Being pregnant during a pandemic is scary. There are so many unknowns in today’s world and most of us are feeling stress or anxiety in some area of our lives. Everyone has been impacted by this pandemic in some way, shape, or form. How does the pandemic impact a pregnancy?
Pregnancy is supposed to be a joyful time, spent showing off your growing belly and celebrating this new life with others. (Struggling with your growing belly? Check out my article on Body Acceptance During Pregnancy). Being pregnant during a pandemic is a new kind of experience though. You have to find a way to release your expectations and accept a new normal for your pregnancy.
For those of you who are pregnant, I feel you. You are not alone in this experience. If you are reading this because you know someone who is pregnant, check on them. They are grieving the loss of a pregnancy experience that they dreamed of. Please don’t dismiss their very real feelings by saying “at least you have this pregnancy to be happy about” or any variation of that statement. Yes, we are grateful to be pregnant and we are also heartbroken, scared, and wishing this wasn’t happening during a pandemic. We are missing a lot of major milestones, whether you are a first-time mom or not.
The Struggles of a Pandemic Pregnancy
When it comes to the virus, you are considered high-risk when pregnant and advised to take extra precautions. Information on how the virus can affect unborn babies or newborns has been very limited. Traditional prenatal care and education are almost non-existent. Your support system is forced to keep their distance. Let’s not forget all of the important moments that we are missing. Plus the financial burdens the lockdown as placed upon most of us.
If you are a first-time mom, the pregnancy might feel ruined. Especially if you have tried to conceive or dreamt of this moment for a long time. Personally, I pictured my first pregnancy going very differently than it is right now. I have wanted to be a mother for years and now that the time has come, I am grieving the loss of having the “normal” pregnancy experience that everyone else has.
For mothers who already have children, you are dealing with all of these struggles plus the challenges of homeschooling or having your children home more due to school closures and modified schedules.
NBC just posted an article
about how stress has tripled
in pregnant women during this pandemic. This article also talks about the impact of stress on your unborn child. Knowing that this state of mind will not be beneficial for your pregnancy doesn’t exactly make it go away, it can even create more
For me, one of the best antidotes for stress is gratitude. Trying to find any silver lining that you can in a difficult situations shifts your focus from the negative to the positive, even if it feels impossible.
With all of these struggles, how are you able to find gratitude during a pandemic pregnancy?
All of this new stress added on top of normal pregnancy stress is overwhelming at times. I know, because I feel it too. This is definitely not how I expected my first pregnancy to be… but I am better because of it. That sounds crazy, right? Let me break down the pandemic pregnancy experience and explain how I’ve managed to find a way to grow through it.
Not knowing how this virus can affect unborn babies or newborns is definitely cause for some anxiety. Some mothers have had to give birth without a support partner in the room to protect the mother and baby. My heart goes out to those women who have been robbed of the necessary support while bringing life into this world. Fortunately, as it stands my husband will be able to be in the room with me during birth unless he tests positive for coronavirus. He works in a medical facility on a military base and is required to participate in mass swab testing for the virus, so no matter how cautious we are, he is always potentially exposed. All we can do is hope that he will be able to be present for our first child’s birth.
However, since our families do not live on O’ahu and there is a 2-week mandatory quarantine in place for all travelers coming to the island. This means that our family will have to cancel their trips. They will not be able to welcome their first grandchild into the world. And because newborns are high-risk, they may not even be able to visit us for the first couple of months… that’s if we are lucky. You’ve probably seen videos of families having to meet newborns through windows. That is a potential reality for many people as well.
And in cases where the mother tests positive for coronavirus? You will most likely be quarantined from your child for 2 weeks. Can you imagine giving birth and immediately having your child taken away from you? Not being able to hold your child for 2 weeks? This is a reality for a lot of NICU moms already. I know from a friend’s experience just how challenging that can be to cope with after giving birth.
Your Prenatal Care
Due to social distancing measures, most doctor visits that I had were by phone. I have not met my midwife team and most likely will not know the person delivering my baby. Phone visits also meant that at one point, I went over two months without hearing a heartbeat. This was before the baby had even started kicking, I had no reassurance that my baby was ok. And when I did start having in-person visits? They were supposed to be without my partner.
I did go in for an anatomy ultrasound at 20 weeks. My husband was also unable to come with me to that appointment. I remember being so scared as I wandered the massive hospital alone. We were not sure if I would be receiving good or bad news. Luckily, we did receive good news, but the magic was somewhat dampened by the fact that he was not allowed to be with me to experience it. I know that was challenging for my husband, given that this is his first child too. He is also missing out on the important pieces of pregnancy.
To top it off, all of my pregnancy classes were canceled. So it’s looking like I might be giving birth without ever even having had a proper birthing or breastfeeding class.
Isolation While Pregnant
The pandemic has forced some partners to isolate themselves from one another during pregnancy. My husband and I had to discuss this possibility. He continued to work in a clinic during the scariest times of the pandemic and was a potential risk. Many pregnant women have had to quarantine from their support systems as well. Their loved ones are missing out on the mini-milestones of growth. Even if it’s just a two week quarantine period, a lot happens during your pregnancy in two weeks! It’s difficult to not be able to share the joy.
The support that is needed during a pandemic pregnancy can be absolutely crucial for your mental health. Having to quarantine from your partner and support system can leave you feeling isolated and alone. You might even feel forgotten at times because they are unable to be very involved or have (understandably) been focused on their own struggles in the pandemic. Plus, you no longer have the small day to day interactions from neighbors or friends either. You are truly alone.
