The coronavirus lockdown of 2020 has been a curious experience. We’ve both been ‘working from home’ for several months, now…
I’m lucky in that the actual day job part of my job as a writer doesn’t depend on any sort of physical presence in my employer’s office. But my wife’s job is often public-facing. She has had to stay at home for ‘shielding’ purposes and so her employers have needed to fashion her a new way of working, and new tasks.
Luckily, my wife has managed to find a rhythm which suits the physical demands of early pregnancy and the needs of her employer.
For me it has gone in fits and starts. Vim and vigour one week. Direction, motivation, determination. Mountains of tasks like water off a duck’s back. And then, other days, I have not a clue where I am or what I’m doing – other than that I don’t want to be doing this…
Are we working from home, or are we living at work?
Finding out that we were going to have a baby gave us a major boost (and focus) during a very difficult moment in our wider family life. Serious illness and major surgery have, unfortunately, dogged my parents this year. Coronavirus itself was added atop the other issues for my Mum, and it almost became too much to believe as real. There will be more.
But, regardless of anything happening outside of our unit of two, experiencing pregnancy under lockdown conditions has been bizarre anyway. We haven’t been able to hug our parents, or be hugged by them. We haven’t been able to share celebrations – Cake! Good cheer! – with our friends. And, of course, due to the stringent regulations in place I was unable to go to the 12-week scan at our local hospital…
However, I did go to a scan with my wife, a few days before her NHS one. We had desperately wanted to be together to share the moment of seeing our child for the first time. So we ‘went private’ by booking ourselves in at an ultrasound clinic which would take our cash.
Putting political beliefs about the health system to one side and going down that private route wasn’t easy. I remember a friend telling me, in a moment of drunken sincerity twenty years ago, that he was struggling a bit because his socialist principles were ‘out of the window’. Completely compromised, comrade, by his parenthood. I don’t know if he ever recalibrated and was able to forgive himself. I would presume so.
But change, eh? Your child is bigger than you.
The prospect of this difficult new equation is something I’ve thought about, particularly in light of going private for the scan, and I’m sure I’ll address it in another post some day. That is, when and if I ever get my head around it.
A fortnight ago my wife enjoyed ‘doing herself up a bit’ for the first time in weeks, and put on one of her favourite tea-dresses (“obviously preggo but still cool”). We’d arranged to have a socially-distanced meet-up with some friends we’ve not seen in several months. Friends we don’t actually see for weeks at a time under normal circumstances, but who we are in touch with regularly. Friends we love to chew the fat and ‘knock about’ with for a few hours here and there.
The plan, hatched by my wife and her counterpart in the other married couple, was to order some critically-acclaimed gourmet burgers from a pub which was still servicing a take-out menu, in a town about thirty miles away. We’d pick the food up and then go and sit at the marina by the river and eat and talk and laugh and generally feel energised by the spark of electricity you only get from being with other human beings.
You can make as many ‘phone calls as you like, or Facebook message all day every day, and you can FaceTime ‘til your face falls off and time no longer has any meaning. But you just cannot beat being next to a real person (even if that is at the required two metres remove).
We drove for half an hour and listened to a new album I’d been saving just for this journey. It felt liberating to get out and about in a non-supermarket shopping way for the first time in what seemed like ever.
I collected our order. Even though it was deserted, it was a strange and beautiful thing being in an old pub for a few moments, while I was waiting. We drove to the marina. And, at the river, the weather swindled us.
After a week and more of sun there came rain. More rain than you could shake a rainmaker’s stick at. Bleak rain. Biblical rain. Incessant rain. CGI rain. Rain R Us. You want rain? We got rain! Constant rain. Endless rain.
Rain, rain, rain.
The sky was there above us; low, black and forceful. We sat and ate our food, them in their car and us in ours. My windscreen reminded me of being in a car-wash with my Dad in his Ford Cortina in the 1970s.
I took the photographs which accompany this piece. We all messaged each other. LOLs and gifs and memes and chat and pictures of our food… There was, after a while, a break in the clouds and a solitary precise beam of sunlight appeared over yonder. We got out of our vehicles, and milled around awkwardly for less than a minute under slate grey skies. And then they opened again.
We made the collective decision to abandon. That the evening had become a bit of a write off. That we’d – ho ho – take a rain-check. Hail fellow well met, and we’ll meet again some sunny day…
Best laid plans, and all that. Things going sideways.
I have an inkling that being a parent might sometimes feel like this.