WOAH BABY: What a time to be born
HAVING a baby can be stressful enough without the threat of a looming pandemic changing everything.
However, for Grafton couple Maddy Richey and Asher Cribb, they've now got another beautiful baby daughter and some much-needed time to themselves.
Ms Richey's due date was on April 15, and working at Grafton Base Hospital's emergency department, she got a first-hand glimpse at what would happen when new procedures came in place.
"The talk at work was that it was going to get to a point where there were going to be restrictions and a lot of changes," she said.
"There was a lot of strategic planning about what to do, and I guess it made it realistic for me.
"We weren't sure what was going to happen."
Scheduled to go on maternity leave when she reached 36 weeks, cold symptoms around 34 weeks meant she had to stay home and didn't go back.
"It was a funny ending, there was no big last day, and I didn't get to say goodbyes to anyone," Ms Richey said. "I couldn't come in one day, and couldn't go back after that."
Soon after, the hospital announced stricter safety measures and changes in maternity rules, including only allowing one support person at the time of birth.
"I think the hardest part was when we found out about the visiting hours and the support people, it made me really anxious," she said.
"We'd planned to have mum to come in and out and family members to be around.
"We also wanted to have my four-year-old daughter there in the early stages."
Restrictions tightened further only to allow one visitor for one hour a day, and Ms Richey said the thought of being alone for long periods if she had to stay was an anxious one.
"From a professional viewpoint I understood why they were doing the restrictions, and I'm very pro-people staying at home," she said. "I'm still very wary; we might not have seen the worst yet.
"But it was hard, especially for me not being able to have my daughter there, especially if I had to stay."
However, despite the concern, Ms Richey said the forced isolation led to a calm time before her birth, something she said was almost a blessing in disguise.
"It was really nice to have those five weeks," she said. "Asher started working from home, and he was around, and it was nice to have that time to ourselves. We had time to get everything ready as opposed to just having everything happen at once."
With Asher as her nominated support person, and her mother and family who had already been isolating for care, baby Zahli came into the world two days early. "We had no risk factors, and they were happy for us to labour at home at first," Ms Richey said.
"We went in around 9pm on Sunday, and she was born at 3am.
"It was a very calm and a nice time. The midwives were wonderful, and it was a nice environment having that intimate, quiet space as opposed to the rush of all the visitors."
And true to her plan before she went in, Ms Richey was back home by 10.30am that morning, seven hours after having given birth.
A few weeks past the birth, Ms Richey said it had been hard not to properly introduce their new bundle of joy to family and friends, with social media getting a solid work out to keep in contact.
"But there's been a lot of positives as well," she said. "It's been nice to have that time at home together and not be out and about rushing and dragging her in and out of cars.
"It's been nice for us to bond and get her settled into home.
And while they may have been alone at home, Ms Richey said the support they had received in other ways had made it a special time for them.
"We have had really good support before and after the birth from the midwives, particularly the Aboriginal Maternal Infant Health Service who adapted how they delivered their care really well and we never felt that was compromised in any way," she said.
"Also even though we haven't been able to see many people we have had a lot of family and friends reach out dropping off home made meals and juices, picking up groceries for us, sending gifts in the mail and checking in more regularly which we have been so grateful for and has made this time a lot easier for us as well.
"I think having the ability to socialise taken away from us has really reinforced the value of our friends, family and connection in general and everyone has really gone out of their way to make it a special time for our family regardless of everything else that is going on."