“My heart fell through my chest and into my stomach. Tears started streaming down my face, and I cupped my face in disbelief as I gleamed at the little stick in between my fingers.
I was going to be a mom again!
I was going to be a mom again, after a third trimester loss three and a half years ago. I was going to be a mom again, after a tumultuous and terrifying subsequent pregnancy that ended prematurely due to preeclampsia, but still gave me my ‘rainbow baby’ who is two and a half years old now.
For over a year, I found myself pleading to some higher power, to bless us with a sibling for our baby in heaven and our baby on earth. Though, more often than not, it seemed like I was wishing for the impossible.
The year 2019 started off with heart wrenching long-term hospitalization that took me away from my family. That same year ended with a dream come true, knowing we would get to welcome our third baby in the summer of 2020. Finally, I had felt the sigh of relief I had been needing. The calm after the storm I had been yearning for was finally here.
And then the world went into lock down over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like most, I wasn’t sure to what degree this virus would change our lives, if it would at all. Then, little by little, things kept popping up that made my anxiety peak. Grocery stores were getting wiped out. Several others expecting in my mom groups were reporting cancelled appointments and ultrasounds. Suddenly it wasn’t JUST the elderly and sick dying, like initially boasted. Every prenatal clinic I attend started screening with multiple questions prior to any visit. Spouses and any other accompaniment was strictly prohibited, too.
Then my husband got laid off, which is terrifying when you’re a one-income family as it is, but especially so if you’re also expecting a baby in a matter of months. It was from that point on, things started feeling incredibly real. The dreams I had over how this pregnancy would be were just more things I had to let go of.
Before this pandemic struck, I already had plenty of reasons to worry about this baby. After a history of stillbirth, preeclampsia, and IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction) with my first two pregnancies, I was already considered a high-risk pregnancy. At around 12 weeks, my doctors warned me my risk was even higher, after recently being diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus not only increases risk to my unborn baby, it also makes me immunocompromised and puts me more in danger of complications if I were to contract COVID-19 (in turn, possibly endangering the pregnancy as well).
I had any and all hope for this pregnancy. Despite having so many possibilities to fear, I was determined to make this pregnancy the one I was going to celebrate. I have little to no memories of my first two. I had no baby shower, no gender reveal, no photos. I distanced myself from most of my family. I didn’t announce I was pregnant with my daughter until I was 31 weeks, because I was so afraid (she was born at 35 weeks). After my loss and the trauma that came with it, which stripped me of so much joy while I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I finally deserved some peace. I deserved the normal pregnancy most women get, and unknowingly take for granted.
It’s hard to understand the pain expecting mothers are going through if you don’t have to go through what we are. Like me, so many mothers are battling complications and were already terrified as it is, without a virus to threaten them even more. There are first time moms, who will lose the much coveted and cherished experience of a first pregnancy. So many moms have gone through infertility and will now lose the experience they dreamed of for so long. I’m with the mamas, like me, who have lost a baby already, and just wanted their rainbow after the storm.
Our pregnancies cannot be rescheduled to a later date when this nightmare is over. Being pregnant during COVID-19 means telemedicine, solo appointments, and uncertainty and fear over how our pregnancies, labor, and postpartum will be handled by a healthcare system rocked by the pandemic.
It means isolation from our family and friends during such a pivotal and ever-changing period in our lives when we need them the most. Expecting a baby now is the absence of joyous memories of celebration we’ll never get to have. It’s a struggle of wanting to be happy, but also being horribly aware of the chaos the world is grappling with. Pregnant women are fragile in so many ways, and we’re having to be stronger now than we should ever have to be. Understandably but sadly, we’re having to take the backseat, and simply hope this will get better.
I’m trying to make the best of it. A lot of us are, that goes without saying. I take my own DIY maternity photos. Many other mamas are having virtual or drive-by baby showers. I talk and sing to my baby girl on the way. I play ‘footsie’ with her too. I immerse myself in the things that bring me joy, because I don’t want her to feel an ounce of my worry or sorrow. Some days are better than others, and other days I find myself rattled and unable to shake the anger and hurt I feel towards having to face so many challenges while pregnant again.
It’s not that I, nor so many other expecting moms, are absent in realizing a baby is a blessing no matter the circumstance in which it happens. That’s more than obvious. As someone who has lost a baby, believe me when I say, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to carry this child at all. Though none of this negates the fact this an experience that can’t be redone or rescheduled. And on top of the grief that comes with missing out on this much anticipated and special time in our lives, there is a cloud of melancholy hovering over us every day.
Everyone is battling their own hardships right now, which has made me feel like maybe there isn’t any support left to support me and my family through what we’re going through. There is enough love and compassion to go around, without having to compare pain or grievances. We are entitled to mourn the things we have had to forfeit in the midst of this global crisis, no matter how small they may seem to others, or comparatively to what others’ struggles are.
To those who are expecting, you’re allowed to be angry, and feel like this is completely unfair. You have every right to your anxiety and stress, even if you’ve been reassured. My fellow mothers, you are not being selfish when you admit how sad you are. You are not being negative when you worry about the future with your baby. This pandemic is afflicting all of our mental health, and it’s not any easier when you’re already in a position where your hormones and emotions are already all over the place as it is.
This is not the time to ‘suck it up.’ This is the time to own every feeling of weakness and uncertainty we have, and move forward in spite of it… together.
There’s definitely an uneasiness I carry with me every day the clock ticks down to my second daughter’s arrival. The thing is, this situation is evolving each day, and none of us know what will happen tomorrow, let alone months down the road. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to take care of ourselves and provide if this massive unemployment continues. I worry about getting sick myself, and what that would mean for my own health, my baby’s, and my family’s. This is on top of fearing what would happen if the health of my pregnancy is jeopardized by my preexisting risk factors. When you conceive a baby, you do so with the intention of giving them everything. It’s a terrifying prospect when you’re not sure if you can. I’m concerned about bringing a baby into a world that feels so unfamiliar now, and will absolutely never be the same again, once this is all said and done.
Yet, even if none of us asked for it, we’ll all be stronger coming out of this. This may not be the experience we wanted, but it will be the one to show us just how resilient we really can be. Living in a planet of panic, we all have to do the most courageous thing we have ever done and continue to find happiness and celebration during a time that is so relentlessly bleak.
We are giving birth in the middle of a global pandemic, and if that’s not something to write about in the baby book, I don’t know what is.
There are ways to support your pregnant friends without being dismissive. Please remember, most of us are trying our best as it is, though still carrying hurt through it is inevitable. It’s easy to say ‘be positive,’ ‘be grateful,’ ‘there are other alternatives you can try,’ ‘it’s not that bad,’ or even worse… ‘I didn’t have x, y, z and I was fine.’ What’s not easy is walking in her shoes, so at least try to hold her hand through it if you can. (Metaphorically, of course.)
Times are hard. What is not hard is being understanding, sympathetic, and kind.
To all my other mamas who have recently had a baby or are expecting one, know no matter what, we got this! It’s a shame to have to face such adversity along the way, though nothing can take away from the love we have for our babies, and the strength we must have to give them the best, even when we’re feeling the worst. Fearfully and bravely, we are trusting the unknown and holding onto our new version of bliss. The beauty of motherhood is it is never perfect, yet so very worth it. That is something not even a pandemic can change.”
**This post was written by Franky Hunter and originally appeared on her Facebook page.