I’m writing on Sunday 22 March 2020. This week I worked on Monday night (nearly a week ago so half an eon in covid-19 times) after four days off. I’m part-time so that’s not unusual – well it didn’t used to be.
In those 4 days the UK had changed and I was fully part of the growing wave of worry and concern. We pulled our children out of school a few days before they shut, we dropped all social visits, spent hours trying to log on to supermarket websites, and were glued to the rolling news and statistics coming our way. I felt pretty scared going into the hospital Monday night as I had heard there was at least one confirmed case in our city and surely the hospital would be the epicentre of panic.
I bumped into a couple of colleagues on the way in – no, that’s not the right word because ‘bumping’ implies contact and we didn’t do that. But apart from pushing open doors with their sleeves they seemed their usual selves.
“I found my boyfriend’s stash of pasta and tinned tomatoes today,” said one midwife, “I think he’s losing it.”
“Yeah James is just as bad. I’m just a bit over it to be honest,” replied the other.
Over it! – I thought – Over it! – it’s just the beginning!!! In my usual cowardly way I mentioned that I thought things could get pretty bad.
Thing was, they didn’t disagree. They had heard the same stories that I had from Spain and Italy. They knew we have limited ITU beds and that lots of people were probably going to die and that social distancing was the only way to reduce the death rate.
“But there’s no point getting het up about it,” James’ girlfriend concluded as we finally made our way onto the unit.
Then the shift started and it flowed in the same way all our shifts do. Extra messages about what protective masks and things we needed to wear and other obvious changes in protocol but then it was business as usual. Staffing was a problem (lots of self-isolators) and the people we were caring for had more anxieties but it was actually a lot more relaxing being at work than being at home.
Initially it seemed wrong to me – shouldn’t we all be freaking out a bit more? But yeah, of course. Freaking out is really not helpful. Women need calm and trust in their surroundings to birth. Even when we don’t feel calm we have to fake it.
Maybe having such a long history of underfunding is weirdly helping NHS staff deal with this. We are so used to having a shit time that having an extra crappy thing thrown our way isn’t that terrifying. Or maybe ancient midwives have just been in too many emergency situations to let one more tip them over the edge.
It’s early days so I’m not taking anything for granted. Just to let you know that I’m pretty impressed with my colleagues. Whatever happens they will do their best to get on with it – they might lose it further down the line – perhaps in the future James will discover his girlfriend’s developed a massive crack habit – but for the now they are good.
Sorry if this is a bit meandering….I’m going to be working a bit more than usual but I will try to update when I can…