Pregnancy During Coronavirus: Staying Safe and Sane
Three women share their stories
Expectant mothers experience a heightened level of anxiety during their pregnancies: worries over their health, finances, the future decisions to make. But during this global pandemic of Covid-19, the stakes are even higher. How can you stay safe from this disease? How can you keep from losing your mind with worry when the world suddenly seems a much scarier place?
I took some time to talk with some expectant mothers and their stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I empathize so much with what they are all going through in this tumultuous time.
If you are pregnant right now, I hope you will feel a little less alone in reading and sharing the hearts of these brave women.
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I’ve been reading the personal stories of women who are sharing what it’s like to be pregnant in the time of a coronavirus pandemic. I’ve also interviewed a few women to ask how they are doing during this pandemic. Here are some of their stories:
One such story by fellow writer Edie Meade entitled Reflections on Pregnancy in a Darkening Timeline, discusses Edie’s struggle to get through her prenatal appointments and the fears she is experiencing as she goes out into the world. Edie describes the status of her pregnancy “Although I’ve had a healthy pregnancy so far, as a 42-year-old woman with five weeks to go before birth, I am in the “high-risk” category for stillbirth or other potential complications.”
The risk factors of her pregnancy vs the risk factors for going out of the house ( for prenatal appointments) present a very uncomfortable conundrum for Edie and for other expectant mothers across the nation. How do you balance the fear of perhaps there being something “wrong” in the pregnancy, needing the reassurance that your baby is growing well and healthy with the fear of inadvertently exposing yourself to a disease that could harm or kill both you and your child?
Edie describes in her personal essay her visit to the local hospital for a visit with a nurse practitioner, the lobby full of elderly people, her concerns over the lack of restriction on visitors, and on the hygienic provisions the hospital was offering. It seemed nothing much was different in the hospital procedure there, though many businesses on her drive to the hospital had been closed, the streets barren. The biggest change was a series of socially-distanced questions she was peppered with as she entered the area to meet with hospital staff:
“Instead, they asked me a series of questions: Was I running a temperature? Did I feel sick? Had I traveled out of the country or out of state in the past few weeks? Had I been around anyone who was sick? I answered in the negative to all, and they provided me with a sticker pass.”–Edie Meade
Edie’s description of her visit to the hospital is something many pregnant women can relate to right now–the scrutinous observations of whether others are socially distancing, coughing, washing their hands properly.
The truly uncomfortable feeling of traveling out and away from the safety of your home–being met with the uncomfortable stares of others who are likely wondering the same things, only, are they carrying a child in their womb? Can they understand just what you are feeling right now? Yet, across this nation pregnant women are pressing on toward delivery, facing their fears with sheer determination.
“I provided a urine sample in a sterile cup — without being given any “cleansing wipes” that are part of the standard procedure. The bathroom was out of hand sanitizer and paper towels. Within two minutes, I was meeting with the nurse practitioner. She went through the normal checklist of questions — Was I having any pain? Was baby moving? — and after a quick heartbeat check and measurement of my stomach using a measuring tape, I was free to go. It felt unnecessary, but I appreciated the peace of mind provided by routine care I’m afforded through our health insurance policy.”–Edie Meade
Edie’s next appointment was at a nearby outpatient perinatal center where the policies and procedures were a bit more advanced in terms of Covid-19. Edie was met with a locked door and a hand-written note on the door instructing her to wait in the car–much like my son and I found when I took him for an emergency root canal last week “Call us from the car and we’ll come out to get you.”
Edie describes her wait:
“One of the nurses, wearing a mask, answered and recognized me. Inside the door was a lectern where she asked me the same questions I’d been asked at the hospital. Their waiting room had been closed, she said. I needed to wait outside and they’d come get me.
I stood out in the warm spring air, watching cars go by. Where were they all going? It seemed that besides the health facilities and the postal service, only the metal fabrication plants along the river were in operation. The parking lot beside the steel-rolling factory looked full. I hoped the workers there were safe.”
Some of Edie’s most pressing concerns is whether or not there will be a hospital bed even available to her when she goes into labor. And if it will be safe for her to go in to deliver her baby. She asks the questions, but unfortunately there really are no assurances that can be given at this time.
A girlfriend of mine from my college days is expecting her third baby. After two gorgeous sons, she is finally going to have her little girl. Brandi is feeling robbed in her experience by the outbreak of Covid-19. She shared some of her feelings with me:
“The Coronavirus has been a thief to my final pregnancy. I have been unable to celebrate with family and friends. There will be no baby shower, no professional maternity pictures and of course no family awaiting her arrival in the waiting room at her birth. My husband will be the only support I have at the bedside and the only person who can be there the duration of my hospital stay. My mother, grandmother, son and step son will have to view the granddaughter, great-granddaughter and sister by picture first and not actually get to hold and love on her. It’s heartbreaking to think that we won’t have all those first visits in the hospital and support there for us.”
