The Best Silver Lining
Pregnant during the pandemic
There’s the heartbeat,” the technician said matter-of-factly, pointing out the subtle movement in the tiny blob that would make me a mother.
I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
“You’re about eight weeks along,” she reported.
A huge smile spread across my face, hidden under my mask. I’m sure I said something out loud at that moment but can’t remember what. My mind was focused on that sweet new heartbeat thumping along, on my husband nervously waiting in the car outside, on the future.
For as long as I can remember, I have had deep fears surrounding medicine: needles, doctors, surgeries, pills. Movie scenes in a hospital make me shudder.
So, I had imagined that pregnancy and all that comes with it – constant doctors’ visits, blood tests, the pain of giving birth – would be especially challenging. But never could I have imagined that my pregnancy would take place during a historic pandemic.
I could go into detail about what that was like: going to every appointment solo, the tedious ritual of the double masks, hand sanitizer, forehead temperature checks, the same Covid-related questions prior to every appointment, including a phone call, questions through the MyChart app, plus a survey upon arrival, that poor person whose job it became to press the elevator button for patients.
Doctors aside, there was the experience of trying to keep a baby safe during a time that felt unsafe, the fear of going anywhere, seeing anyone, the worries of how every decision could impact our baby, and finally, the actual delivery – while wearing a mask.
I could tell you what it was like for me to experience pregnancy for the first time while being physically separated from family and friends. Sharing the news with our parents that they would soon be grandparents without being able to hug them. Watching my belly grow without witnesses. Searching for maternity clothes and an overwhelming amount of baby gear without stepping foot in stores. The missed opportunity of connecting with other soon-to-be-mamas, lamenting over nausea and lack of sleep and sharing in the excitement of feeling our babies kick.
Some feelings are universal when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood, no matter who you are, where you live, or what year it is. But it feels important to recognize that all of us on the cusp of bringing a baby into a scary 2020 world were faced with a different landscape.
But here’s what I’ll also tell you:
During a distressing and depressing time, my husband, Matt, and I were able to focus on our gratefulness and happiness. When we were casually asked, How are you doing? I remember feeling twinges of guilt when sharing our exciting news. Every time, we were met with the same genuine response: I’m so happy to hear something positive! That’s how we felt, too. We focused on the wonder of that little blob.
While it’s crucial to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic and how it’s impacted so many, there are silver linings. For me, they included working from home during pregnancy (think: stretchy clothing, chicken noodle soup, and ginger ale always on hand, skipping a commute when feeling extra tired). And, of course, the biggest and best silver lining was preparing to welcome our daughter into the world. A world that can, at times, be scary, tragic, uncertain. And simultaneously, full of joy, beauty, miracles.
My entire life, I had feelings of dread before any kind of doctor’s appointment, experiencing so much anxiety that I would often feel physically ill. So it was ironic that I started to look forward to appointments just to receive the reassuring words that everything was okay. I still experienced anxiety despite meditation and relaxation techniques, but I made it through by focusing on my baby, envisioning what she’d look like, be like. I held a calming hand on my belly. It was pure joy every time I felt her kick, a meaningful conversation without words.
Throughout this journey, friends and family cheered us on from a safe distance. And during the uncomfortable moments – needles and exams, wondering about the impacts of a virus we didn’t know much about, or worrying about current events – I kept thinking about this baby.
What an incredibly lucky child to be so cherished. A profound love existed for her before she even arrived. How fortunate we are to have this kind of love surrounding us.
Several intense hours after we arrived at the hospital, our precious Sloane made her arrival into the world. A world that was overwhelmingly new. Too loud, too bright, too cold. A nurse placed her on my chest. Hi, baby! I love you so much, I told her, or something along those lines.
I can’t remember exactly what I said. What I remember is the surreal feeling of looking into my daughter’s eyes – my daughter! – and smiling at her from underneath my mask. In that moment, our heartbeats synced. And I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding.
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