A year on: Lockdown baby and family set to finally celebrate

Louisa Mara-Grace Toiaivao will celebrate her first birthday this weekend surrounded by her grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins – something that was not allowed much of last year.

Known affectionately as “Isa”, she was born on Saturday, March 21 – two days after New Zealand officially shut its borders and the same day the Government introduced an emergency alert level system in a bid to fight Covid-19.

Mum Fa’amanu Toiaivao still remembers being told about the new lockdown measures hours after giving birth at Middlemore Hospital.

“I was freaking out because everything was scary and all that information was overwhelming.

“My sister was with me and she was saying: ‘Oh my gosh, this is what has come out. Level 4 means no school, no work and you can’t go out’.

“They were already putting restrictions in at the hospital, so I was lucky to have given birth when I did, because my husband and my mum were able to be with me.”

Although Toiaivao and husband Vini were first-time parents, they decided not to go to a birthing unit as planned because of the lockdown announcement.

Mum and baby left the hospital on March 23 – the same day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would announce that the country would be moving into alert level 4 in 48 hours.

Wanting her parents to meet her first child, Toiaivao spent the next day at their home in Takanini. The day after that, reality set in.

“My brother came home and said: ‘You have to go home by midnight. It’s the rule – you have to stay in your own bubble’.

'At first, we were scared to take her outside'

“Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see my parents for four weeks after just having my baby – I think that’s what made me cry more. I wanted my mum to be there.

“We were in the car going down the driveway when I started sobbing. I just cried.”

Because coronavirus was still fairly new to the world, they were extra careful with their newborn daughter.

“At first, we were scared to take her outside or for anything to touch her. We didn’t take her anywhere for a long time”.

Toiaivao described the emotional rollercoaster of those weeks in lockdown and although acknowledging the help she received from her in-laws – with whom they shared a bubble- it was hard to be away from her own parents during that time.

“We were both learning, as first-time parents, and I’d get emotional just with a new baby and then with everything happening around us.

“My dad called me one time and I couldn’t answer the phone because I was crying. I just text him: ‘Sorry, dad, just busy. I’ll call you back soon’.”

Like many Kiwis, they settled into a new normal and started to connect with loved ones via a weekly Sunday games night and tuning into church services via Facebook live streams.

But this year, little Louisa will get to see everyone. She will be treated to two celebrations at two bubbles – with her family in Papatoetoe for lunch and then dinner at her grandparents’ house in Takanini.

“We’re keeping it lowkey for our lockdown baby,” her mum laughs.

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