When you are expecting, there are such a range of daily emotions, uncertainty and worry of what’s to come, fanatical happiness imagining your unborn child’s entire life, and a new emphasis on your own health as you grow your precious baby, all neatly wrapped up in a big bow of hope that everything will turn out exactly as it should be. It’s no surprise that pregnancy emotions are already a mixed bag, but expecting during the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, and the range of pregnancy emotions are through the roof all the way to the heavens.
Each day is filled with plans, and contingency plans. From where we should deliver the baby to what happens if one of us gets sick, each day we adjust and adapt, for better, for worse.
The Unexpected Planned Pregnancy
Typically when you find the phrase unexpected coupled with pregnancy you think it means an unplanned baby. But this pregnancy was anything but that. Last year my husband and I had a miscarriage. After that, we knew, more than ever, we wanted to give our son a sibling to complete our family. We could never foresee how the world would drastically change during my second trimester.
Each pregnancy is unique but once you’ve gone through it, the uncertainty of the first pregnancy is left behind. Going into this pregnancy, I was looking forward to knowing what was to come and even confident. COVID-19 quickly stripped away that newfound confidence as I realized I am bringing a child into the world during a time of massive uncertainty. No one knows how long this will last, or when the peak will be, making it nearly impossible to plan. All you can plan for is the unexpected.
Pregnancy and Covid-19
So what do we know? Not much and what we do know is cloaked with uncertainty and offers no relief to an expecting mother. According to the CDC, it cannot be said whether pregnant women are more likely to get sick, whether the virus can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy, or whether a mother with COVID-19 can hurt the baby or cause pregnancy complications. However, the CDC lists pregnant women as an at risk category.
Overall, the data is just too limited with the interpretations treading the middle line. This isn’t shocking since there are not large chunks of data available and many of the earlier studies, such as most young people are “immune” or suffer only mild COVID-19 symptoms, are now showing to be untrue or an anomaly. Indeed, a new report from the CDC shows that nearly 40% of those hospitalized in the U.S. from Covid-19 are younger people (aged 20-54 years).
Expecting during this time is anything but the picturesque pregnancy, where you are out and about with your “glow.” Instead, the only glow is from the roots of your salon (un)treated and unbrushed quarantine hair. Rather than focusing on your prenatal exercise, vegetable intake, or counting kicks, it’s much more important that you practice social distancing and frequent hand-washing. And the repercussions of ignoring these recommendations, could be anything from mild to serious to the unknown. It’s a risk I’m just not willing to endure, so I’ve been sheltering.
Sheltering’s toll on anyone is difficult and it creates its own set of difficulties with a pregnant person. Critical decisions must be made about your physical health that can have consequences to your baby. The most pressing for me now is whether to visit the doctor for my monthly visit in person or opt for telemedicine. The risk for telemedicine is that the doctor cannot give you a physical examination but will limit any exposure. As I edge closer to the third trimester, forgoing physical exams is a risk that must be weighed against the ever changing COVID-19 data available.
The Mental Toll
The toll on your mental health is equally intense. Never in a million years did I think I would be home bound with my son away from the people we care about. I thought we would making the most of our days and his “last” as an only child. My worst fear is that I’ve been exposed, get sick, and not know whether it will impact my baby. It is a question that cannot be answered, unless experienced.
Spike In Home Births
Because some women fear the limited resources, overcrowding, or exposure to COVID-19 to their family, they are choosing home births over hospital births. For us, that isn’t something we feel comfortable with and is really a last case scenario. My husband has a friend that lost their child during a home birth and that is something that deeply impacted him. We want to make sure that if anything goes wrong we are right where we need to be should the baby or I need resources that are readily accessible at the hospital.
Adapting Our Birth Plan
As of now, the local hospital limits one visitor per patient and they have not seen in a surge in patients with COVID-19, i.e., so far all is under control. As part of expecting during the unexpected, this could all change in the next 15 weeks. It’s another worrying thought that creeps by at the 3:30 a.m. witching hour.
One conceivable scenario is that visitors could be prohibited as is already happening in New York City hospitals. The thought is terrifying. My husband, best friend, and person who is my source of calming strength, won’t be allowed to be by side at the hospital. Although it would certainly change our delivery experience, dramatically, I will still be checking into the hospital to meet our baby boy – that is our Plan A. Spending the first few days, weeks, or months with just baby and my husband isn’t what we planned, but it’s not a bad contingent plan if it means we bring a happy healthy baby into this world.
There are two things expecting during the unexpected has taught me above all, expect the unexpected and take it one day at a time. Today looks significantly different from a week ago, and tomorrow is the unknown. The best thing I can do is focus on what I can control and create the safest environment possible for our baby, because no matter how scary it is, I am so grateful to be pregnant.