–Brandi Little-Priddy, registered Respiratory Therapist working in North Carolina
I cannot imagine welcoming a baby into the family and having to do so via video chat or Facebook Live broadcasts. I asked Brandi if she’d heard about the woman who went into the hospital with Covid-19, was put on a ventilator and gave birth to her child while still in a coma. She wasn’t able to meet her baby for two weeks! Brandi and I shared about the Vancouver, Washington woman’s story and agreed–it’s simply heartbreaking. Brandi, like the Covid-19 surviving mother, is also a respiratory therapist, which puts her in closer contact with patients who are ill from the deadly disease.
Brandi said she’s been “dodging and running” at work trying to keep herself and her unborn baby girl safe and healthy. After losing her father a month ago, then contracting the flu, and now facing the uncertainty of a global pandemic–Brandi’s stress level has been more than anyone could bear, but she does it while bravely working in a hospital environment while the health crisis continues.
She describes this whole thing as “scary and heartbreaking.” At a time when her focus should be on joy and expectation, it is tainted, distorted, and in a lot of ways stolen. Brandi’s heartbreak is a story shared by many expectant mothers right now.
Again, like in Edie’s case, the determination of an expectant mother is something that is both admirable and inspiring.
Nikki Kay is a fellow writer on the Medium platform and she and I are Facebook friends. I’ve been watching her pregnancy through our social media connections. The rise of Covid-19 immediately put her in my thoughts. Nikki has been sharing her story with others through her blogging and honestly, I feel for her so much.
I asked Nikki how this virus is affecting her and her pregnancy:
-My fitness routine broke down completely because the gym is closed. Walking only does so much for me and on many days it was too cold to even take an outside walk
-No one could watch my other kids to give me some relief. We almost had to keep them in the house for the birth. Thank goodness we know our neighbors well so they had somewhere to go for the 5 hours I was in labor. Idk what we would have done if I’d had to go to the hospital.
-I opted for a homebirth. Not everyone has that option due to personal preference/comfort, medical necessity. My husband was terrified something would go wrong, especially considering our track record lately. So while I was happy About the home birth and we both agreed from an exposure perspective it would be better to not be at a hospital, he was super anxious.
-It’s hard not being able to get the groceries we need through delivery to make healthy meals. We can’t ever get meat, and for that matter we can’t ever get a delivery window.
-The idea of needing a transfer to the hospital was also scary because during birth transfers usually need to be triaged through the emergency room and so it’s possible (though unlikely) that a decision designed to minimize exposure could actually lead to increased exposure
Nikki has written about her experiences in her blogging. One of the recent articles, written on March 13, roughly a month before she delivered a beautiful baby boy at home, is called Nine Months Pregnant During a Public Health Crisis: Some contingencies you just can’t plan for. In the article she discussed her fears of delivering in a hospital.
I could choose a different hospital. I live in a large metropolitan area and there are many to choose from. Some of them haven’t revised their policies yet. But who knows if they will in the next three weeks? What if I’ve decided on a cascade of hospitals, only to find that by the time I give birth none of them are allowing the kind of support I’d planned on having this whole time?
Nikki ultimately decided to call a midwife and deliver her baby at home. I am happy to report that Nikki and baby Noah are both happy and well!
In The Pregnant Woman Who Is Afraid to Give Birth in a Hospital Nikki discussed the death of her father-in-law, her husband’s pneumonia, and her emotional turmoil in dealing with it all:
I used to think my belly and the new life it contained would be joyfully front and center; instead it’s a source of anxiety at worst and an afterthought at best. During these days when I feel the need to be surrounded by loved ones, sharing in our grief and celebrating a man who meant so much to us, I am left to process my loss alone from the other side of self-quarantine.
This virus has stolen so much from so many, but our losses are not limited to the relative health and comfort we took for granted before. Our joy and our grief, indeed our very connections to our fellow humans, are muted in the shadow of the global crisis that now rules us all. I can only hope that once this cloud eventually lifts, we can find a way back to each other again.
I am sure now that baby Noah is here safely, her delivery fears are passed but now comes the anxiety over raising a newborn in such a time as this. At no point was she expecting to have to face all of this at the time of her son’s birth–but here we all are. So many women are going through exactly what she went through.
The coronavirus outbreak has us all on edge. If you are pregnant and fearful–I hope you know that you are not alone. Reach out to those around you for support. Stay hopeful. Stay inside and isolate as much as you can. Use the hand sanitizers, social distancing, and handwashing that seem to all be our best offense. Take care of yourself and your little ones!
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Christina M. Ward,
Babienet blog contributor
Proud mother of 3 and grandmother of 2
Pregnancy During Coronavirus: Staying Safe and Sane shares the stories of 3 expectant mothers, pregnant in the time of Covid-19 to offer support and encouragement to pregnant mothers during this global pandemic.