Being a new mum is tough in itself, with endless diaper changes, sleepless nights, and a new development to deal with every few weeks (yes I’d know, being a mum to a 10 month old myself!).
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I spoke to a couple of other new mums, Ash and Binita. Here is what they had to say about dealing with some unique Covid-related problems added to the general stresses of being a new parent.
My name is Ash and I was born and raised in HK, although left to the UK to study and have lived in a number of places since. I came back to Hong Kong about 2-3 years ago with my husband.
My daughter, Z, is now a very active 13 month old baby/toddler. She is fearless, persistent, hilarious, adventurist, a very quick learner and a joy to be around. Although she is awful at sleeping and I haven’t slept in almost a year and a half! Motherhood is a crazy adventure and I have learned more about myself and about life in this past year than I have in a long time!
In Pic: Ash’s husband with Baby Z
Being a new mum was great but with the early waves of Covid, it was a confusing time. Lots of my ‘non-essential’ appointments at the hospital were canceled, as were all my antenatal classes at Queen Mary. I was desperately trying to collect information online and thankfully found a couple of wonderful due date whatsapp groups that have been amazingly helpful.
At the time (my due date was end of March), husbands were not allowed to be in the delivery room, and as I was suffering from prenatal anxiety, this wasn’t an option for me, so we decided to go private for the birth. My husband also insisted on being there so the difficult decision was made. Difficult because we didn’t have insurance and would have to pay out of pocket.
Baby Z's first birthday and our family's experience in Government Quarantine...
We recently celebrated Baby Z's first birthday. In the lead up to her first birthday, I was busy planning her party. One day, I received a call to say that we were considered close contacts from a playgroup class we went to. We were all put into the Penny’s Bay quarantine center.
At first it was really hard, there were no fridges to keep food fresh, no baby supplies for Z, no food suitable for her age, and the room was not baby proofed. But with some lobbying from other parents in the same boat and from the amazing playgroup bosses and women who run the HK quarantine support group, we managed to get a fridge and some baby proofing materials.
In the end we had to spend Z’s first birthday at the quarantine center, but I was so thankful that my husband was with me to celebrate. We were given a small cake and some toys by awesome friends and family before we went in, and we did our best to make the day special.
Baby Z with her birthday cake at Penny’s Bay
From going to office, the new mum's journey into social entrepreneurship...
As if all that was not enough, I left my job whilst pregnant in my third trimester so I could spend time with my little one. I looked for ways to work from home. Being a mum has opened my eyes to how much more waste there is in creating a family, and how it threw off my attempt to balance a waste free lifestyle. I was already running a monthly freecycle booth in Mui Wo, and I am a huge advocate of living in a circular economy, so this lead me to recently launching www.gatheredhk.com, a pre-loved baby and young child clothing store. We run on clothing donations and donate a percentage of our profits to HK based charities. You can find us on instagram @gathered.hk :) Advice to new covid-era parents...
Honestly the best advice is to take one day at a time. It can be so overwhelming some days but babies are all about phases, so just hang in there! Also take any help offered to you, parenthood is no time for ego and misplaced pride.
~ Binita ~
I’m Binita - bollywood dance instructor, maths tutor and mummy to a very happy 9 month old baby girl. My husband and I moved over to Hong Kong from London five years ago, having fallen in love with the city in 2014 whilst attending our friends’ wedding celebrations.
The biggest issue for us having a baby during this pandemic was that our parents couldn’t fly to Hong Kong to be with their first grandchild and offer the usual pre- and post-birth family support. However, we are incredibly lucky to have a fantastic helper who joined our family during my third trimester, and helped us get everything ready for the baby’s arrival.
Travel & Quaratine with the baby...
Due to a family emergency, I booked a last minute flight to the UK with my baby girl (only 5months old at the time) last December. I’d planned to spend just two weeks with family in London, followed by two weeks in HK hotel quarantine. However we arrived just in time for a national UK lockdown and a shock UK-HK flight ban (which is inexplicably still in place four months later). My husband’s flight to join us was repeatedly cancelled, so he never made it over to London. So I was faced with having to spend 3 weeks alone with my baby in Dubai (one of the few places that would still accept travellers from UK) just in order to re-enter Hong Kong where I still had to do 3 weeks hotel quarantine! Thankfully the baby coped much better than I'd feared with the long-haul travel, constant changes in environment and hotel-living for six weeks. The biggest impacts of the unexpected travel and extended hotel-living on the baby were major sleep regression and delayed crawling (due to very limited space in hotel rooms).
Binita’s baby girl during hotel quarantine
I packed way too much and regretted it!! would advise those about to quarantine with a baby to pack just a week of the essentials - as bulky items like nappies, wipes, formula and food pouches could be bought and delivered via platforms like HKTVMall. One of the major bores of quarantine was the constant hand-washed laundry that a weaning baby generates, so I’m tempted to get a portable washing machine delivered from Taobao if we need to go through quarantine again. Depending on the season of your travels/ quaratine, you might also need a heater or a fan. We were given a portable heater by the hotel that helped keep the room warm in winter, and also helped dry the never-ending laundry! I also bought a specialist SAD light therapy lamp to combat the downsides of being locked in a hotel room with no direct sunlight for 3 weeks. Thankfully the baby was constantly entertained by all the new toys gifted to us by friends and family in London. Most quarantine hotel rooms don’t have a bathtub, so we had to bring in a travel tub for the baby - which also provided some much-needed amusement each day
Advice to new covid-era parents...
The advice I would give to new mums during this pandemic is to seek other mums and build a tribe. We are lucky to have made so many new mummy & baby friends in our neighbourhood, despite the complete lack of antenatal classes where one would normally make their due date mummy friends. When daily cases have been zero or low single digits, our babies have been able to benefit from small group playdates at home and in the park - something that would be too risky in other countries where the virus has been out of control and outdoor mask-wearing is minimal. Overall, I’m so grateful that we finally have our miracle baby girl and that we have built a support network from scratch despite the pandemic. Best of luck to all you new mums out there!
A big thanks to Ash and Binita for sharing their experiences about being a new mum during Covid times. On the bright side, we will definitely have some amazing stories to share with our little ones when they grow up!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there!