'As a pregnant woman there's no rulebook of how to feel or what to do right now'

For most of us, this is a time of huge concern. We worry about our friends, our families, even ourselves. We’re unable to see those that matter, to take their advice and use their guidance.

So, imagine having those restrictions placed upon you when you’re not only caring for yourself, but your unborn child too. In a time of uncertainty, concern and a range of different emotions, who can pregnant women use as their support structure? Melissa Howard has the answer.

“I’m 24 weeks pregnant now with my first and I really struggled at the beginning, when I hit the stereotypical morning sickness and then all of the changes and all of the emotions that happened to the body," she said. "Even as a mindset coach, who has got over a lot of mental health issues in the past, I kind of thought ‘what is this doing to me?’ and it floored me for two and a half months.

“I had to learn new skills to get through this next stage of my life and I thought ‘when all this was kicking off with Covid-19, there’s going to be other people who haven’t got the skills that I had to begin with who are going to be really struggling, probably physically, emotionally and from a mental perspective as well because everything that you would normally lean on, has now been taken away.”

So Melissa decided to create a group on Facebook called ‘Bump2Birth’, where all expectant mums can gather to rant, rave or simply have their questions answered.

“I wanted to get a place where we can bring other women together and say ‘we haven’t got a rulebook of how to feel or what to do in this situation, let’s figure it out together as a support group.’ It’s corona-free talk, we don’t have updating guidelines, we don’t talk about that.

“What we talk about is what we can actually focus on and I think just being able to be in that free space is actually really quite good for the ladies as well, because there’s an expectation that when you speak to someone virtually, they say ‘how are you doing because you’re pregnant you must feel?’ And even if they’re not feeling that, you automatically think ‘oh, I feel guilty. Should I be worried? Should I be really fearful? Because I actually feel quite empowered’.

“It’s just helping other people to have a support group to say ‘I get where you are. It’s not great. We can get through it together’.”

The group isn’t just a chatroom either. Melissa, along with others, have themes for different days and set different challenges to keep the members entertained and involved, should they wish to be. There’s no pressure to join in though, simply being part of the community is good enough.

“I just want it to be something that women can come to and just feel a bit of peace. Even if it’s for a split second, or they can laugh, or think ‘God I feel like that too, I’m so glad somebody else is going through that’ in a non-morbid way! I’ve kind of put a ring fence around it for the ladies to say ‘this is a safe place for you to talk, and for you to vent and to feel’."

What about when Covid-19 is over and normality returns, will the group disappear? Absolutely not, insists Melissa, who has a clear message for those with a bump.

“What I’ve said to the group and the ladies is ‘you let me know what you want to see and what you want to go through in this group.’ It will be open for as long as it needs to be, as in ‘if you’re still finding it useful in a year’s time, it’ll still carry on.’

“When this is all over, think about what you want your hero story to be. So, when you think about this in five, ten, fifteen years’ time, do you really want it to be a story of how you were so fearful and were paralysed and everything sort of fell apart or do you want your hero story to be ‘I actually did the unthinkable, and gave birth during this?'

"This is probably a one-off situation that is going to happen, so if you can go through this, you can go through everything. You can get through it, you will get through it, and the more we can tell ourselves that and work through that, the better.”

If you would like to join the group click here or just go to Facebook and search Bump2Birth.

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