Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Dear well-intentioned people who have never been pregnant during a global pandemic,
I know you don’t understand. How could you? There’s no possible way for you to understand what it’s like to be pregnant during a global pandemic, because you simply haven’t been through it yourself.
And I’m happy for you that your past pregnancies were not affected by the threat of a brand new virus that has shaken the entire world in so many aspects, from economics, to daily routines, to public health.
If you’ve yet to become pregnant, I’m hopeful for you that when you do become pregnant one day, this pandemic will be far behind us, and you will be able to fully enjoy all the most wonderful parts of your pregnancy, untainted by the doom and gloom of a worldwide threat.
If you have never been and will never be pregnant, I’m grateful for your attempts to understand those who are right now. But despite your best efforts, there’s just no way you could ever really get it - not just the difficulties that pregnancy can bring, but also all those struggles compounded by such an unstable, chaotic environment.
I know you mean well when you try to say nice things. You’re trying to make me feel better about what’s happening in the world, and what I’m going through as I grow a new life.
You say, “Just be grateful! There are so many people who can’t even get pregnant. You’re lucky.” You’re right, I should be grateful. And I am. But that doesn't stop me from questioning at times whether bringing a defenseless little baby into this world right now is the best thing for her. Even though I didn’t at all foresee all this craziness when I first got pregnant...
You ask, in a concerned tone, “Aren’t you stressed being pregnant during a pandemic?” Yes, I am. But I can’t tell you that. I have to act strong. I have to be strong for my baby. I’m going to be her MOMMY, and mommies are the safe place for their babies to hide from the world. But when this reminder comes up, that I should be extra stressed right now, I wonder if I will have the strength to bring myself and my baby girl through all of this.
You ask me details about what it will be like at my next prenatal appointment, when I give birth in the hospital, whether my husband will be there with me… and I wish I could give you a for-sure answer as much as I wish I could comfort myself with that kind of certainty. But I can’t. Because I don’t know. Throughout this entire pregnancy, there have been so many unknowns.
Pregnancy always comes with unknowns, and plenty of them. It doesn’t really need a pandemic piled on top of it. But when those two events align in a woman’s life, as they have in mine, this is what it’s like. If you want to know what I’d really like to tell you when you ask how I’m doing, how I’m feeling - here it is.
I’ll start at the beginning. When I first got pregnant, the world had not yet erupted. Things were still “normal” - how odd of a thought that is. My husband came with me to my first prenatal appointment. But then, very quickly, the pandemic took off like wildfire and the world was turned upside down in a week.
At my next few appointments, I had to go in alone. Do you know what it’s like to go to a prenatal appointment in your first trimester of your first pregnancy, wrestling with the horrendous thought of, “what if there’s no heartbeat?” That news would be awful enough in any circumstance - but imagine receiving that news, all alone.
That is how I felt at those appointments. Completely alone, and there was nothing my husband could do about it, even though this child is just as much his as she is mine. Yet he was denied access to those critical early appointments.
I heard her heartbeat for the first time without him. I was so grateful that her strong little heartbeat was there, but still, there was something so sad about experiencing that by myself.
I made it through my first trimester, and felt relieved that I was mostly out of the woods. My chances of miscarriage were so much lower now. But what about this new virus? What if I got it? How would it affect me while I’m pregnant - and worse yet, how would it affect my baby?
I worried about this nearly everyday. I tried to put on a front, so you probably didn’t notice the anxious thoughts swirling in my mind. But when even the medical professionals at my prenatal appointments couldn’t give me an answer as to how this virus could affect a pregnant woman and her baby - and they straight up told me “we don’t know” - that was scary.
They’re supposed to know. They’re supposed to be reassuring, right? I wanted them to just tell me that I was safe, that my baby was safe, or that at least they had reliable treatments available in case I contracted this disease. But even those highly intelligent people who had built their careers on medicine and health couldn’t give me any reassurance. They were still in the dark, too.
I held on to hope, though. I tried my very best to stay positive through all of this and focus on getting ready for my baby. I was met by store closures, supply shortages, and shipping delays. When even the most basic household necessities, like toilet paper, were hard to find, you can only imagine the clouds of uncertainty that hung over me during such a normally happy and exciting time. But I pressed on.
(Check out this related post about how I coped with the struggles of the pandemic while preparing for a baby:
I was looking forward to my baby shower. We planned it hoping that things would be better by the time it came around. This pandemic couldn’t possibly last much longer, we thought. But when it came time for my baby shower, which I had been excited about for months, covid cases started to soar. My baby shower had to be switched to a drive-by, and many people simply didn’t come because it “wasn’t worth it.” I felt like I wasn’t worth the hassle for most.
But for the few who did come, they will never know how much it meant to me. I know it takes a lot of time out of the day to drive somewhere just to drop off a gift and say “hi” through a mask, but it means a lot. If you’ve never been pregnant during a pandemic, I know you don’t understand that. You say I should still be grateful that I even had a shower, and that I still got so many gifts.
What you don’t understand is that it wasn’t about the gifts. It was about wanting to have the experience of having a baby shower, with a cute theme, and a cake, and games. When all those things are taken away at the last minute and replaced by people driving past in cars, and not even getting to see me open their gift… it’s just sad. It’s a sign that things aren’t right in the world. Sometimes I just need a minute to grieve that.
(Wondering what you'll actually need for your newborn? Check out this post next:
After my baby shower, I started thinking more about delivering my baby. I started hearing horror stories from women around the U.S., sharing how they were forced to deliver their babies alone, without their partner at the hospital. Due to severe overcrowding in some hospitals, zero visitors or support people were allowed for deliveries.
