For the record, we like new experiences, but this was never on our bucket list.
Giving birth is already a stressful endeavor. This is my first time. I’ve read the books, but does any first-time parent-to-be actually know what to expect when labor starts? I’ve been managing the stress of my impending birth with positive thoughts — reminding myself that my body knows what it needs to do and that I’ve descended from the best moms and strongest children the world has ever seen. Our baby will come when she’s ready. Nothing, and I mean, nothing is in my control, so I will surrender myself.
Anxiety occasionally creeps in, but I try to focus on the present and the health and wellness I feel NOW, and most importantly, I planned to maintain a normal routine until the day comes.
That is, until there’s a global pandemic.
I have less than a month until my due date and I was expecting things to change, as in the type of change that happens with all childless couples, but in the last week, all plans I had to help me sanely enter into parenthood have been upended. I’m no longer going into an office, all my volunteer commitments have been canceled, restaurants are closed, my gym has closed. All normal routines have ended. You already know this. You’re going through it as well.
I still have a job, I’m still getting paid, luckily Kris is home until at least mid-April, and I’m viewing staying home as my patriotic duty in an effort to flatten the curve, save lives, and to give me the larger purpose I need. I have so much to be grateful for, but quickly adapting to these changes, on top of the already humongous life changes, is a lot to take at once.
Aside from the dismantled routines, there are concerns specifically around the virus. Even though I have a few autoimmune diseases, I’m less worried about contracting it myself, though little is known how Coronavirus affects pregnant women, and more concerned about it from the perspective of doing my part to avoid transmitting the virus to others. There aren’t a lot of resources, but I’ve read few accounts of other pregnant women who are reporting about the overburdened healthcare system, which has become my greatest labor concern. I’ll be 40 weeks at what could be the peak of the pandemic in our area. Every photo or video of people I see irresponsibly hanging out with large groups of people at bars, beaches, or at church gatherings is monumentally frustrating — their inaction today will negatively impact all of us — me — our baby — very, very soon.
Again, I remind myself that I am safe now. My loved ones are healthy now.
We went the minimalist route with regard to baby products and gifts. Though we have a “registry,” it’s mainly for our own organization and for family to share it with anyone who asks (and only IF they ask). Between the second-hand purchases and friends’ hand-me-downs, we are in good shape as far as big purchases. No baby showers and fancy diaper towers for us, but we were planning to get all of these essentials, like diapers and wipes, on Amazon in this last month.
On the first day of my 36th week, and within the first few days of social distancing, Kris and I decided to go through the list of remaining needs and figure out what is essential and what can wait until the baby is here. This likely would have been an already-emotional exercise, but as we scrolled through the list…
The baby books have prepared me for a dislodged mucus plug and perineum tears, but they did not prepare me for a shortage of essential supplies because of pandemic panic-purchases. In my wildest imagination, this is not how I anticipated welcoming a child into the world. My emotions got the best of me. I went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet to pee, and couldn’t hold back my tears. Between the upcoming birth, the normal life changes, the abnormal life changes, the unknown of a pandemic, potentially exposing ourselves during my weekly doctor appointments at the hospital, and the lack of essential products, it was briefly all too much. After suggesting I should get off the toilet and pull my pants back up, Kris, being the great partner he is, comforted me and went into problem solving mode while I waited for the emotions to subside.
I reminded myself that despite the changes, I currently have everything I need. I am safe. I am healthy.
Also, during this time, I got this rude email from “Happiest Baby on the Block” author Dr. Harvey Karp.
My “birth plan” is essentially surrendering to the unknown, but I had nine, wonderful months to come to this realization. It’s a little unnerving as we deal with the additional and rapidly changing unknowns in the one week since WHO labeled this a pandemic. I’m realizing I need to strengthen my surrender approach minute by minute.
I don’t know anything about giving birth or giving birth during the chaos of a pandemic, but I do know that everything has changed. No jaunting off to check off last-minute baby products at the store. Kris is recovering from walking pneumonia and though it was a tough decision because he hasn’t missed any of my prenatal appointments, we decided he should stay home and I would FaceTime him instead so he could still be there with me. My parents, who live ten minutes away, might not hold their first grandchild for a few months. Same with my in-laws, who we need to be very vigilant about given they fall above the 65 year line.
But through it all, I’m trying to remain hopeful and calm in these last weeks before birth. One thing remains, I want a big bottle of the finest wine after I join the pandemic-birth club.
I will leave you with this hopeful outlook from Julia Belluz, Vox’s senior health correspondent, who was induced early because of the pandemic, “I’m wondering what kind of world my baby will grow up in: one where pandemics, climate devastation, and financial crises that seemed far-fetched only weeks ago will be the norm, or one where the intelligence and good in society — the spirit of cooperation — will prevail, and we finally start preparing long before new, catastrophic threats emerge. In the latter version, people work together on evidence-based measures to deal with these predictable risks of globalization. I’m hoping desperately for that reality.”
Check out our last podcast episode on this topic: