Back in the day, it was not considered socially acceptable to flaunt or speak of pregnancy in public. As recently as the 1950’s women were expected to be demure and conceal their bumps, refer to their pregnancy in euphemisms such as “blessed event” or “delicate condition.” It was not as commonplace or encouraged for expectant mothers to be running around in public, and the pregnancy was largely expected to be carried out behind closed doors.
Although we have come a long way in regards to embracing the baby bump and celebrating pregnant women, being pregnant in the middle of a pandemic has felt largely like being cloistered away in a tower, away from society, only to surprisingly emerge with a child nine months later.
I will preface this entry with the fact that we are absolutely over the moon to be expecting our little girl. We wanted to become parents, and at the end of the day, I wouldn’t re-do or change anything about this pregnancy. However, there have been some significant challenges and feelings as a result of being pregnant in the middle of a global pandemic, and that’s the bulk of what I am choosing to focus on here because I know that there are other “pandemic moms” out there who are experiencing similar things. Sometimes you feel as though you can’t talk about the struggles because there is so much pressure from society to talk about pregnancy and childbirth as a magical, wonderful, happy experience. While they are those things, they are also hard, and women should be able to talk about the challenges just as openly as the celebrations.
Here are the main ways in which this pregnancy has been different than what I expected due to the pandemic:
- Access to Medical Care:
Although we were able to conceive naturally, at the beginning of my pregnancy there were some additional risk factors because I have PCOS. For one, my progesterone levels were something that were always a concern. As someone who tends to run more on the anxious side of things, being reduced to telehealth appointments early on and not being able to see my doctor in person for non-ultrasound checkups was extra stressful. Yes, I still received the same information as if I had been able to go into the OBGYN office, but since I am a first time mom (FTM), it would have been much more comforting to be able to see her in person and not feel like I was squeezed into a 10 minute facetime via computer.
- No Partners Allowed:
Daniel and I have actually been fortunate in the department and he has been able to come to all of the ultrasound appointments so far. We have friends in other states who are further along than we are whose partners were not able to come to any of the appointments. However, two weeks before our 20 weeks anatomy scan, Colorado’s Covid numbers increased and we received news from the OB that partners were no longer permitted to accompany mothers to appointments. I was devastated. We did already know the sex of the baby, but I knew that this would likely be the last ultrasound before the baby was born. Additionally, the 20 week scan is where the doctor methodically goes over every part of the baby and lets you know if there are any developmental complications. For that reason, it was really important to me that Daniel was there. Luckily, by the time the doctor’s office called to confirm the appointment, they changed the policy just for 20 week scans and Daniel was able to come.
- Heightened Fear and Anxiety:
I think that it’s natural for any mother, especially first time moms, to feel anxious and nervous during their pregnancy. Every new sensation and every symptom makes you second guess whether or not everything is okay with the baby. You are scrutinizing what you eat, how you sleep, how you move, and everything in between.
But being pregnant with the Coronavirus flying around adds a whole new level of anxiety and stress. We debated whether or not it was safe to have one or both of us go out to get groceries, we stopped eating out or getting delivery, I washed my hands 5,000 times at work and still was afraid that one of the kids’ classmates got them sick.
As a mom, you do everything you can to protect your baby and yourself from harm, but when you’re told that some unknown, potentially lethal virus is floating around EVERYWHERE and people are not doing their part by socially distancing or wearing masks properly, it feels like you are fighting an impossible war.
- No Showing Off The Bump:
This is going to sound silly, but there are moments when I feel like I’m missing out on the little things such as having someone offer me a seat on the bus because I’m visibly pregnant, or ordering a mocktail at a restaurant. People get so excited when they know a woman is expecting, and although sometimes I’m sure it gets annoying and intrusive, not knowing what it’s like to have someone ask me, “When are you due!?” or give an unsolicited opinion about how large or small I’m carrying is a bit of a bummer.
Additionally, while my wallet is thanking me, I haven’t been buying many maternity clothes. It’s tough to justify buying cute things when you’re basically in the house 24/7 with no one seeing you. Again, this is a minor thing that I’m sure is actually a positive in the long run, but I do miss feeling like there is a reason to get dressed in something other than yoga pants and a sweatshirt.
- Loneliness and Isolation:
This has been the most challenging aspect of this pregnancy by far, and to be honest, it’s the thread that runs through every other factor. While I try not to dwell on it during the day to day too much, there have been so many tears shed over the fact that I feel like I’m going through this experience totally alone.
