks from my job because of my fragile mental health and then was placed on furlough.
Our situation is now that my husband works full time from home, I am furloughed and six months pregnant and Tom is at home with us all the time. I cannot cope with providing full time childcare at home for him because he triggers very severe anxiety in me and because I’m pregnant and having to rest and not expose myself to excessive stress.
Until recently, my husband was working some hours during the day and some hours in the evening so he could help me with childcare. He was also taking a day a week of annual leave to relieve some pressure. This worked to begin with, but we got extremely tired as it wasn’t a sustainable arrangement.
I talked to my GP and therapist and eventually came to the conclusion that my in-laws would need to move in to help. I know it broke the lockdown rules and potentially put us all at risk, but I think the risk to my mental health and pregnancy was greater. Going through my therapy would have been challenging enough in itself (especially with a deadline of having my second child in August). It’s intense and emotional. However, also being stuck at home looking after the child who, at the moment, I can’t relax around, as I always think I’ll do something wrong or he’ll get ill, is utterly exhausting. Balance that with trying to stay calm and look after myself because I’m pregnant, and it’s an impossible situation. What I really needed was some version of childcare for Tom so I could work through my mental health issues and not feel threatened every day.
It’s a very sad story because I adore my son and want to be in a position where I can take nothing but joy from being with him. I’m just not there yet.