Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Debbie Hiskins

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Debbie Hiskins, who writes about being pregnant during the lockdown. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Spending the final weeks of my first pregnancy in isolation with my husband wasn’t quite what we’d had planned.

The diary was full of grown-up activities we might struggle to enjoy for a bit – meals out, evening drinks with friends, visits to my family in Kent (a 4 hour drive away), cinema trips, my brother’s 30th, a Christmas present of stargazing in the Brecon Beacons and our first wedding anniversary celebrations.

Covid-19 had other ideas though and in the run up to lockdown one by one the cancellation emails arrived. Then the announcement that pregnant women were in the vulnerable category and should self-isolate meaning I’d spent my last day in the office without even knowing it and hadn’t said bye to anyone. Initially I felt really upset about missing all these things I’d been looking forward to doing. When would I next see friends from work? How were we going to meet new parents if our NCT classes didn’t go ahead? Would the hospitals be overrun?

Then came a reality check about how lucky we are. We’re fortunate to work for Principality Building Society, a company which immediately let staff know that no one would be furloughed and changed its operations to support working from home for nearly everyone. We could both do our jobs remotely with surprising ease and that comfortable chair I’d bought for feeding the baby could be used immediately at my new make-shift desk. We work together normally so the adjustment to spending a lot of time with each other during the day was easy although we did set up in separate rooms to avoid hearing each other on calls saying phrases like “let’s drilldown on that” or “going forward…”.

We have a home we love and being there 24/7 meant we had more time to crack on with the jobs that needed sorting before the baby arrived. We tried to pace them out to break up the first few weekends. Soon the nursery was decorated, the wardrobes were full on Marie Kondo bliss, the bathroom cupboards an oasis of organisation. Who knew you could hoard so many half-used bottles of moisturiser?

Our NCT classes went ahead virtually and it wasn’t the crackly, awkward experience I’d feared. Everyone was lovely and we could chat in smaller breakout rooms on Zoom, view the information slides and laugh on mute between the two of us about the hilarious grey(?) knitted (?!) breast used to demonstrate breast feeding without anyone else being able to hear.

We also signed up for hypnobirthing with Claire from Yumi Yoga to help prep for the birth better. I hadn’t been feeling anxious about it but the news that the mid-wife led unit at the Heath had been closed (it’s now back open) and that we wouldn’t be able to stay together for some parts of labour, or if I needed to stay in after the birth, had made me feel less in control. The three sessions, run successfully on Zoom, were really helpful and allowed us to meet another friendly group of very local parents too.

Most significantly all the fun activities we’d had planned could still be achieved with a bit of forethought. The independent restaurants of Cardiff have done an amazing job diversifying their businesses to protect staff and customers but still be able to trade.

Paella made with fish from Ashtons and Spanish ingredients from Curado

We’ve had some splendid romantic dinner takeaways from Heaney’s, Bully’s, Dusty Knuckle, Leyli Joon, Hoof, Matsudai Ramen, Da Ling Kitchen and Mr Croquewich. We’ve also been able to get food delivered without relying on the supermarkets where we could never get a slot. Fresh veg every week from Paul’s Organic Veg, fresh meat and eggs from Oriel Jones and fish from Ashtons, cheese from Ty Caws, tapas treats from Curado, bread and amazing brownies from Pettigrew Bakery. Being able to cook proper meals has helped make things feel a bit more like normal even if you do have to get a bit creative to use up some of the random veg.

Salad made with veg from the veg box and Ty Caws cheese!

We’ve got subscriptions so we could still watch films and binge on box sets. My parents got Facebook so we could video call (albeit with a six second delay due to their appalling bandwidth). We did virtual pub quizzes and an escape room. I started a book club with my octogenarian granny, sister and mum. If anything I was too busy!

Family zoom session!

It’s fair to say the video chat fatigue has set in a bit. Now our classes are finished we’re taking a complete break from video calls next week. After all it might be our last one as a twosome before the baby arrives and we’ve got another “new normal” to adjust to.

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