I know that I’m not actually alone. My husband has been an incredible support, and I have my Mom and Mother In Law who are just a phone call away. At the same time, knowing that I will have not seen my mom in person at all throughout my entire first pregnancy is devastating. We are really close, and I wish that she and I could do the normal things like shop for the baby together or put together the nursery. It’s even harder when I think about the fact that I don’t even know if it will be safe to have her see the baby once she’s born because although my mom will hopefully have received the vaccine, I still will not have, and neither will baby.
It’s been challenging socially as well. Up until last year, I spent every day in the classroom teaching. I had a core group of women who I watched and celebrated throughout their pregnancies. I participated in the lunchroom chats and updates about babies and threw baby showers during prep periods. There was something so special about the feeling of community and support for the moms, and I’d hoped that at least on some level, I would have the same thing, but now living so far away and not being able to travel or see any of those women in person has made it really difficult. Yes, we still text and keep in touch, but it is just not the same.
Part of our situation is unique because Daniel and I moved to CO in July of 2019, away from all of our friends in MA. We met a handful of people last year, but we were really more focused on exploring and getting settled with just the two of us. We told ourselves that 2020 would be the year that we would really put ourselves out there and get social. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. There have been a few local moms or moms-to-be that I’ve briefly connected with through the Peanut app (think blind dating for moms), but it’s been tough to really forge any relationships since none of us are able to actually meet up in person anywhere.
There are times when I panic and feel like I’m drowning because I realize that when the baby comes, it is likely that we will have absolutely no help unless we can afford to hire someone. Both sets of grandparents live in southern red states and need to fly to get here, and despite the fact that they will hopefully be vaccinated by then, we’ve been cautioned that it is still not safe for the baby or myself until at least a month postpartum, and even then it’s a risk if we are still not able to be vaccinated.
I don’t know if this would bother me so much if I wasn’t a first time mom. But it’s really, really, hard. There are days when I feel like if I didn’t announce on social media, I could go through this entire pregnancy and no one would be any wiser.
I will say, however, that I joined two Facebook groups for expecting moms in May of 2021 and they have been a lifesaver. Although I don’t personally know or see any of these women either, it has been a great comfort to be connected with moms who are walking through this experience under similar circumstances!
- No Last Hurrah:
In the grand scheme of things, I know that this isn’t necessary. You don’t have to go on a babymoon or “live it up” before you’re in labor. And don’t get me wrong, having the time at home as just the two of us to just slow down and bond has been extra special in other ways. I know that I will be grateful for the stillness in the house and the quality one-on-one time that Daniel and I have gotten to spend together the last year. However, there are days when I look back and can’t help but feel a little sad when I realize that by the time the baby is born, Daniel and I will have spent exactly the last year and a half of our “childless” years at home, alone, going nowhere, and seeing almost no one.
- Virtual Baby Shower:
This largely goes hand-in-hand with the feeling of isolation. Knowing that my first (and maybe only) baby shower is going to be virtual is tough. Thankfully, the grandmothers and my friend are doing an incredible job of keeping as many “traditional” aspects as possible, and I am glad that I’ll actually be able to celebrate with more people than if we had an in-person shower because we live so far away, but the baby shower is just one more right-of-passage that I feel like I’m being robbed of during this experience.
- Labor & Delivery:
As far as labor and delivery go, I have no idea what things will look like by May. So far, we are unable to do a hospital tour, and all of our birthing classes have been moved from in-person to Zooms. I am expecting that I will need to labor in a mask and will therefore not have access to the nitrous oxide that I planned on using for pain management and thus will be opting for an epidural. We’ve been told that at the moment, I am allowed one support person (Daniel), but that once I am admitted, he is not allowed to leave the hospital (it’s unclear if he is even allowed to leave the room). A couple months ago, the protocol of kicking the dad out of the room at the end of “the golden hour” was removed, but if cases continue to rise, it is likely that it will go back into effect. All in all, I know that labor in and of itself is unpredictable, so we will just need to continue to roll with the punches when the time comes.
Although this time has been really difficult and lonely, in the grand scheme of things, I still feel like my pregnancy is beautiful and am enjoying the experience. If anything, I will take pride in being a “pandemic mom.” I think this generation of moms is going to be even more resilient, flexible, and strong because of the circumstances in which we will be bringing our babies into the world.
Are you a “pandemic mom,” too? Have you experienced any of the same struggles or feelings? How are you coping? Let me know; if love to connect!