Having moved to Munich the year before, I had to find out what we needed to do in Germany and learn the differences in healthcare to the NHS back in the UK.
We found out the care was very comprehensive and that I needed to find a gynaecologist to confirm the pregnancy and then I had to find my own midwife, all at around 7 weeks pregnant!
Luckily I was able to get things sorted and when I saw the first scan of the baby it was incredible and everything felt more real seeing the tiny image on screen.
I was feeling very relaxed and calm at this stage and the support and information I was given at my appointment put my mind at ease. We were excited and started to make plans.
Then, Covid 19 struck.
There had been a lot of talk of this new disease earlier in the year, but in Germany, we had no cases and things seemed far away. However, by my next doctor’s appointment, the pandemic was spreading, and fast. This meant that my husband was not allowed to the appointment and the staff at the doctor’s surgery were all wearing masks. This was obviously a huge test for me and my mental health as a first-time mum. I already had anxieties, being away from family and friends in the UK and then a global pandemic and eventually lockdown. This was a massive challenge. We were away from home and the pregnancy was still a secret.
My husband began working from home, and my language lessons and a temporary job in a school stopped immediately.
In order to fill the time I started to read lots of books, and we took a walk each day to ease any pressures of lockdown in a small flat.
Things were not easy, and unable to understand the language, also made following the news in Germany very difficult. Luckily, the lockdown was eased quite early in Munich, and we could go back to restaurants, open-air pools opened and the ‘new normal’ began, albeit with social distancing and masks, along with other restrictions.
I created my own rules to keep safe; limited using public transport, only visiting outdoor establishments when dining out and ensuring precautions were put in place. This helped me cope with things and having a bit of control over what I did, which was a small but useful way to deal with an unpredictable situation.
Fortunately, I have had a very easy pregnancy, no morning sickness or tiredness. I have managed to keep very active, running until around 5 months and then carried on hiking, swimming and even had a yoga class at 39 weeks. This has been helpful for my mental health, though there have been challenges.
A little bit about me and my mental health, I suffer from depression and anxiety which I have managed over the years with tablets, counselling, exercise and understanding my needs. Of course, it’s not always as simple as this, and I have my down days and weeks. But I now understand more about the illness and can often help myself before a trip to the GP.
A global pandemic certainly put a lot of pressure on my mental health but with support from my husband, friends and getting outside, I have coped pretty well. It’s not been without its challenges, I have felt very low at times, have not wanted to socialise and find it hard to leave the flat alone due to language barriers and Covid worries as well as constant news coverage.
The biggest challenge for me has been attending appointments alone, my husband has missed out on these big moments which is very sad.
I am now counting down, and it’s the final days of my pregnancy, I feel lucky that I have felt very well throughout but reflecting on the 9 months, I feel sad that I have not been able to see friends and family from home.
We have not been able to share the excitement with our parents, this is the first grandchild for both sets. We have sent WhatsApp messages with the baby’s progress and pictures of scans but it’s not quite the same.
This week we found out that our families will not be able to visit us anytime soon as they live in a risk area in the UK and would need to quarantine following their visit. This has added additional stress and worries at this late stage of pregnancy, and I have found it difficult.
My mind is now focussed on the birth, our newborn and the special time we will spend together getting used to life as a family of three.
A small glimmer of something positive that has come from the pandemic, is that my husband will be around a lot more as he is combining leave and working from home until the new year. I am still hopeful that we will get visitors soon, and I have amazingly supportive friends here in Munich, who I am so grateful for. They even organised a beautiful socially distanced, outdoor baby shower for me in August.
I knew that as a full-time mum living abroad, it was always going to be hard, but Covid has increased my anxieties about motherhood. Of course, support from immediate family would have been amazing, but we have a great midwife who will visit after the baby is born and advice from groups on social media and an online childbirth course have been helpful in this uncertain time.
Helen Butler – Munich, Germany, October 2020