All over the world, the birth of a baby is celebrated in a variety of ways, albeit some are stranger than others.
In Greece it’s customary for relatives to present the new arrival with a gold coin or a piece of jewellery while Indian tradition requires merely a dab of honey on the baby’s tongue.
Some Balinese parents believe that babies are divine beings and for the first 210 days of life, (after which they’re deemed to be mortals) their feet are not allowed to touch the floor.
Closer to home, ‘the wetting of the baby’s head,’ a sticky ritual that involves sprinkling the infant’s crown with a piece of whiskey doused wedding cake has, in most parts of the UK, given way to the simpler practice of toasting baby’s health with a round of drinks at the pub.
Baby traditions come in all shapes and sizes but there is one factor common to all – having a baby is a family affair.
Born at a time when Coronavirus was pulling down the shutters and sending everyone into lockdown, Dillon Andrew Moss is from a generation who missed out on this special welcome. Instead of being held and cherished by a whole swathe of adoring relatives, Dillon was introduced to his extended family in the sterile setting of face-time videos. It could be argued that babies don’t know any difference and are therefore unaffected. For parents like Peterborough couple,
Andy and Kathy Moss, lockdown has taken its toll. But as 34 year old Kathy, a team leader in a French speaking customer care service, reveals, being cast adrift on the seas of parenthood did have some positives.
She told how she and husband Andy, a thirty-six year old, Health Safety Manager, steered a course through the unchartered and often choppy waters of lockdown.
“Andy and I had some definite ideas about our birth plan and how things would go,” she recalls.
“As it turned out, Dillon’s birth taught us our first lesson of parenting, nothing goes to plan!
“Going into labour a month earlier than expected was the first surprise then, after a long protracted stay in the delivery suite, Dillon was finally born via Caesarean section at Peterborough City Hospital maternity unit.
“It was emotionally and physically overwhelming but we were very proud and couldn’t wait to introduce our beautiful son to his family.
“Andy’s parents who also live in Peterborough were waiting, eager to see their first grandson. Just before lockdown was introduced, my parents flew over from Northern Ireland and like all new mothers, I was excited to share the experience with my mum!”
Unknown to Kathy and Andy, the world was beginning to hunker down.
“Looking back, the situation was shocking and surreal. I was extremely ill after surgery and Dillon wasn’t feeding properly so we weren’t able to go home for at least ten days.
“When lockdown was announced, a couple of days following Dillon’s birth, it took everyone by surprise. Nurses were wonderful but they were busy and understaffed so Andy and I were pretty much on our own. Stuck in a small hospital room, Andy was sleeping in an armchair every night, getting up to see to the baby and look after me. We were both exhausted but I don’t know how I’d have coped without him. My mum and dad were staying in a hotel just down the road from the hospital and I was heartbroken they had to fly home without meeting our lovely boy.”
As well as family, Kathy and Andy missed out on a network of support that, prior to Coronavirus other parents took for granted.
“Caring for a brand new baby can be daunting at the best of times,” Kathy says. “A difficult feeder, we had no idea whether Dillon was gaining enough weight. If really worried, we could have a video chat with a health visitor or doctor but I found it hard to get the reassurance that a face to face examination would have given me. Very often I’d ring my mum who was always there for me but sometimes, seeing her face on screen made me sadder because it only highlighted the physical distance between us.”
In those early days, Kathy turned to the internet for advice
“Everything was so new and unfamiliar. We had this tiny baby depending on us and we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! When things went wrong, such as Dillon developing colic, we searched internet sites for tips. I soon learned to stay away from Google, the horror stories there were enough to send anxiety levels soaring! Seeing no-one but the postman and going nowhere was very difficult.”
Gradually, life regained an even keel.
“As the weeks passed and we got to know our baby, we began trusting our own judgement. It didn’t matter what the text books said, we knew what worked for Dillon. All babies are unique and, I realised as long as he was thriving and happy, we must be doing ok. Perhaps, being on our own, was good, in that we didn’t have an array of well-meaning but conflicting advice.”
How did she cope with the isolation?
“For the first two weeks Andy was able to be at home but when he returned to work, it was a strain for both of us. He worried about leaving us alone while we both worried about the danger of him contracting Covid. It was very lonely at times and I counted the hours till he returned. In those early weeks, we relied on Andy’s parents as our main support. They kindly left shopping at our door and picked up laundry. It was so sad knowing they were dying to hold their grandson but could only look at him through the window. My parents were always at the end of the phone and sent us care packages to lift our spirits.”
What has been the most positive thing about having a baby during lockdown?
“Like all mums and dads at the time, Andy and I were thrown in at the deep end of the parenting pool. With no support, we simply had to sink or swim. There was no choice. For me the positive thing about parenting in a pandemic was that, not only did we learn about each other, we discovered a lot about ourselves. I never realised I could do so much while half asleep! I’d always known Andy would be a great dad but, the pressures of the lockdown showed me just how amazing he really is! When I look at Dillon, I know that no matter how challenging life gets or how bad it seems, miracles will continue to happen.”
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