Pregnant During a Pandemic
“This isn’t what we had planned.” This sentence sums up 2020 for almost everyone, and for families expecting babies, there have been especially significant disruptions. We found out I was pregnant in January. At the time, there were clips on NPR of a novel respiratory virus in China, but we didn’t have any clue yet how much it would come to affect our lives.
We had all kinds of fun plans for announcing the pregnancy to our family. We had shared the exciting news about our first child with framed ultrasound photos given to each grandparent. Most of our family was quarantined at home, so we announced this pregnancy through texts, phone calls, and Facebook messages.
With my pregnancy with my son in 2017, my husband attended every prenatal appointment. By the time I had my first appointment with my obstetrician in March, the “no visitors” rule was firmly in place. My last two pregnancies have ended in losses, one in the second trimester. Both times my husband and I got the bad news together. Going to these appointments alone was anxiety-inducing. My husband would wait in the car in the parking garage for many appointments during the early months of this pregnancy, just in case there was more bad news.
This pregnancy has gone smoothly, but it has been much more challenging for my husband to appreciate the reality and bond with the new baby. Hearing her heartbeat consistently at every appointment is a healing experience. I’m sad not to share this with him. While difficult for us, we fully respect the office’s decisions they’ve made to attempt to keep their staff and patients safe. There are still so many unknowns about the long-term effects of this disease. That is particularly true for its impact on the unborn.
My doctor has been kind enough to make sure to get some good pictures at every ultrasound for me to take home and share. I am thankful that we took advantage of all of the fun, cultural rituals of pregnancy with my first child. We did the maternity photos in the park and had the big baby shower with friends and family. I’ve known many pregnant women who were creative and had drive-by baby showers or held showers online. We decided we had enough great leftover baby essentials from our son to forgo the baby shower entirely this time. We treasure the wonderful gifts we’ve received from our friends and family despite the lack of a baby shower. We can’t wait until our daughter can meet everyone. We skipped the formal photographs as well. Instead, we documented this pregnancy in more candid pictures taken in our house or backyard.
I took three weeks off from my job right at the end of my first trimester. One week was a previously planned vacation, and then two weeks my company offered as COVID leave for high-risk individuals. I knew the pandemic would not be over or controlled in those few weeks of leave. Still, I also knew every day I could prevent exposure was another day closer to viability in case I were to get sick and suffer complications. These three weeks off work also gave my workplace more time to fine-tune policies to keep us as safe from exposure as possible.
By the time I went back to work, we had a mask mandate in place for clients. The city mask mandate soon followed. I work in a veterinary clinic. While we are not entirely curbside as we welcome clients in the lobby, we did stop having clients in our small exam rooms. Instead, we take the patients to the back for exams and procedures. This new routine limits our time in enclosed spaces with clients. For the last six months, most of my contact with clients has been over the phone. Now that my maternity leave is fast approaching, I realize many of my clients have not physically seen me during this pregnancy. My upcoming leave of absence will be a surprise.
My daughter should make her appearance in the next few weeks. She’ll be welcomed into the world by myself, my husband, and the medical staff. There won’t be a waiting room full of family or my mom passing out cupcakes to the nurses. My obstetrician said they’ll try to keep our stay as short as possible to minimize exposure risk. My son will meet his baby sister at our home. There won’t be any pictures of him sitting in a too big hospital chair holding his new sibling. The experience will be different, but this year has shown us that humans are amazingly adaptable. A new life is a wonderful reminder of that.