I keep getting texts. I write back to another friend asking how I'm doing, "Good. A little anxious. Just waiting now. What a surreal time to have a baby!"
I don't want to overreact. I don't want other people to worry. I try to keep calm and positive. I am generally not a worrier. But after I send the text, I lose it for the third time today. I am bawling in the kitchen. I am worried and overwhelmed and pregnant during a global pandemic.
I am going to give birth to my second baby in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, which is still on the upswing in Canada.
Two weeks ago, my biggest concern while planning for this baby was if the rocking chair we ordered would come in time and who would be available to drop everything and care for our 2-year-old at home while I go to the hospital.
Now, with my due date days away, my concerns are indefinite and growing and anxiety-filled. I have friends and family in the healthcare system. A family member who is a NICU nurse tells me, "Get in, get out, as fast as you can."
My mind is tumbling with questions that are answered with uncertainty. Which potential care provider for my daughter has practiced social distancing? And the least exposure in public? My husband is still working, so could we possibly compromise our care provider if we have it and don't know?
I call my sister. "Have you been social distancing? Has your roommate been social distancing? Has your boyfriend been social distancing?" I've never used this term in my life and now I feel I say it in every second sentence.
She hasn't seen her boyfriend in almost two weeks in order to ensure she has self-isolated and is hopefully safe to take care of our daughter while my husband and I go to the hospital—even with her weakened immune system due to Crohn's Disease. There is no one else I can trust to have self-isolated properly and who my daughter is comfortable with. She is taking a risk, and I am forever grateful.
My local hospital has had its first COVID-19 cases, so it's there. The worries continue—How bad will it get and how many cases will be there when I go into labor? Will I catch it when I go in? Will I or my husband catch it before because he's still working? Will my daughter catch it? If I get COVID-19, will I have to quarantine from my new baby and my family?
My first daughter caught Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at 3 weeks old and that was terrifying enough. With all the unknowns for pregnant women and babies, how would COVID-19 affect a newborn if my newborn baby caught it?
What if my midwife catches it? Should I switch to a home birth to decrease exposure?
I call my midwife, who advises at this time to move forward with a hospital birth but informs me directives could change in a week. She also advises that during labor most of her work will be done over the phone to reduce her exposure in the hospital until the actual birth is imminent. She tells me, "Wear gloves and a mask if possible or cover your mouth when you go in. Don't touch any elevator buttons or anything. Go straight to maternity."
And, she says, no laughing gas is allowed. That was my lifeline during my daughter's birth two years ago.
Then, what will it look like after? When my daughter was born, my loving and wonderful support system brought meals and offered to clean or hold my daughter while I or my husband showered or took a nap. We joyously invited friends and family to come by to meet our new baby.
This time, we will not be able to allow visitors for the foreseeable future. Family and friends will have to meet the baby over FaceTime and videos or a peek through the window. We will be on our own.
I want my husband to stay home from work after the baby is born to decrease our risk for exposure but how can we justify that to his work and our bill payments? If my husband has to go back to work after his week of paid leave is up, I will be on my own—sleep-deprived with a toddler and a newborn,—and the hovering anxiety of COVID-19 leaking into our home.
As if pausing my worries, my daughter rolls her play stroller up to me with her baby doll inside. "Hold baby, Mama?" I'm so excited to see her become a big sister. In all of the unknowns spinning in my mind, she reminds me to stop for a second and feel thankful.
There are many people and families suffering in the world from this virus. As of now, I am healthy, my daughter and my husband are healthy, and so is the baby.
I am able to stay at home. My family and friends are social distancing and are safe at this time. I still have my support network even if we have to keep our distance (thank you to my mama friends for lifting my spirits by leaving a care package on my doorstep this week!). We have the technology to communicate and keep us connected. I have food and necessities.
I am so, so grateful for our healthcare and frontline workers, midwives and nurses and doctors, grocery clerks, food providers, utility workers, postal staff and all of the everyday heroes that are putting their health at risk to save us and make our world continue to go 'round.
I cuddle my daughter close and I find peace in the time to live slowly at home and be in the moment with her before the new baby.
I turn off my phone and the continuous pandemic updates for a while.
To all of the pregnant mothers at this time, I want to say—it's okay to cry and be anxious and scared in one moment and smile and be grateful and hopeful in the next.
It is a surreal time to be bringing a new baby into the world. But still a very special time, too.