The birth of a baby is always an exciting time, yet usually scary and emotional too. Imagine then, that baby – a longed-for baby, a dream come true – arriving prematurely, in the midst of a global pandemic, just as the country goes into lockdown. Life just got REALLY tricky…
This is how it happened for our lovely Laura Hardman – owner and chief talent of The Baking Tray, as well as our founder Wendy’s Godsend of a PA – and her husband Rob. Laura and Rob started trying for a baby six years ago, having returned to Cheadle Hulme from London. Laura says Cheadle Hulme ‘felt like the right place’ to bring up a family. Sadly, things were not as simple as that and the couple suffered five lost pregnancies. A miscarriage is always distressing to mum AND dad. To lose five babies must have been devastating. Soul-destroying, even. Yet, somehow, Laura and Rob – outwardly, at least – seemed full of positivity and with smiles for everyone.
Test after test followed, and anyone who has been through it knows how all-consuming, intrusive and invasive this can be. As for many couples who long for children, no stone was left unturned, but still there seemed nothing untoward. To some, this may seem a relief, but people in this situation are usually desperate for an answer; a reason; something to try to fix… The next step was IVF and fortunately Stockport NHS Trust fund two rounds for eligible couples. Not all trusts are the same.
More heartbreak was to come, as that first IVF round resulted in a loss. After much soul-searching, over two more years, Laura and Rob decided to try just once more. The mental, physical, and emotional impact threatened to become overwhelming – this really was last chance saloon. Laura was also under St Mary’s who suggested steroids to be used alongside the IVF.
Perhaps some things are just meant to be, and last August, Laura was thrilled to discover she was expecting. Given what she had been through, it would have been understandable for her to panic and hide herself away. However, Laura says ‘I just knew in my heart that this one would be our miracle.’
Laura’s positivity, determination and empathy continued into pregnancy. Stockport NHS trust were discussing cuts to IVF services – even, possibly, removal. Laura and Rob actively lobbied against this. Following meetings with the Trust and the subsequent public outcry the service will remain. As Laura points out “Thank Goodness. IVF is a lifeline for infertile couples”.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year, with the arrival of baby Hardman getting ever closer.
Laura’s parents live in Dorset, and the plan was for mum to stay for the birth – and for a while after. The whole family were beyond excited. Laura went shopping mad – though superstition meant everything was stored at her parents’ until the 3rd trimester. Once Covid19 started to rear its head, and the news began to escalate, it became obvious that things were still not going to be simple…
At 30 weeks, things took a bit of a turn. Firstly, Laura was admitted to Wythenshawe Maternity Hospital due to reduced foetal movements. There, they discovered that the baby was very small and that the placenta wasn’t functioning correctly. Laura and Rob were told to prepare for an early delivery – maybe even as early as 32 weeks. Until delivery, there would be twice-weekly scans and monitoring.
How stressful, to know that the baby could come at any moment and would be premature AND to hear more and more about Covid. Hospital appointments began to change a little – more sanitisers and hygiene signs – but the couple’s pregnancy worries were actually a welcome distraction from what was going on. Rae was born just 4 weeks early at a petite yet perfect 4lb 3oz.
Rae’s arrival heralded the start of Lockdown. According to Laura, this was both a blessing and a curse. Those first few days at home with a newborn are always a whirlwind of exhaustion and happiness, with little concept of night or day. It was easier to sleep whenever Rae was asleep, with nobody knocking on the door or asking to come round. PJs stayed on and the couple simply ‘got on with things’.
Laura explains “It really did help us to bond because we couldn’t rely on anyone else to help. I know we’ll look back and feel proud. We could hardly wait to take her out in the pram. But she was so small, she felt very vulnerable – and it’s hard to jump out of the way of other pedestrians.”
Laura would like to pay tribute to staff at Wythenshawe Hospital.
“At the time two other local maternity units had to close, and Wythenshawe had to merge ante-natal and post-natal wards into one, in case they had Covid patients. Every bed was full – on the day we left they were 3 beds short. Every single member of staff was phenomenal. Not one showed the unbelievable amount of pressure they were under. They cared for us like we were the only patients in the ward. I will never forget that.”
It’s been very up and down for Rob and Laura since. They desperately wanted to be parents for so long, all their family and friends want to meet her but nobody knows when this will happen.
“We’re missing out on doing some lovely things – like mum and baby groups, going to cafes, and connecting with other new mums as I don’t know many. That can be really tough.”
Laura has longed to be a mum for as long as she can remember. Like most new mums, she was just looking forward to all the little things, going to the park, making new friends, everything most new mums have always taken for granted. There’s been just one visit from the health visitor – Laura and Rob decided to do as much as possible by phone and have weighed Rae on the kitchen scales! The health visitor is happy with her progress.
Rae is now over seven weeks old and has doubled her weight since birth. She loves feeding and loves sleeping (well, like most new babies – in the daytime, anyway…) The weather has been such a blessing. The family have spent a lot of time in the garden and Rae’s beginning to enjoy toys and sounds. Until life returns to normal, she’s been introduced to family and friends via FaceTime.
Everyone’s looking forward to REAL baby cuddles – not least the I Love team and clients. Laura’s looking forward to being back to work as Wendy’s PA – no doubt with Mabel the dog AND Rae in tow! Until then, Laura’s still baking – both for Baking Tray clients AND voluntarily for Helping Hands Bramhall. One day, Rae will know her mummy is supermum. We already think she’s wonder woman!
Laura’s business – The Baking Tray: