I realize the last post you read of mine here on Birmingham Mom Collective detailed my journey and reflections with secondary infertility. I finally got pregnant with baby number two, and here we are — pregnant in a global pandemic! What an interesting story I’ll have to tell this baby.
I’m now settled into my second trimester of pregnancy and have been asked to share my experience navigating pregnancy during these unprecedented times. Isn’t that what we’re all calling this: “unprecedented times?!”
Something important to know as you read this: I am high risk, so I am used to having many more appointments and scans than the “average” pregnant woman. Pregnancy appointments are extremely different for everyone right now, but this difference feels even more stark for someone like me going from one extreme to the other. Please know that I am simply recounting my own current (and ever-changing) experience, and I am not at all complaining. Some of it just plain sucks right now, and that’s the reality of these times. But I am immensely grateful to even be in this situation, turbulent as it is, currently.
Pregnant in a Pandemic :: Procedures and Protocols
Telehealth and In-Person Appointments
It’s probably obvious that the typically routine doctor appointments are a bit different during the pandemic. Most appointments are telehealth appointments and are executed either via phone call or video call. The only appointments that I’ve had in person have involved a scan and/or time-sensitive blood work. The next in-person appointment I will have is my anatomy scan followed by the fetal echocardiogram.
All other appointments — as of now — will take place over the phone. These appointments are treated the same as in-person appointments in the eyes of insurance. Many people do not realize this, but I owe payments from these phone call appointments. This definitely makes sense as I am being provided a service by the doctor, and they are giving me their time. But it did catch me off guard initially.
For the in-person appointments, I used to check in at a digital kiosk and go sit in any chair in the waiting room. Now, I check in verbally at the desk and sit in an open chair in the waiting room. Certain chairs are roped off to enforce social distancing. Due to the nature of how parking and logistics work at my hospital, we do not wait in our cars instead of waiting rooms (although I have heard of smaller practices doing this). Sometimes I’m emailed a virtual check in 24 to 48 hours before my appointment time.
Upon entering the lobby of the hospital building, everyone is screened for any viral symptoms. I have not been tested for COVID-19 yet at my appointments, but my temperature is taken. I also must answer a short questionnaire about any recent travels or symptoms. My information is then compiled on a sheet along with my current temperature reading which I turn in at the check-in desk upstairs. I am unsure whether or not my hospital will require a COVID-19 test before checking in to the hospital at delivery time, but I’m sure that will be communicated to me as it gets closer to time. And by then, the protocol may be different than it is now.
Hospital Visitation Policy
My husband has not been able to attend any appointments with me thus far. He won’t be able to for the foreseeable future, either. As I understand from this point in time, he will be able to attend the birth, but he won’t be able to leave and come back. No other family or friends will be allowed to visit. The one allowed support person must remain the same for the entire stay (i.e. my husband and mom wouldn’t be able to switch out).
Each hospital is different in this regard right now, and by the time I deliver, things may be different. I am due in the fall, so I’m not putting too much stake into current delivery circumstances yet. The situation is rapidly changing. However, this is what I have heard from friends’ experiences and from communications sent to me from my hospital.
Mental Health Challenges
The mental health aspect throughout this journey is the trickiest part by far for me. The entire quarantine process obviously promotes physical isolation, and because of this, it fuels feelings of emotional and mental isolation. For someone going through such a hormonal and transitional time like pregnancy, this can feel even more magnified.
Pregnancy is a celebratory time in which you hope to be supported and surrounded by loved ones. Though this support can be felt from a distance, it’s still not the same as it would be in person.
I remember remarking to my husband often throughout the first trimester that this would be so much easier if I had my normal routines and schedule to keep time passing and to keep me distracted. As a woman still struggling with postpartum anxiety, I very much live in my head.
Pregnancy after infertility is nerve-wracking because you’re constantly afraid that something bad may happen until you reach certain milestones.
