Pregnancy 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 in my belly, on my husband nervously waiting in the car outside, on the future of our growing family.
For as long as I can remember, I have had deep fears surrounding medicine: needles, doctors, surgeries, pills, anything you can think of related to the medical field. Movie scenes that take place in a hospital make me shudder.
So, I had imagined that pregnancy and all that comes with it – constant doctors’ visits, vaccines and blood tests, the fear of the unknown and, to top it all off, the pain of giving birth – would be an especially challenging experience for me. 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. I could tell you about the added anxiety of going to every doctors’ appointment solo. The tedious ritual of the double masks, the hand sanitizer, the 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. The person whose job it became to press the elevator button for patients.
Doctors aside, the very experience of trying to keep a baby safe and healthy every day during a time that felt unsafe and uncertain. The fear of going anywhere, seeing anyone, the worries of how any and every decision could impact my baby. And finally, bringing our baby into the world - while wearing a mask (yes, seriously).
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 many 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 move and kick.
Some feelings, symptoms, and questions are common 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.
I could tell you about all of that. But here’s what I’ll tell you instead:
During a distressing and depressing time, my husband and I were able to focus on our gratefulness and happiness. When we were casually asked, How are you doing? I remember feeling some strange 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 person growing and developing every day.
It’s clear that 2020 (and 2021 so far) was a year for the history books – literally. While it’s been crucial to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic and how it’s impacted everyone on an individual and global level, I’ve found that many are quick to share their silver linings, the minor ones and the significant ones. For me, those silver linings included working from home during pregnancy (think: stretchy clothing, chicken noodle soup and ginger ale always on hand, skipping a commute while 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.
Throughout my pregnancy journey, friends and family supported and cheered us on in every way (from a safe distance, of course). And during all of the uncomfortable moments - dealing with needles or exams or wondering about the impacts of a virus we didn’t know much about – I thought about this baby. What an incredibly lucky child to already be so cherished by family members and friends-who-feel-like-family. A profound love existed for her before she even arrived. How fortunate we are to have this kind of love surrounding us, I marveled.
Several intense hours after we arrived at the hospital, our precious baby 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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