I only save the word “hate” for things I completely despise, like Donald Trump, chocolate, and a bad season of Real Housewives (I’m a passionate Bravoholic). So I think “hate” maybe a little strong here BUT…
I really, really, really dislike being pregnant. It took a while for me to be comfortable saying that, especially as someone who experienced a miscarriage the first time they got pregnant. My heart breaks for those women who struggle with infertility and I try to be as sensitive as possible when discussing the topic. However, pregnancy for me isn’t the glowing, life-changing experience it is for some women (I wish it was!) Instead, I don’t feel as though my body is mine. I suffer from anemia, so physically, I’m pretty depleted of energy especially during my third trimester. Mentally, pregnancy takes a big toll on me as well. I’ve been very open with my anxiety struggles and carrying a little one only heightens this anxiety. Some days it’s all-consuming and even though I’ve worked with my doctor to help manage this, it’s still a daily struggle for me from the time the pregnancy begins.
I do love the excitement of seeing that first positive test and the anticipation of meeting our child, but the in-between can be rough on a woman. And I think it is totally okay to be honest about that, and that there isn’t enough transparency in the pregnancy world. Mothers are somewhat guilted into loving the process (how many times I’ve heard “but it’s what your body is made to do!”) even though it can be a taxing one. You can be both grateful to be pregnant and healthy while also not be head-over-heels in love with the journey – these feelings are not mutually exclusive. And this is where my emotions sit.
So you can imagine how tough being pregnant during a global pandemic has been for someone like me.
I found out I was pregnant in February, right before COVID-19 hit, and around the last time we all took “normal” for granted. My husband was able to come to one appointment with me, and while I’m extremely grateful to have had that, it hasn’t been fun sitting in sonogram appointments alone. Pregnancy can feel very lonely even when you have the most supportive spouse (which I thank my lucky stars that I do), and having them attend big appointments like the 20-week scan helps them feel a part of the journey. With Jude, my husband would attend the “big” appointments, cracking jokes when he saw I was getting anxious waiting for results and smiling ear-to-ear every time we got to see his cute little profile. This time around I found myself sitting in my 28-week glucose test alone crying, with a mask on. Partly because of hormones, partly because my body responds horribly to the sugary drink, but mostly because I was hiding out in a room impatiently waiting to get my blood drawn so I could dart out of the office as soon as possible, wondering how we got here as a country. I counted the weeks I had left on my hands over and over again to make myself feel better.
Although data shows that pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized and are at an increased risk of ICU admission (source), there is still so much unknown on the longterm effects. And while I joke that I believe in more of a European lifestyle approach to pregnancy in terms of what I eat, drink, and do, frankly the unknown of COVID-19 scares the shit out of me. As your child’s home for 9-months, the weight of the responsibility to keep them safe is quite overbearing. We’re flooded with the risks in what we put in and on our body, the weight we do or don’t gain, the amount and type of exercise we do… even in how we wear our seatbelts. These pressures are only increased during a pandemic where nearly 1,000 people are dying a day in your country (source). Not only do I worry about catching COVID-19 and risking my own health and potentially spreading it to my family, but I also worry about the damage it could do to my fragile, developing baby, and the enormous guilt that could come with the potential risks and effects we may find in the future.
And yet still I struggle daily, just like we all do, with a strong yearning for pre-pandemic life, and pushing my personal limits of what I’m comfortable doing just to feel normal. For awhile I wouldn’t step foot into a grocery store, yet a few weeks ago I found myself browsing a Home Goods by myself because I desperately needed a mental break from the state of the world and my own fears. I ended up purchasing a large art piece that I struggled to put in the backseat of my car by myself, and I pulled up to the garage sending an all too familiar text to my husband to “come outside… I bought something and need help”. And although it was so nice to do something I used to take for granted, afterward I felt guilty for going somewhere I didn’t need to go. I over-think every move I make, wondering if it’s an extra risk I took that might put my baby in harm. And having a toddler, who is used to going out daily has added an extra layer of difficulty. Most days I struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough with him outside of the house in fear of getting sick, while also thinking that maybe I’m doing too much by allowing him to play on a deserted playground when they’re not officially open in the city. Jude has been sick with cold-like symptoms twice since the pandemic, and both times his doctor suggested he be tested for COVID-19 because I’m pregnant, making the quick swabs arguably harder on me than him (he stopped crying when he thought he hit the lottery by getting an extra sippy-cup of milk right after the test, I dwelled on it for days after. Thankfully, he tested negative both times.) Trying to find the balance between keeping my toddler socialized and busy while also being the most responsible and careful parent I can be is a daily balance I know most parents are tackling.
And yet I know I have it easy. This isn’t my first pregnancy, so I was able to have an amazing baby shower, my husband accompanying me to all the exciting appointments, and an eventful yet maskless delivery. First-time mothers, especially those who may only have one pregnancy, are robbed of these opportunities. Not to mention the countless amounts of women who would gladly give up the celebrations and support during their appointments just to be able to be pregnant. And when you look at those who are already suffering from pre-existing conditions and are going through this pandemic already immune-compromised, I am so lucky the issues I face are my own. Still, my pregnancy fears have been exacerbated by this pandemic and done a number on my mental health.
This is why I decided to wait to share that I was pregnant until I got to a place I felt more comfortable. As I mentioned before, my intentions were not to go full secretive-Kylie-Jenner-pregnancy on social media because I do want to celebrate this baby and share the joy we feel over expanding our family, but I also wanted to protect my mental health. There’s no rationality to it, but only sharing this pregnancy with close family and a few friends felt “safer” to me, and also made it feel a little more cherished during a crazy time. Selfishly, I also got to dodge all the questions I found extremely annoying the first time around. (Are you drinking caffeine? What gender are you hoping for? Don’t say a “healthy baby!” How much weight have you gained?) Not to mention part of me felt somewhat bad to share such happy news when so much sadness is going on in the world. Posting a picture sharing we’re expecting felt so out-of-place when social media feeds are filled with the sad reality of the state of the world. I wanted to keep this little part of happiness separate from all of the heartache 2020 has brought, especially when I’ve seen how badly people have been affected by COVID-19 and today’s political climate.
But at 31 weeks (32 now), I also want to give this little life the celebration it deserves and share the happiness that we feel. I don’t want to look back and regret not sharing this joy because of my own anxieties that tend to enter my life knocking down walls rather than slowly creep in. And although he has been extremely understanding and patient with me, I know my husband could not wait to share the news of this little one, especially since he hasn’t been able to be as involved in the journey as he was the first time around. In the end, this baby has been a guiding light in what many can agree is a dark year, and grateful doesn’t even describe how lucky we feel to be expanding our family.
The fears, anxiety, and up-all-night-thoughts do not end after pregnancy… I know this all too well. But for me, this part of motherhood can be extra stressful, especially when the entire world is turned upside down. And although a pandemic isn’t the most ideal pregnancy scenario, I do have many moments of extreme gratitude for our health, happiness, and a strong, growing baby that will be born into a family eagerly waiting with loving arms.
This has helped keep everything into perspective for me, because really, what else matters?