Having a baby during lockdown has presented challenges for new parents that could never have been planned for. Below is an account of a mother's story of how video interaction guidance (VIG) was able to shine a positive light on her time as a new mum amidst the challenges of lockdown.
*All identifying personal details have been changed.
Alice*, a 27-year professional accountant, had her baby in February. Pregnancy had been great, the birth was easy - well, as easy as birth could be. The hospital sent them home the next day and the midwives came, then the health visitors. Becoming a mother was a shock, the formerly tidy house seemed a mess, days melted into nights. Sleep-deprived, Alice wondered what she was doing, and if she got things right. Helen* was crying a lot, and Alice wondered if she even liked her. She was not sure she was cut out to be a mum. Feeding was a struggle to begin with, but eventually Alice and baby Helen got the hang of it. They started to get to know and love each other.
Then COVID-19 struck and Alice’s dad fell ill; he ended up staying in hospital for 3 weeks. She had a sympathetic husband, but he was working from home, and rather traditional - she said he could not really help. Nor were they used to talking about feelings, let alone difficult ones. Alice was literally left at home holding the baby, not knowing if her dad would live or die. Her mother lived away and could not visit. Anxiety levels shot up. In addition, every service closed. There were no groups nor children centres; Alice was discouraged to come to the GP practice. She was at home without support from family or friends.
It seemed like a grey curtain had fallen and life was bleak. Still, Alice soldiered on, feeling she had no right to complain. When she spoke to the health visitor on the phone though she broke down.
For the first time, she acknowledged that she felt she was not coping. She thought she was a bad mum.
She wanted to get things right but did not know how. The health visitor referred Alice and Helen to a community interest company, established, with the explicit aim of supporting parents and babies in the 1001 critical days (from conception to age two) using video interaction guidance (VIG).
The practitioner met with Alice online, it was a relief for mother, Alice to acknowledge she was feeling sad and not at all as happy as she had hoped she would be. The practitioner suggested VIG. This is when the practitioner films mother (or father) and baby, then edits out the best moments to share with the parent in the following session. The filming can be done face to face or online.
When Alice saw herself and Helen for the first time she became tearful, she said she was amazed. They looked as if they were in tune with each other, when she had, until then, felt she and Helen did not get on well at all. "I am not sure what I was expecting, but this was a bit of an eye-opener," she said. Seeing on screen, how Helen responded to her, and vice versa, it looked like the relationship worked - that she was getting it right; when inside Alice had felt that she was doing everything all wrong.
Over the course of two months Alice and the practitioner met for a total of seven sessions, they filmed three times and looked at selected moments three times.
This is what Alice said reflecting on the VIG work:
"In day to day things, you get carried away and you easily miss these special moments. When you stop and look, you can see how much of a strong relationship you have. This reaffirms how much love there are both ways. When you see yourself and your baby from the outside, it makes you more confident that you are doing things right. It is hard to be a parent; you don’t get breaks. But seeing the moments when we look at each other smiling or recognizing how I am sensitive to her, and follow her lead...I don’t even notice I do that...it gives me confidence that I am doing the right thing as a parent."
Alice received a copy of the best moments to keep, and she was able to share those with her husband and with her wider family, and later still, she will show them to Alice.
Lockdown is easing now, and Alice and Helen have joined a walk and talk group of mothers and babies in their neighbourhood. They are doing well.
If you feel you and your baby have been affected by lockdown and you are looking for help consider working with a therapist.