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I'm days away from giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic

My body is stretched beyond recognition, but I now find myself hoping and wishing that he would stay tucked safely inside just a little while longer.

pregnant woman

It's late March and as I walk into my typically warm and inviting OB-GYN's office, I'm greeted with an ominous sign at the door warning travelers, delivery personnel, patients' spouses and anyone with a fever or cough to keep out. I press onward to find the waiting room flipped upside down, giving off a particularly apocalyptic mood. A large leather couch is pressed up to the front desk, protecting the mask-wearing receptionist from being approached. In lieu of a sign-in sheet, she calls to me from across the room: "Name?!"

A handful of scattered chairs are the limited remaining seating options. After all, I can't be expected to stand for long in my present state. At this moment, I'm 38 weeks pregnant.

Back in July, just a few weeks shy of my oldest daughter's first birthday, I learned that I was expecting my second child. I sat on my suspicions for several days before taking a pregnancy test—as if I could somehow delay the inevitable just a little while longer.

Now, just two weeks ahead of my due date, I find myself wishing to delay the inevitable again. Ready or not, I will be delivering this baby smack in the middle of a national emergency: the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I prepare for childbirth, what should be a time of uncomfortable-but-happy late pregnancy hibernation has become a state-wide "Shelter in Place" order. Businesses are closed, grocery stores are stripped of essentials and everyone I know is (smartly) holed up in their homes, leaving a crucial source of support I'd typically lean on largely out of commission.

As each day ticks by, I'm left wondering when my water might break and whether or not I'll have the supplies my family needs when it does.

According to my doctor, this little boy in my belly could have a complication-free delivery. Ordinarily, I would welcome this assurance with all the labor-inducing wives' tales: endless walking, pineapples, dates, and for Angelenos, a "special" salad with mysterious, baby-birthing powers.

But when the best answer we have regarding newborns, pregnancy, breastfeeding and the coronavirus is, "We don't know," followed by logical best guesses and limited statistics, I hardly feel confident about bringing something so tiny and precious into this semi-quarantined version of our world. While people continue to go about their business, risking exposure and spread of an unbridled, lung-attacking virus, I fear for my baby's fragile and defenseless little lungs.

My body is stretched beyond recognition, but I now find myself hoping and wishing that he would stay tucked safely inside just a little while longer.

I've dreamed of introducing my soft-hearted, nurturing 19-month-old daughter to her new brother in the hospital, pressing her little nose up to the clear bassinet to watch him sleep, but I now know that she won't be permitted to visit at all. After months of watching her cradle a baby doll in preparation for this moment, I feel robbed of our first hours together as a family of four.

I now fear that my husband could miss the birth of our second child with no other safe options to care for our first. Knowing what childbirth entails makes potentially going it alone all the more daunting.

As a stay-at-home parent and the primary caregiver for our bright and sensitive daughter who calls out for "Mommy!" first thing in the morning and reluctantly accepts help or comfort from other adults—I fear our impending days-long separation. My heart aches for how she may react when I do suddenly return home, a new mother to someone who is not her.

I now picture long, solitary days and nights in our home. No helping hands to wash the dishes, fold the laundry or offer a meal. No memories made with loved ones in our child's first days on earth. No airport pickups for eager grandparents, who may end up waiting many months to meet our son.

I wonder, Have I or my family been exposed to COVID-19 already? At this point, would the symptoms present themselves before or after the baby's arrival?

I plead, please don't let us become an example.

By all assurances from my doctor and the Center for Disease Control, we will be well cared for through this journey. But as any pregnant woman knows, logic and reason aren't always our forte at this stage in the hormone game.

As I scroll through endless COVID-19 content on Instagram, fear ebbs and flows through my body. I know I should stop. But my fingers can't quit.

Like a ping pong ball, I bounce back and forth between feeling excited butterflies as I imagine my newborn baby boy to feeling a heavy pit in my stomach. I mourn the loss of the birth and fourth trimester I envisioned. I reluctantly accept that so much of this is out of my control.

I feel sorrow and awe for all the medical workers putting themselves at risk each and every day to care for others while knowing that I too will be occupying a hospital bed any day now.

And yet, like all expectant mamas, I can hardly wait to see my baby's sweet face in the flesh. To hold him in my arms, hear his cries and count every last finger and toe. To smell his newborn skin.

My hospital bag waits diligently by my door, filled with toiletries and a flowery robe for me, and itty-bitty, beautifully patterned ensembles for him. I spent hours selecting them, envisioning what they'll look like on his little body. My heart swells at the thought.

Because even as terror looms over me, the joy of welcoming a new child rings louder. Because no matter the timing or circumstance, the juxtaposition of overwhelming fear mixed with overwhelming love is all part of the universal motherhood experience.

Rarely is a woman more concerned with what her body needs than when she's pregnant. We start to question and research everything, right? From swearing off turkey sandwiches to diving down the rabbit hole of prenatal supplements that make up what we lack, the stress of overthinking is real, mama.

One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

That's why we knew we had to introduce mamas-to-be to the science-backed and expertly-formulated protein collagen for pregnancy from Needed. And as one of our bestsellers, it's clear you've been looking for it, too.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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