Giving birth in the midst of a Pandemic - A Mother’s Advice
In my previous blog I talked a lot about the emotional rollercoaster ride of becoming pregnant and expecting a newborn during the COVID-19 pandemic. However – despite the fact that this wasn’t my first pregnancy – there was nothing that could have prepared me for the physical and mental toll that delivering my child under these circumstances was going to take.
With the end of the third trimester rapidly approaching, my excitement was at an all-time high, but so was my anxiety regarding the delivery process. As the due date came closer and closer, I started to think more critically about the logistics of giving birth during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. I realized that I would likely be alone in the delivery room for the most part without my husband or daughter beside me. I didn’t know if I would have anyone to look to for support or encouragement during one of the most monumental and challenging moments of my life. And, of course, the ever-present fear of contracting the coronavirus at the hospital was looming in the back of my mind as well. My anxiety slowly turned into dread as every possible scenario ran through my mind.
These apprehensive thoughts persisted even up until the moment that my water broke and I had to be rushed to the hospital. At a time when I needed all of my mental fortitude, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I likely wouldn’t be able to see my daughter for at least a couple of days. This was especially difficult for me, considering I had rarely spent this much time away from her since the moment she was born. I had hoped and dreamed that she would be able to experience the precious moment when her baby brother was born, but now I had to explain to her that mommy and daddy would be leaving the house for a few nights, and that we would soon return home with her new baby brother. I was beyond worried about how she would process this, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how she would handle it all.
In addition, I was also struggling with feelings of guilt that my time and attention would be split now with the introduction of a second child, and that I wouldn’t be able to give my daughter the undivided attention she was accustomed to. All of these thoughts were running rampant through my head, and I felt overwhelmed by my emotions as my husband prepared to drive me to the hospital. I called my sister and asked her if she could come watch over my daughter until my husband returned from the hospital, and she agreed to drive over.
The next thing I knew I was in the delivery room, and the reality of the current circumstances became very clear. I was immediately tested for COVID-19 using a rapid-response test kit, and my results quickly came back as negative. Regardless of the test, it was mandatory that everyone in the hospital – including the patient – wear a mask at all times. I’ll be the first to admit that it was difficult to endure all the pain associated with labor while also wearing a mask, but I knew at the end of the day that it was primarily for my own safety as well as the safety of the doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who risk their lives every day to take care of people like me. Despite all of my fears and concerns going into the delivery process, the doctors managed to lighten the mood considerably and make me feel a lot more comfortable by making lighthearted jokes, asking me questions about my life and overall portraying a positive attitude.
Everything was over before I knew it, and after lots of familiar pain and tribulations, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy with the most angelic smile. Once I finally got to hold him in my arms I was overwhelmed with happiness, relief, excitement, and exhaustion, but I still couldn’t stop thinking about my daughter at home. As thankful as I was that my husband was allowed to be there for a lot of the process, I felt as if my daughter had been denied a special memory that she would have potentially cherished forever. I just had to keep telling myself that I had no control over the circumstances, and that I shouldn’t feel bad about something I have no say in.
My advice to any mother who is due to deliver their newborn in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic would be to learn as much as you can about the process by getting as much information from as many recent mothers and healthcare professionals as possible. Uncertainty is the greatest catalyst of fear, so removing that uncertainty with facts and anecdotal information is the key to reducing anxiety. The more prepared you are for what’s in store, the more comfortable you’ll feel when the time comes.
If you have other young children, it’s imperative that you have a thoughtful and comprehensive plan worked out for them to stay at home while you’re at the hospital. In my case, I had to ask my sister in advance if she could come and stay at our house to keep my daughter company and take care of her while I was in labor, and she made sure to isolate and get tested for COVID-19 ahead of time. So, if you’re going to have someone watch over your child while you’re at the hospital, make sure it’s someone you can completely trust.
Another way we made sure our daughter was mentally and emotionally prepared for the arrival of her newborn sibling was by reading her books about what it means to be a big sister, and by talking to her about it as frequently as possible. We also bought her a few small presents “from the newborn” in order to help her feel like we weren’t diverting all of our attention away from her and towards her little brother.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is that you can’t control everything. You can’t control the fact that there’s a global pandemic going on, and you can’t control the circumstances of your pregnancy or delivery. All you can do is prepare yourself physically and mentally to the best of your abilities and focus on the things you do have control over. When things get overwhelming – which they are bound to – center yourself and remind yourself that everything is going to turn out alright. Meditate, go on long walks, listen to music and spend time with your loved ones; and when it’s time to deliver your baby, just accept the reality of the situation and know that you’re in capable and caring hands. After all, when you finally get to hold your baby for the first time, you’ll know without a doubt that it was all worth it.