For first time mothers like myself, especially ones who have had a difficult journey conceiving, there can be a large amount of grief in a pandemic pregnancy. Having never experienced pregnancy before, I thought I knew what to expect while expecting… But nothing prepared me for the loss of a “normal” pregnancy. I had expectations in my mind of what the pregnancy experience would be like. It included family being able to touch my belly and feel my baby move. I was even excited about the massive amount of prenatal appointments and classes! When my reality was nothing like my expectations, I grieved my idea of pregnancy.
Mothers with children already are struggling to adjust to these changes along with having children home more than usual. Some are trying to juggle working while homeschooling. If they are sending their kids to school, most schools have modified schooling schedules. Children are struggling in this pandemic as well, which means these mothers are also having to be more attentive and supportive to their kids to help them through this difficult time.
Mental health is already a struggle for normal prenatal reasons like hormones and body acceptance during pregnancy
. Not to mention the battles that many women already
face postpartum without the added stress and isolation. You need that outside support now, more than ever. For anyone struggling mentally or emotionally during this pandemic, I highly recommend finding a good therapist. Mine has helped me make it through some challenging moments!
Social Distancing During Important Moments
So many important moments are being missed during the pandemic. You are lucky if you were able to share the joy of telling your loved ones about your baby in person. All of the corresponding parties have been canceled. That means no gender reveal, baby shower, and definitely no baby-moon vacation. No celebrating with your loved ones. Because of Oahu’s quarantine period, I will have gone my entire pregnancy without my loved ones ever getting to see me pregnant in person. And these are just joyous moments…
Many heartbreaking moments are being missed because of the pandemic too. Both my birth mother and my earth mother (my grandmother who was my mother figure) passed away within 4 months during the pandemic. I was unable to attend their funeral services or even fly home to grieve with my family. Missing difficult and important moments, such as funerals, makes it challenging to gain closure. And you won’t receive the extra support, love, and warmth needed during times of grief. Personally, my heart has been heavy after these losses and the inability to grieve properly.
I’m grateful for my husband, who has been my rock during this season of grief and the isolation that this pandemic has created. His continued involvement and celebration for our baby have kept this pandemic pregnancy feeling special for me even on my darkest days. I feel fortunate that my husband was able to be there for me through this time. However, I would have really gained a lot from attending those services and being with my entire support system.
Unemployment and Furlough
It’s no secret that many people have been unemployed or furloughed during this pandemic. Some pregnant women were lucky enough to still have jobs but had to make the difficult decision to leave them to protect their health. Imagine carrying the everyday stressors of life such as feeding your family, rent, and paying bills when you no longer make the money that you used to. Now, add the impending charges of feeding your growing belly, baby items (including big-ticket items like cribs and strollers), and vitamins on top of that. Plus the healthcare expenses!
Unemployment rates are high and there is potential that benefits might run out soon. I have been waiting over 3 months to find out if I will receive any unemployment from being furloughed. Of course, there are many pregnant women in this same situation. Finances are already stressful as it is before tossing lost wages and a baby into the mix.
Although none of this is an ideal situation, I know worse things have happened to people in pregnancy and life. I also know that I am not the only one suffering during this trying time. For those of you who are considered high-risk as well, I’m here for you. And anyone anxious about the health of your loved ones, your financial future, or just anxious in general, you are not in this alone. This is a scary time for everyone but each season allows us to learn and grow. Let’s support and love one another through this.
In between my growing concerns and the inevitable moments of breakdown, I’m reminded of the little piece of sunshine that is also growing in me each day, healthy and full of love. I return to a place of gratitude and peace.
Gifts from Being Pregnant During a Pandemic
How have I found a way to be better despite my pandemic pregnancy? This pandemic has presented us all with an opportunity to practice reframing
, creating a different way of looking at the situation by changing its meaning. For me, I have been able to reframe all of these challenges in the following ways:
The isolation provided me with space to assess habits, relationships, and mental health. I did not have distractions from the outside world. This allowed me to truly dive into my inner world to prepare for the transition into motherhood.
Not having the reassurance of my baby’s heartbeat for over 2 months has taught me how to completely trust my body. Normally, not feeling the baby move and not hearing a heartbeat would have me overcome with anxiety. I had to learn to cope with these anxieties and accept that I am doing my best to take care of this baby. That is all I can do. My body knows what it is doing and I had to trust that everything was ok. I’ve become much calmer about my pregnancy.
Social distancing has allowed me to grow closer to my husband and cherish our time together before entering this new season. We spent all of our time together, truly appreciating every second of being just a married couple before becoming parents. And made sure to celebrate our growing family through each milestone. We nested, built a nursery, and tended to our many houseplants. There was time for discussions about parenting and the transition into it. We leaned heavily on one another, especially during my times of grief. Because of this pandemic pregnancy, we grew stronger.
A lack of connection with the outside world has made me more appreciative of my inner circle. I was able to lean on my support system more heavily by phone and video while they too were quarantined. Everyone has struggled and lost something due to this pandemic and they needed someone to lean on as well. I have grown to appreciate the true connections that can stay strong during difficult and distanced times.
Losing work hours has granted me the freedom of exploring new creative desires to share, connect, and give to others. During that time, I learned how to build a website for my blog, wrote, recorded podcasts, and developed my plan to launch this entire project. I was able to dedicate time to learning and creativity, time that I would not have had with a normal work schedule.
The Gifts of a Pandemic Pregnancy
Despite all the hardships that the pandemic has introduced into my life, I will forever treasure the memories and lessons that I have been gifted through this experience. I’m still working to create moments of light and love for this precious child and my growing family despite my heavy heart and these trying times.
I encourage you to be intentional with this time, pregnant or not. Life will always place challenges on your path, why not find the silver lining? What are some ways you can reframe some difficulties you’ve faced? Send me a message, I’d love to hear your story!