Going through the waiting from milestone to milestone while under quarantine made time feel as slow as molasses. Quarantine made days feel longer, especially at the beginning. The lack of adult interaction, lack of “a break,” and lack of therapeutic coffee dates with friends warped my mind into thinking I was so isolated and so alone. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t true. It was a very hard time, but the joyful circumstances gave us something to celebrate.
Mitigating Fear and Navigating the Unknowns
This pandemic has produced a whole slew of unknowns in just about every aspect. What’s unknown today may be known tomorrow, and tomorrow will bring about its own unknowns. I’ve been praying and aiming for a peaceful pregnancy this second time around. All these unknowns are really trying to throw a wrench into those intentions.
One thing I do in these moments of fear is immediately list three things that I CAN control. These can be the smallest, simplest things. It’s such a quick way of grounding myself within this reality that feels so out of my control.
Additionally, being high risk comes with its own set of unknowns that are stressful enough to navigate. I would be lying if I said this time has been manageable or easy. Some days are pretty great — or even just fine — while others are filled with debilitating anxiety. I realize this probably sounds like a pity party, but that’s not my intention. This is simply a matter-of-fact way to express the current reality for pregnant women during this global pandemic.
I take solace in the fact that I’m not the only woman experiencing this, and I’m sad for us all. I’m especially sad for those first-time mamas whose pregnancy journey is nothing like they ever dreamed and who never thought they’d feel so alone during such an exciting time.
Being pregnant in a pandemic is not the ideal pregnancy experience, but that doesn’t mean it has to suck either. I think we all are trying our best to make the most of a pretty weird situation.
My Baby’s Story
I’ve had people ask me if I feel like this baby has been less celebrated due to the heaviness of our world right now. To some extent, I do feel that way. But I also think the crazy-freakout-excitement level of others tends to lessen naturally with subsequent pregnancies.
I have had family members remark they keep forgetting I’m pregnant just because they’re so distracted by all of this. Others have shared that my happy news gives them hope during this time.
I’m unsure if I’ll have any kind of baby shower for this baby, which feels a bit unfair. However, I feel like baby showers aren’t as prevalent for subsequent babies regardless of a pandemic.
I think what’s most important is that this baby is so loved, so wanted, and so celebrated by our families, my husband, and me. I’m trying to make an effort to document this unique pregnancy journey so someday I can tell this baby the story of the wild ride we were on together from the very start. I’m compiling a book of letters with specific prompts for me to answer for my kiddos, and the letters for this baby are already their own kind of unique!
Focus on the Good
I think the most important thing during these times is to actively focus on the good, even if I’m only able to find very small things some days. Staying virtually connected to friends and family whom I can lean on during the hard days and celebrate with on the good days has been vital.
Recently, it feels like the world is beginning to come back to life. It’s encouraging to know that each day we are getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. We are all struggling in our own ways as a result of this pandemic. Pregnancy certainly makes that struggle unique. However, we get to be the generation of mamas who carried our babies inside us, keeping them safe during times that felt so unfamiliar. As the world around us fell into chaos, we never wavered. We kept on keeping on, nourishing these little lives regardless of our own uncertainties.
We — the mamas currently pregnant and the mamas in-the-wait — have a unique resilience that we otherwise wouldn’t have obtained. It’s strengthening us to be the fiercest moms we can be for our little ones.
You Are All Heroes
I would also like to take a quick moment to acknowledge those mamas in the waiting: the ones who had their IUI scheduled just to have it rescheduled for who-knows-when. The ones who had egg retrievals and FETs finally on the books and had been taking the nightly injections just to have it cancelled until further notice. The ones just waiting to get face-to-face with their care provider to get on fertility medications. This time is crushing on the infertility community. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant right before all this, I would be there too. My heart goes out to you because it is not easy to have it all just sit at a standstill. Hang in there, too.
P.S. Stay tuned: I plan to write another follow-up installment to this post in a few months as I get closer to delivery (and as the situation changes).