Irene Lofthouse in conversation with
Lynn Harrison is a midwife at Bradford Royal Infirmary with twenty-nine years of experience. Irene Lofthouse is a writer, playwright, actor and social historian. Lynn and Irene have been neighbours for twenty-three years.
Note 1: March-May
The day of lockdown in maternity was chaotic. Instructions for re-organising the wards came thick and fast, exhausting us as we cared for fearful mothers and new babies. We were worried, uncertain of the impact on all our lives. Shifts were long with shortages of staff; tension walked the wards. Masks have made communication so difficult. Facial expressions and smiles are hidden; we have to verbalise to develop trust, to reassure women and their partners. More so for those in the red zone, the Covid wards; it’s very draining working there. So is the constant donning and doffing of PPE.
Security means no visitors. This has given new mums time to recover, to really bond with babies; aggression to staff from visitors has been almost eradicated; staff mental health and safety has improved; routines have become more efficient but – we worry about women and babies going back to over-crowded houses, for those identified as carriers. For ourselves and families.
Note 2: May-July
We’ve adapted so easily to distancing, to not being able to hug those close to us. Visiting my aunt back from hospital, I’m risk assessing all the time. Easy to think ‘I’m not doing that’, but if I don’t, who will? Is this about me or her? Making me feel better, being dutiful? Is she at risk when I go; what if I take the virus? Should we leave it to professionals?
Turned the calendar to June, empty page, I’m used to every day being full. Quite a relief in a way. I wonder how we did all those things? Makes you think. Taken to shopping online: really easy to buy anything you want, great selection. No need to shop unless you like it.
Communicated with family more: sharing yoga with son and getting to know him as a young adult; discovering my daughter’s resilience; discussing futures, finding they’re coping in these unsettling times. Not ‘rescuing’ Mum means she’s got stronger links now in her community and looks so well. I’ve enjoyed seeing her development.
Missing choir, singing, the camaraderie; Zoom hasn’t worked for me. Allotment has been brilliant: being able to plant, nurture, grow. I feel for those with no garden or green space.
Note 3: July-August
It’s so confusing the ‘local lockdown’, messages just aren’t clear about who can do what. I feel so sorry for young people with the mess around the exams, the ‘U’ turns, the lack of employment… what’s their future? It’s a worry. I’ve seen a deterioration in my older relatives too over this time, mentally.
Went to Flamborough for a day, it was bliss to be out. Booking a campsite though, nightmare. Sites gone in the blink of an eye. Did have four days in Edale, not the big Sabbatical holiday I’d hoped for, but great to see friends, go walking, talk. Was like there was no Covid, was normal apart from distancing.
Watching my maternity unit on Panorama with Staecy Dooley was so moving. Really proud of the team and Covid mums I knew; showed the nitty gritty of our job. But death of a midwife colleague was shocking; not expected or Covid, and she was so young. Brought reality that people still have other illnesses/conditions, but where are resources for them?
I’m back in the unit in September; will be strange after three months. Never had so much time for me except when on maternity – and then you don’t! Wonder what challenges the next three months will bring.