I admit that in the couple of weeks between finding out that I was pregnant and the first case of COVID-19 in my state, I would actually forget that I was pregnant. Not because we weren’t over the moon excited. Our first took three years to grace us with her presence, so finding out after only two months I was pregnant felt like winning the lottery for a second time. With my first pregnancy there was so much to think about. Every decision had to be made which meant a constant gathering of information and pondering, deciding, acting, and hoping it was a good decision. From who my providers would be and where I’d deliver, to which changing pad and diaper pail we’d get and from where. The guest room had to be revamped, bassinet assembled, and every blanket and onesie pre-washed.
I was happy with most every decision made the first time around and if I wasn’t, I had already decided on an alternative before getting to this point. Like starting out with more supportive shoes before the pregnancy foot pain takes hold. Knowing we would be trying for a second child, I had either kept or temporarily loaned out everything we used for our first.
This time I was finding an almost unsettling few decisions to make or tasks to complete, and therefore things to keep my mind on the pregnancy. In fact, all I feel like I need to get is tiny diapers and I even already know what brand I’ll use when the hospital stash runs out. Not to mention having a two-year-old that requires my brain to be on high alert to notice the second before she tries to climb up on the kitchen table.
So with all the decisions made, a toddler to keep track of, and despite being absolutely over the moon excited and grateful for this second pregnancy, I might have eaten a couple turkey sandwiches in that first week because at lunch time I forgot that I was pregnant and was supposed to stop eating deli meat…
…during a pandemic.
Cut to this last week when the global pandemic came to my town. Being healthy and otherwise not predisposed to complications, my first worries are of course for those who are already ill or at higher risk. With COVID-19 being all anyone can talk about or think about, my pregnancy is also now constantly on my mind. Instead of just the excitement for the new baby, watching my daughter become a big sister, and a little dread for having SO many weeks to go (I’m not someone who loves being pregnant), there’s another huge element of how this virus could affect me and my unborn baby. Cancelling trips to visit family is disappointing. Missing prenatal appointments or actually getting this sickness is terrifying when I don’t know what that means for a pregnant woman.
But we only fear what we don’t understand. So I aim to understand what I can about being pregnant during this pandemic that will answer my questions, but stop there. There is a lot we don’t know, but information is coming in fast. That’s why it’s important to me to have my trusted sources and not worry myself with the speculative noise that surrounds uncertain times. I’m grateful that there are a lot of people who are working on answers to my questions as I think of them. And that even before this, my medical providers were already keeping themselves current on the best information to give me the healthiest pregnancy and baby possible.
Looking for answers
The CDC has a page specifically for pregnancy and breastfeeding under their COVID-19 information that is updated almost daily.
While it can be easy to worry about what we don’t know, as many of the paragraphs start (as of March 16, 2020) it’s also good that we don’t yet have evidence of pregnancy complications due to the virus in women who tested positive.
Your best resource is your own medical provider. You know when you talk to your physician/midwife/nurse practitioner and they tell you to call them with questions and beg you not to turn to forums and the internet where anyone can say whatever they want in a nice font? That still applies. Not only is it your provider’s full time job to stay on top of new information that they’ll have access to well before it hits the web, but they’re also experienced and trained in deciphering that information. Then they can apply it to your specific medical history and needs. They come to work everyday, risking their own health to safeguard yours. Call them. You’re not bothering them, you’re making their efforts worth it.
A lot of providers already have answers to common questions on their webpage. If you’re a Facebook person, they may have a page there too you can follow where they’ll post recent updates. They may even offer telemedicine appointments when coming in isn’t an option or required.
If you do not yet have a provider that you trust, I urge you to spend your time on the internet and use those messages to your previously pregnant friends looking for one instead of trying to give yourself a crash course in prenatal medicine and novel virus practices.
Caring for mental health as much as physical health
Even without our current situation, depression and anxiety are normal in prenatal and postpartum. Just because we’re all going through this doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to talk to someone about it. If you don’t have a mental health provider, this would be a great time to connect with one or find someone you would want to contact if you start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable going in person, there are lots of providers setting up video sessions.
While my postpartum depression has subsided, I’m still keeping my bimonthly therapist appointments. It’s relieving just knowing I’ll have that time to talk to someone who understands the myriad of emotions that come along with this crazy time compounded with pregnancy and accompanying hormones. While chemicals in your body might be heightening your emotions (like crying during Cars 2 in front of your toddler heightened), your feelings are still valid and talking to someone can help you sort through them.
Taking a breath. Then some more.
Right now, all of the same instructions to the general public apply the same to pregnant women, besides of course all of the dozens of things we already can’t eat or drink or ride on at the fair. Even without a global pandemic, a pregnant woman can easily get herself into panic mode by considering every possible outcome in pregnancy and birth. But we know that’s a waste of what little energy you might have right now. You could avoid it before, so you can still do it now.
The night before my first ultrasound I had myself pretty worked up when someone who works at our favorite neighborhood cafe just a few blocks away tested positive for COVID-19. I thought there would be no way I could get the excitement back to see our new family member for the first time. But as soon as that peanut popped onto the screen and my daughter whispered, “Wow, baby!” I couldn’t be anything other than overjoyed. If my midwife hadn’t brought up the virus at the end of our appointment, I would have completely forgotten.
Remember what hasn’t changed
Stick to your short list of resources for updates, then get back to thinking about that first family vacation. Or which blanket you’ll wrap your baby in for the first time. A lot may look different now when our lives are turned upside down for the time being, but so much of it will go on the same. It’s understandable to be concerned for the future, but you can be concerned AND excited. Having done the pregnancy and infant thing not too long ago, I can tell you that virus or not, you’ll go into this with a lot of uncertainty, but come out of it more than fine.
Maybe you had your heart set on prenatal yoga and the studio has closed, but there are countless videos online and some studios are doing live video classes. Maybe you won’t have as many or any visitors those first couple of weeks, but that was already recommended for the baby’s health before and also gives the new family time to get settled together.
This uncertain time understandingly adds another layer of concern for a pregnant mom and her family. However, it’s something that can be addressed and then set down. In our home we’ve adopted a “no virus talks zone” after a certain time in the evening. It’s been a relief to end the day either talking about what we’re excited for or complaining about something else. If you’re finding that your excitement has been replaced with worry, it might be something to adopt.
What won’t change in the slightest is that feeling the first time you see them. Or getting to watch them sleep. Or pouring over their every feature and assigning it to you or a family member. Studying their tiny fingernails and wrinkly feet. Everything you have to look forward to is still there. The love, the cuddles, the diapers, the exhaustion daze, all of it.
If anyone has got this, it’s Mom
We are the descendants of women who gave birth during plagues, times of war, before heart rate monitors, and when people who delivered babies didn’t know to wash their hands. That’s not to say we’re not dealing with something very serious in a very different way, but motherhood has never been about control or certainty. It’s about strength, reaching out for help, and adapting. And no one knows that more than a pregnant mama.