Thank you to everyone who submitted their stories for our Parenting in a Pandemic piece. We are covering one a week for 3 months due to the response we got, all absolutely incredible pieces that show the honesty behind lockdown, what we encountered along the way and where we are now. We have decided (unless the author has requested to not be anonymous) that names and details will be withheld and have left it to them to come forward if they'd like to and if they feel comfortable.
My story started just before lockdown. I have two small children and earlier in the year I discovered I was pregnant for the third time. After getting over the huge shock as we thought we’d been careful, the feeling was different this time. I was really scared and instantly felt overwhelmed. We talked and cried and talked but for a huge range of reasons (financial being one but mental health being the biggest one), we decided to terminate which was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life, something I’m still reconciling now. I always thought I wanted a big family - with no idea about what that meant. Particularly mothers. Staring down the barrel of another potentially difficult birth and a newborn to care for, was intensely frightening. I had birthed two beautiful souls and now this one didn't get the same chance.
I didn’t tell anyone apart from my immediate family, I guess I felt shame and embarrassment. I know so many people who long for more children and can’t or have had such heartaches not being able to conceive or have lost and I felt like such a fraud talking to them.
Our reasons for what we did are too complicated to go over in such brevity but I didn’t feel I could be the mum I wanted to be with a baby and two under school age. My husband has only ever wanted two, his desires were just as valid as mine. I desperately searched online for other families who had made similar decisions. Lots of 'our family was complete with a third’ hit like a hammer. Others offered up accounts of how tough it was. Nobody said they had regretted having a third if it had been by accident. I was partly confident I wouldn’t regret it (in time, perhaps) but what about my family? I wasn’t the only one to think about. Sure it would get easier as the years went by but I didn’t want to wish my life away. I wanted things for myself, to return to a career, to have a life outside of being a mother and childcare costs would mean our only option would be for me to remain as the primary carer. I could currently never earn as much as my husband.
The day came and went and I my heart broke as we sat in the car after. Once I broke-down, I couldn’t stop and my husband just held me for an hour. As time passed, the pain eased but I felt like my heart was still broken and I eventually just stopped talking about it when I was asked, ‘oh fine you know’ was the standard response. I’ve experienced grief before (albeit in a very different way), time does help to heal and I felt like with every day I managed, I felt stronger, less empty.
As lockdown hit, the days consisted of me and my children. My husband worked from home (even longer hours than he did before) and initially they were fun. That sort of buzz of excitement with no idea of the long journey we were about to embark on. But they soon became hard and long and I was resentful for doing all the childcare. I was constantly reminded of the hardships of motherhood for days and days on end.
I would have been due in July. I thought about them every day. I was so relieved to not be pregnant during lockdown whilst caring for my children and then ashamed that I’d even felt that in the first place. I threw myself into small projects knowing I could (my work was very quiet), and some days I regretted the decision and others I felt a calmness.
My oldest is my shadow. He is upset when I leave (even for a shower) and my biggest fan. I know it would have been really hard for him. He is highly emotional and he changed when his sibling arrived, who knows what another would have brought?
The anniversary is soon and a lockdown was both the worst and the best thing to have happened to me personally. Time to think, to grieve, to accept, to regret, to understand. I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself or my husband for not being more careful but I’m working on it. We are only human.
I know we made the right decision. I feel it in every part of me. But I am also so mournful. And I hope they can forgive me.