It can be challenging to adapt from going on maternity leave to returning to work full-time, especially during the midst of a pandemic. Here Mum Anna shares her story.

“My second daughter, Isabelle, was born on 29 February 2020. As I googled “leap year baby” after her birth, I had no idea how quickly she would go from a ‘leapling’ to a ‘lockdown’ baby.

Having loved every minute of maternity leave with my first daughter, I was looking forward to the same again. I anticipated months of baby groups, soft play sessions, playdates and coffee meet ups with other mums.

None of that was to be and by Christmas, in a second lockdown, I had to make a decision about when to return to work. By this time, I had attended only a handful of baby groups in person. They were not exactly the relaxing, interactive affairs such classes had been with my first baby – wearing masks, keeping 2m away from anyone else, worrying what other mums would think if my baby got too close to theirs, wiping toys down with antibacterial wipes after every touch. But they were a revelation to Isabelle and a very welcome relief to me after months of home-made baby sensory sessions, shaking bells and light-up balls in Isabelle’s face whilst bellowing nursery rhyme requests to Alexa!

At these groups, aged 7 months, Isabelle met other babies for the first time in her life. On one occasion, a curious little explorer crawled over to Isabelle. Their exchange graduated from bewildered (sitting staring at each other) to intrigued (one-fingered prodding of each other’s faces) to excitedly interactive (patting each other and swapping toys, clapping and laughing as they did so). It was fascinating and emotional to watch.

The ending of baby group meetings by the November lockdown was a huge blow. We hadn’t attended enough for Isabelle’s confidence to have grown sufficiently for her to venture away from me and explore independently. At Christmas, she was 10 months old and had spent only 4 hours away from me since she had been born (back in July, when I had my desperately-needed hair appointment when the salons reopened!). She was still very clingy and would panic if she could not see me. She recoiled from other adults, even her own grandmother. It was against this backdrop that I was deciding when to return to work.


I knew that Isabelle needed social interaction outside of our household but I was worried how traumatic it would be for her, being handed over to a stranger, in a mask, at the door of a building she did not know. I was also anxious about the winter surge in the virus. I was in a fortunate position with nursery because my eldest had been back there since July so I knew what safety measures they had in place and had confidence in them. However, with research about children’s resilience to Covid-19 not applying to babies under 12 months, it was still a riskier place for Isabelle to be than at home with me. I decided to delay my return to work and take as much time off as I could, which in the end was 13 months thanks to Mastercard and a supportive employer!

I think January was a long, hard month for all of us. I wanted to make the most of my last few weeks at home with Isabelle but by then, the novelty and adventure of woodland walks Gruffalo-hunting had long worn off with the advent of the winter rain, wind, snow, mud and darkness. Isabelle was mobile and approaching 1 so less content spending time confined to her pram, especially if her view from it was through a rain-spattered waterproof cover, but too young to engage with groups through Zoom/Facebook. It was getting more difficult to entertain her within the strict parameters of the winter lockdown and, I must admit, I found myself viewing the impending transition to nursery with a little more enthusiasm by this point!

The first nursery drop off at the beginning of March was as I had expected; I had to peel a screaming Isabelle off from around my neck, hand her over and walk away. Having been through this before with my eldest did not make it easier. In fact, Isabelle being a lockdown baby made it a bigger wrench because, as the poem ‘For the Lockdown Babies’ by Gráinne Evans @thebreastofrhymes explains:

“…We were safe and happy, right where we needed to be,

I fed you snuggled in my arms, protecting you was key…”

“You were a lockdown baby,” I’ll tell her when it’s time,

“I was your whole world back then, just as you were mine.

Although I had been craving some “me” time (having not been home alone for over a year) I felt lost without her and spent that day in my empty, silent house crying, feeling guilty for leaving her, mourning that I was not going to be her whole world anymore, comfort-eating chocolate and resisting the urge to ring the nursery every hour to see how she was settling in!

I feel for any parent facing this transition, especially those with firstborns who have to send their baby into a nursery that they have not visited. I can empathise, having been in a similar position in January applying for primary school places for my eldest. It seems that the challenges facing parents in lockdown are endless.

Isabelle and I are 7 weeks into the transition period now. She settled in so much quicker than I had feared she would when all she had known was locked down life. Her tears on drop off were short-lived, the change in routine did not disrupt her sleep at night as it had done with my first, and she is clearly thriving in the company of other children.

I am proud of her resilience in embracing her new world even if, secretly, a little sad at how my little ‘lockdown’ baby has reverted to ‘leapling’ in every sense of the word, not least with how fast she now leaps out of my arms at nursery drop offs!”