I have been pregnant for 245 days, and in the past 12 of those, everything I have come to know about how this baby will enter the world is on the chopping block.
It began when I walked into a lab three weeks ago to do an elective urine test to keep an eye on my proteins. It was two days before things became unglued in California due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and when I walked into the lab everyone was wearing masks and gloves. The woman at the counter pointed to the iPad to sign in.
“I’d rather not,” I said hesitatingly, not wanting to touch the screen. “I just need to pick up a jug to pee in.”
As I waited for the lab to supply the jug, a man walked through the door with sad and frantic eyes. He went on to plead, “I see on the door it says that you guys don’t have the tests and not to come in if you’re not well… but I think I have it. I need the COVID-19 test and my doctor told me to find a place to do it. I don’t know where to go!”
My stomach dropped and I instantly recoiled, feeling immediately vulnerable. I was standing there, not only pregnant but also with my child. I grabbed my daughter’s hand, scared of the world in a way I hadn’t ever been before.
Get me out of this room! I made a sharp turn for the door and went straight home. I haven’t been out to a medical appointment since that day, and my whole paradigm changed at that lab.
California went on lockdown two days later. And with these snowballing changes, I began questioning what a birth at a medical facility would look like as thousands of people—sick people and healthcare workers—get hit by this pandemic in a place without enough resources to help them out.
There is no short supply of unsettling tales to lose yourself in. I have heard stories of mothers in Seattle giving birth in hallways because there are no beds left. There have been many stories of overcrowding due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. I’ve read accounts of women in New York being told they must deliver their babies without even one support person or partner in the room in an attempt to keep visitor numbers down and protect undersupplied hospital staff.
These stories replay in my mind as I float through day after day in quarantine at home with my 2-year-old daughter. “Can I kiss baby sister?” she asks innocently.
“Ohhh! Yes, baby,” I reply to her as I snap out of my thoughts and into my current reality, smiling at her sweet face.
I am living in a world of two extremes. On one hand, it is intoxicatingly beautiful—we have been “forced” into slow quality family time with one another. But we’re also living in anxiety about the fear around us. Thousands of people will need hospital care in California and I can’t help but wonder how this will affect my baby’s birth.
So this begs the questions I believe we must all ask of ourselves: What do I have control over at this time? What will my takeaways be when I look back and reflect on how these pages of my life were written? What are the things I find the most valuable and how do I retain those things so when I look back at how this all played out, I will still be in awe of the beauty within chaos?
For me, this experience has led me to deeply consider the idea of having our daughter at home as long as that is a safe option for me. After much research, I have found a midwife I trust. I have also started looking into my insurance options and playing out worst-case scenarios knowing that decision time will soon be upon me.
This change means facing my fears about pushing a baby out without the safety net of already being in the hospital should an emergency occur. This challenge means believing in myself, my baby and my midwife to work together in order to do something I feel I was made to do. This new potential birth plan means casting aside worried friends’ and my OBGYN’s judgments about my having a homebirth and instead, confidently believe in my own decision—should it be the one I make.
But quite candidly, deciding to “follow my mom gut” has been an exciting and freeing feeling from the stress of this pandemic. The idea of walking freely in my backyard while in labor, potentially sleeping in my bed the night of delivery and importantly, holding my husband’s hand throughout the birth of our last baby gives me romantic feelings for a reason.
We enter this ocean of motherhood accepting an atmosphere of imperfection and uncertainty. Very quickly after giving birth, our bodies and natural instincts remind us that the world doesn’t always feel safe enough for our perfect little babies. Our minds paddle over small waves of fear like surfers going out to sea—distracted drivers, chemical pollutants, too much screen time—we let the water break over our heads, emerging in the valleys of the waves. We see the beautiful break in the water in front of us and forgive ourselves for the fear, as our hair has become wet and our skin a little more wrinkly and sunkissed.
Our children are the future in front of us. We mothers are propelled to move forward and past fears by our innate love for them. When looking at the big picture in front of me—delivering a child at this very scary time—I am finding it more important than ever to remember I am still pointing towards my own destiny, no matter what decision I make.