How did the pandemic impact postnatal fitness?
Guest blog brought to you by Sling Strong
We can all remember the lead up to our first UK lockdown on 23rd March 2020. The anxiety around health for even those that had never considered themselves vulnerable was immense and a trip to the hospital was the last thing anyone would have wanted to undertake due to news of COVID-19. We speak with three mothers who gave birth shortly before or during the first lockdown to find out how the pandemic impacted their postnatal fitness?
Initial reports suggested women needed to be extra vigilant during the pandemic
During the first weeks of lockdown, experts were still establishing how, if at all, this disease impacted pregnant women and unborn children. This coupled with the advice that they could only attend scans alone was enough to make being pregnant during the height of the first wave extremely nerve-wracking. Women faced the possibility, and often reality, of giving birth alone without anyone to advocate on their behalf. Birth partners that were present could only stay for a short period when both mother and baby were at their most vulnerable.
For many new mothers, this was only the start of what was an unanticipated year of restrictions on social contact with family and friends. There was less access to usual health visiting services, playgroups and pre and postnatal fitness classes, which impacted potential relationships with others in similar situations, along with reduced outdoor exercise time.
As a country, well as a world, there was one saving grace that most of us embraced and that was virtual socialising. Here we speak with three new mothers and ask how they navigated their way through their experiences of being pregnant, looking after a newborn, staying connected and active during months of unprecedented change.
Gemma and baby Rocco-Nai
Gemma gave birth to her first baby, Rocco-Nai (now aged 16 months), two months before lockdown started. As a single mother, the fear of contracting covid and not being able to look after her newborn was a huge worry. Having restrictions applied so soon after Rocco-Nai’s arrival meant that the maternity leave that Gemma hoped that she could enjoy was no longer possible. ‘I envisioned my maternity leave spent attending lots of fun groups, play dates with other mums and babies and taking Rocco-Nai to swim classes. I even thought I would make use of the local gym crèche and use the gym for an hour, but I quickly realised I never wanted to leave his side!’.
Engaging with the local community
Getting outside for a daily walk kept Gemma active but she also made sure she communicated with her neighbours even if it was just over the fence. As a community, we came up with a way to engage adults and children alike that we called bubble days. ‘We created bubble days where we would have different colour bubble machines and blow them over the fences for our children to see!’
Joining a virtual postnatal fitness class
After the first couple of months of parenthood, she joined Sling Strong classes online. ‘I would say the instructors of the Sling Strong groups were always so enthusiastic and willing to assist. I think we needed people to be jolly and upbeat in the classes for a sense of normality and to boost morale during a very restricting period. A benefit of a virtual fitness class is that your baby can be with you so there is no need for a babysitter. To be able to take a class with your baby attached to you is amazing. It also gives you that feeling like when they are in the womb, and you have them close and safe to you.’
…And how did Rocco-Nai enjoy class?
We asked Gemma how Rocco-Nai enjoyed the class? Gemma tells us ‘my child smiled and fell asleep. He was so content in the sling’.
Gemma plans to continue her online postnatal fitness classes but also combine these with local Sling Strong classes to meet up with the other mums that she has become so familiar with online over the last year.
Jill Somerville and baby Isla Rose
Jill Somerville is a personal trainer and class instructor with two children. During the pandemic, she was pregnant with Isla Rose. Before the start of the pandemic, Jill and her partner purchased a home that needed renovation. This meant the family needed to move into Jill’s mother-in-law’s home. Lockdown made getting hold of the materials they needed to renovate in time for Isla Rose’s arrival very difficult so what was meant to be a four-week stay turned into four months!
“My emotions and anxiety were going through the roof”
‘My emotions and anxiety were going through the roof, my intention to get moved into our new home and get my eldest child settled before Isla’s arrival seemed impossible. I started having hot flashes and feeling as though I was going into early labour. I decided to phone the doctor and was offered a telephone appointment. However, I never received a call and had to phone back a day later. Worried about Isla’s health, I called a second time which made me feel extremely guilty as I knew the surgery, like many others, had a lot to deal with. I did eventually get a callback but was directed to A&E.
During my appointment with the midwife, Isla’s measurements were shy of what they should be and I was sent for an additional scan. Governed by restrictions, I went to the scan alone. It was a daunting experience. I knew everything was probably going to be ok, but it would just have been nice to have my partner or loved one by my side. Thankfully, all was well, and this became a repeat occurrence as Isla liked to screw herself up in a ball.’
Like Gemma, Jill also feels that although she enjoyed her time with Isla she had expected a more social maternity leave. ‘As Isla and I are very social characters, for me, this has been the hardest part of the pandemic’.
Using lockdown to gain new expertise
Jill decided to use her time at home to train as a Sling Strong instructor. ‘The only two things keeping me sane throughout pregnancy and after Isla’s arrival have been upskilling myself and exercising at home. When I came across Sling Strong, I immediately loved the concept. I think what Laura Lacey has created is amazing, given what so many mums and mums-to-be have experienced throughout lockdown, this will be a welcomed and popular class I’m sure.‘
A mother and baby group on legs
‘I thoroughly enjoyed my training and I cannot wait for myself and Isla to introduce it to other mums and babies. Not only is it beneficial for the physical and mental wellbeing of mums but of babies too. It is not just a guilt-free workout for mums, it is a mother and baby group on legs, and I love it! Isla is yet to stay awake throughout one’
Gemma Wright and baby Dylan
Gemma Wright is a dance and fitness instructor and mum to one-year-old Dylan and five-year-old Noah. ‘I was fortunate enough to give birth three weeks before lockdown. As this was my second baby, we decided to spend the first week as a family of four without having visitors. Had we known then what we do know now we’d have rushed to see as many people as we could!’.
‘As a mother, I feel lockdown gave me a lot more time with my baby. I spent many a day just in my pj’s cuddling with both my children. It gave us bonding time we may never have experienced in normal times, so I am grateful for that. However, I feel it robbed me of my baby’s first year a lot too. We never got to show our baby off, many family and friends still haven’t met him. I feel I’ve possibly a rather clingy child that is now one and craving other children’s company.’
“A breath of fresh air”
‘As a dance and fitness instructor being able to do what I love has helped me enormously. If I’m having a down day, exercise cheers me up. This class has been a breath of fresh air. I love it and I love how much the mums that attend tell me they love it. Exercise does give you that feel-good factor and I think right now we need that more than ever! Being a new mum can be such a lovely but lonely time. I feel like this class lets mums do something for them without the mum guilt. It can be a tough workout but safe for postnatal mums.
Exercise is really important for your post-birth body but many new mums don’t realise that they need to ease themselves back into physical activity. It is also brilliant to help to bond as your baby is right there connected to you in their carrier. I think there has been only one class Dylan hasn’t slept through as that was because he had only just woken up before class starts. He gets so excited when he sees the sling.’
If you are looking for a postnatal fitness class that you and your baby can enjoy at home or locally, find a Sling Strong class today.