For so many of us, COVID-19 has thrown years of careful plans into chaos. Holidays cancelled, savings obliterated, career objectives put on hold. For millennial women, these lost years have also created mayhem for our parenting plans. At a time when the window of motherhood can be so finite and fixed, stripping away two years feels like an obliteration of choice.
We spoke to six Australian women about how their plans for motherhood have changed during the pandemic.
Zoe, 27, married
We were originally planning to wait a while longer but decided to move forward on kids during Sydney’s second lockdown when it became clear that travel plans were just not going to happen.
It [lockdown] also kind of changed my perspective on what was important — all I have wanted over this time is my family and friends, so things like whether my grandparents would be alive to see their great-grandchildren started to matter a bit more.
I’m now 12 weeks pregnant, which has really turned this lockdown around. It’s been a genuinely lovely opportunity to give good news and a surprise to those who we have told. I’m hoping this nightmare is over by March 2022, but we’ll see.
Sally, 30, long-term relationship
Prior to COVID-19, I always considered parenthood something I would be happy to undertake at any time, if it happened. Now I’m not so sure.
I no longer want to have kids in the next few years, and I’ve gone back on birth control. I’m afraid to have a baby during a time where there is the possibility my partner won’t be able to accompany me to medical appointments or even a birth and when I won’t be able to feel the support of my community.
After spending the better part of two years in lockdown, the last thing I can possibly imagine wanting is to go back into another sort of lockdown by caring for a new baby. Seeing how challenging it has been for parents, in particular mothers, to provide love, care, safety, support, education, a social life and so much more to kids over the last 18 months, in addition to working really shines a light on how much still falls on the shoulders of women without adjustment to other expectations such as performance at work.
I also feel that I have lost two really significant years of life — the ones I had hoped to fill with travel, partying, work and other things that are more difficult when you have a baby. After spending so much time in limbo where nothing seems to have changed, I fear having lost the last of my youth.
Samantha, 32, long-term relationship
My partner and I were meant to be starting the process of having a baby this month but decided to put it off because of Melbourne’s lockdown. As a same-sex couple going through the sperm donation and IVF process we’ll need a lot of doctors’ visits, and we’re worried about appointments and moving around the city during this period. We also don’t want to take up important time in the hospital if they need to focus on COVID.
Six lockdowns also means that we’re also not in the physical or mental shape that we want to be in to fall pregnant. We’re also really burnt out and just don’t have the energy right now.
Some of our friends have had COVID babies and have found it hard to socialise their kids, and that’s something also we’ve discussed. I think the isolation with a newborn would just be so hard.
So now we’ve decided to start this process next year when things hopefully clear up.
Amy*, 34, married
A month before the pandemic hit Australia in 2020, we moved to New Zealand with our first child, who was three at the time, and planned to try for a second.
I found out I was pregnant during New Zealand’s first lockdown, when we were isolating. Because of the situation, I didn’t see a doctor until I was 11 weeks pregnant. This meant that when it came time to find a midwife, the majority were booked out and the one I did find I didn’t really connect with. Unfortunately, that pregnancy didn’t go well, and my waters broke at 19 weeks. In the lead up to this, I didn’t feel great and was worried something was wrong but because of the poor relationship, I didn’t feel comfortable pushing my midwife for more support.
Once the waters broke, I experienced four weeks of “watch and wait” limbo to see if I would miscarry or get an infection. Throughout all of this, my parents couldn’t be with me because the Australian borders were closed. For a period of time the conversations around me were life or death and it was a difficult situation to be in without my parents close by. That pregnancy, unfortunately, ended in a medical termination because the baby’s health had become compromised and there was also risk to my life if I were to continue with the pregnancy.
After investigation, I was told that given my first healthy pregnancy and child it was unlikely to happen again. Six months later we fell pregnant again, but at 13 weeks, the same thing happened.
Three months after the second loss we visited Sydney, which meant putting health investigations into my pregnancies on hold. Since arriving, NSW has gone into lockdown and so now we’re stuck here with no estimated date of return.
I was hoping to wait until we were back in New Zealand to begin trying to conceive again, but I’m unsure whether to wait or not. Our next pregnancy needs to be carefully planned and being home in Auckland with specialists who know my history is a crucial factor in this.
Because of the traumatic time I’ve had, I also feel afraid to have to go through it all again without my Australian family. Knowing that they can be nearby if I need them is really important to me.
Alicia, 35, in a relationship
I met my partner, Danny, in February 2020. It was one of those love at first sight scenarios. We only had three weeks together before he moved to Perth while I lived in Melbourne, and we were separated for over six months before we saw each other in person again. During those months apart we discussed everything — including both wanting to have kids.
In December, we both relocated to Canberra and moved in together, and since then the conversations have become more frequent. I think the pandemic has made our relationship move ahead at lightning speed. Moving in with someone after only knowing them face to face for about a month would have seemed insane to me pre-pandemic, but here we are, and I have to say so far it’s going pretty well.
We’re thinking we’ll start trying next year. Danny is a few years younger than me, but I’m feeling those biological clock pressures. I also have polycystic ovaries and I’m concerned about the complications that may cause. We both want to get permanency in our jobs so that I can get maternity leave and Danny is a bit more established in his career, but my age is a big consideration and I’m thinking about throwing caution to the wind and just going for it. We’ve also spoken about potentially becoming foster parents in the future, as Danny is Torres Strait Islander and fostering is a very common part of his culture.
Lorrae, 38, married
I found out that I was pregnant in January 2020, just a few months after I’d had a miscarriage, so it was a lot. At the start, it wasn’t too bad, but as time went on being pregnant was an incredibly different experience from what I had thought it would be like. All of my doctors’ appointments were done over telehealth and I didn’t have an in-person appointment until I was at 28 weeks.
When it came to labour, I felt so supported by the midwives, but due to restrictions in place at the time, my partner had to leave the hospital a couple of hours after the birth of our son and was only allowed to see us for two hours per day while we stayed in hospital for four days. It was an incredibly difficult thing to go through; having to say goodbye each day was nearly unbearable. I felt very alone in a hospital room with a new baby and no one to share it with. The midwives were brilliant, but they can’t replace your partner and family.
On the upside, being in lockdown meant that we didn’t feel like we were missing out on much of the normal life stuff that would have been happening otherwise. And it was also just really nice to have so much time at home with my partner and new baby. I know that wouldn’t have been the case if we weren’t in lockdown, so I’m grateful for the extra time.
Given it took us three years to fall pregnant with our first child we decided to casually begin trying again earlier this year. But it turned out I fell pregnant very easily and now we’re expecting our second baby in December. So I’m not just having one pandemic baby, but two.
*Name has been changed.