Do you know what it’s like to bear the thought that your husband may not be allowed in the delivery room, to comfort and reassure you throughout labor? Do you know what it’s like to consider that your baby’s father may not be able to meet his child until days after the birth? How about the thought of your baby possibly being separated from you if you have covid yourself when you give birth?
My hospital has not yet adopted these policies, but just the thought that things could worsen at any time, and they could decide to do so, is terrifying. After seeing the upheaval this virus has caused in our nation in the past months, nothing seems out of the realm of possibility.
While my hospital hasn’t adopted such extreme policies, there are still many ways that my delivery will be affected by this pandemic. For one, I have been told that nitrous oxide will not be an option for pain management during my labor. Simply no longer an option.
There have been no in-person prenatal classes, hospital tours, or Infant CPR classes (which I had been highly recommended to take at the very beginning of my pregnancy). The CPR classes aren’t even offered in a virtual format, and when I called my hospital to ask if that was an option, I was told that I’d be taught Infant CPR if my baby ended up being in the NICU. So basically, if she’s not, I better hope she never needs it! Not having that kind of reassurance of a basic Infant CPR training makes me feel even more anxious and uncertain about the newborn phase ahead of me. Can you imagine being denied life-saving knowledge because of an unprecedented pandemic? If you can’t, I’m glad you haven’t had to.
Due to the pandemic, I was recently told I’ll be delivering at a different hospital, which I have not stepped foot in throughout my entire pregnancy. I have no choice in it. Delivering at my originally chosen hospital is simply not an option anymore. I know you probably don’t get why that’s a big deal if you’ve never had it happen to you, but my hospital has given me a sense of security in all this madness. I am familiar with it. I trust it. And now, I’ll be bringing my baby into the world somewhere else - somewhere unfamiliar.
I’ve been told that I’ll have to wear a mask while any nurses or midwives are in my delivery room. I have done lots of breathing practices to prepare for birth - but wearing a mask while trying to breathe in labor seems nearly impossible. Would you want a piece of fabric covering your mouth and nose as you writhe in pain and gasp for breath? Would you appreciate being expected to be with-it enough to put a mask on, take it off, put it on again at the right times while handling contractions for the first time in your life?
Perhaps even worse than the thought of me having to wear a mask during labor is that I have never once seen my Midwife’s smile. I have no idea what the bottom half of her face even looks like. My very first prenatal appointment was with a Nurse Practitioner, and after that I have not seen a single smile, even from a nurse, at my prenatal appointments. Smiles are powerful. Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve missed them.
The closer I get to giving birth, the more I wonder if a home birth would be a better option. Covid cases are once again soaring, and I fear going into the hospital. I fear having the virus unknowingly when I go in, or getting it during my time there and passing it to my tiny baby. Can you imagine feeling so afraid of entering the hospital, a place that used to be seen as safe and sterile and now feels more like a warzone, that you’d take on all the risks of delivering without medical assistance? Now my husband would never allow this, but the thought still crosses my mind frequently. And that’s something that someone who hasn’t been pregnant during a pandemic will never understand.
My baby girl could be here any day now. I am 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant as I write this. And I don’t know whether to hope she comes now, or hope she comes late, because I don’t know if this will get any better or any worse in the next few weeks. I don’t know if the covid curve will flatten or soar in the near future. All I hope is that my baby is born safe and healthy, and we somehow make it through this. Right now, all we have are unknowns upon unknowns.
I want to be happy and excited for my baby’s arrival, and I really truly am. But I’m also silently struggling everyday to hold it together, to not come across as ungrateful, to not take this precious gift of new life for granted.
I’ve been staying home, isolated. I don’t want to risk being exposed to this virus before my delivery. It’s lonely at times. Especially since much of my pregnancy has been spent alone. I’m glad that I’ve been able to stay at home and stay safe, but that doesn't mean it’s been easy. It’s actually been really hard. This whole pregnancy, I’ve been waiting for us to turn the corner on this virus, and it hasn’t happened yet. We don’t know how long this will drag on.
Which makes me wonder, how should I handle visitors once my baby girl is here? If you’ve never been pregnant during a pandemic, you don’t know how stressful it is to think of not only being a new parent with a fragile baby to protect, but also having this new threat that we don’t know much about yet looming over you. Babies’ immune systems are underdeveloped, and they can get sick easily. We don’t know much yet about how covid can impact newborns, especially in terms of long-term effects. I don’t want to be that paranoid, germaphobe new mom. But will I regret it if I’m not careful enough, and let someone expose my baby to this virus?
You probably don’t know what it’s like to fear the judgment of family members who may think your requests for visitors are “overboard” or “crazy.” I just want to keep my baby safe, and it’s scary that I don’t even know exactly how to do that.
I know that there are others suffering much worse from this novel virus than I am. There are families suffering job loss, small businesses closing, people dying. Even after reading all of this, you may not understand why I’m making such a big deal about being pregnant during a pandemic.
Pregnancy is a happy thing, right? And it mostly has been. I have felt so much joy in feeling my baby moving around inside of me and dreaming about what it will be like to make her smile. All of the fears and added stressors brought on by this pandemic have not cancelled out the joys of pregnancy. But I just want you to try to understand that the struggles have been real.
Sometimes, I just want you to listen without judgment. I want you to respect my requests once my baby is here. I want you to realize that there are some things you can never fully understand - because you haven’t been through it.
But I have. And I’m stronger for it. Every woman who has been pregnant during this pandemic is stronger for it. You should know that.
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