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Pregnancy in a Pandemic (Part 2): Real Women Share Their Stories

Written by Laura DaSilva

New and expectant mothers are having to keep up with the ever-changing rules and regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. As if bringing a new baby into the world wasn’t confusing enough. In our Pregnancy in a Pandemic series, women across Canada share their personal thoughts, fears and experiences as they prepare to expand their families while social-distancing.

How did the pandemic affect your birth experience?

I was warned not to be too set on my birth “plan” because anything can change when delivering, but there is no preparation for how to deal with the uncertainty that everyone in the world, especially pregnant and new moms, have faced as a result of COVID-19.

The biggest impact the pandemic had on my birth experience was the increased anxiety and fear around the delivery and unknown hospital and provincial policies. In my 39th week, my hospital’s policy was no visitors, with a few exceptions–one support person for labour and postpartum. However, I was told repeatedly that this was an evolving policy that was implemented in various ways throughout Ontario. As such, my main concerns were: Would my husband be able to join me in the delivery room?  Would he be able to continue to support me in the hospital postpartum? Would all three of us be safe in the hospital? Should I consider an earlier induction to avoid the continued uncertainty or potential COVID “peak” once I hit full term?

Pregnancy, especially the final trimester, is already an emotional roller coaster.  With the pandemic, I was forced to face new heights. Thankfully, my baby was born safe and healthy, and my husband was able to be with us the whole time. While we’re relying on video calls with friends and family for now, we’re focused on the big picture–the blessing of our new baby, and the health and safety of our whole family and friend group.

What has been the most challenging part?

The uncertainty or unknown–when will it end? Will it get worse? I think this is a common sentiment shared by many right now. I feel like it’s heightened for me because I’m a first time mom and want to make sure my daughter is safe and healthy.

Any words of advice for other parents struggling through this uncertain time?

Join support groups and online classes! I joined a number of groups to share my thoughts and concerns with other parents, as well as a number of online classes to supplement the “lost” resources (e.g., breastfeeding support). I also reached out to MPs and signed a number of petitions to advocate for expecting moms, in particular with consistency and clarity in hospital policies.  This helped me feel more in control of the situation.

How has the Covid-19 crisis affected your pregnancy?

I’m meant to give birth at Mount Sinai in Toronto and with every appointment, it’s becoming a scarier situation. A time that is meant to be joyous is now full of unknowns. Risking your health to get your scan or see the doctor is a reality.

Planning for the baby is also harder. We were meant to go to classes at the hospital, but are now looking for ones online. Buying everything we need to prepare for the baby has also started to become hard.

There are now more strict rules as to who can be in the room with you when you deliver or even come to the hospital to visit. Giving birth for the first time is filled with the unknown, but adding this to the mix? All we can do is take it one day at a time.

What are your biggest concerns?

Getting sick and having complications with the birth.

Having to deliver my baby without my husband being there.

What has been helping you through this uncertain time?

I am a founder of a company so we’ve all been working remotely putting out fires, pivoting our business to fit with this situation and finding solutions to problems. I also have a long list of things I need to get done when it comes to buying items for the baby and preparing the baby room. I’ve downloaded all of the baby books I wanted to read and am listening to them. Lots of to-do lists.

How has the Covid-19 crisis affected the first few weeks of being a new mom?

It’s been stressful to keep my daughter safe while getting proper medical care and necessities. No visitors were allowed at the hospital, only my husband. Walking out of the hospital was stressful because people see a small baby and want to get close to take a look. Thank god for online grocery store pick up. None of our family have been able to see her but at least FaceTime has helped. For her first doctor appointment, the nurse said they weren’t doing a full check and wanted to get her out quickly. I feel like she’s losing out on proper care during this time.

What has been the most challenging part?

Not being able to have family see her and getting things we need. Being a first time mom, there are things I didn’t get that now I wish I had, but I don’t want to go to the stores to pick anything up. Everyone told me, “Don’t waste your money on newborn clothes and just buy one box of newborn diapers because they grow so fast.” Everly is only 6 lbs and so tiny and I have nothing that fits her. And, I’m running out of diapers.

How are you staying positive?

Thinking that  it will all be over soon. I also think her father and I really get a lot of alone time with her we might not have had if the Coronavirus pandemic wasn’t going on. We would have a lot of visitors and people over to see her constantly. I think this is a special time for us right now.

How has the Covid-19 crisis affected your pregnancy?

It is just generally disruptive to daily life. I had an idea of how my last few weeks of being pregnant would be, as well as the first few months, and that has all gone out the window.

What are your biggest concerns?

That things will never go back to “normal.”

What has been helping you through this uncertain time?

Having a great, supportive partner, and knowing that things could be worse.

Any advice for other pregnant moms having a hard time?

Just try not to think too far ahead or have too many expectations of how things should be. Trust yourself and your partner.

How has the Covid-19 crisis affected the first few months of being a new mom?

It is definitely overwhelming bringing a new baby into the world during such an uneasy time. As a new parent, I have enough worry, and now I have to deal with anxiety from the fear of the unknown. The uncertainty about this virus and it’s capabilities has made me extra paranoid and protective of Riley. As a mother, I obviously want to do everything in my power to protect her. Now more than ever.

What has been the most challenging part?

Not being able to have family support. Our parents used to be able help with Riley. My mom would babysit every Monday. I would run some errands and do housework; simple things that are difficult with a newborn. More importantly, I feel like our family is missing out on her growing up and seeing all the little milestones.

Any words of advice for other parents struggling through this uncertain time?

You have to stay strong and resilient for your children. You have to put your energy towards things you can control and that is raising your sweet baby and making the best of every day. I am trying my hardest to stay so positive during this time.

How has the Covid-19 crisis affected your pregnancy?

COVID-19 has put a black cloud over this ‘magical’ experience. Family conversations are no longer about the joys or fun times, but about the “what ifs” and “what could happens” if the virus gets worse in Ottawa.

Doctor appointments are gloomy and my OB apologizes that we are not talking about birth plans or the stages of pregnancy, but instead about the chances of delivering a baby alone with no support system or the chance my boyfriend won’t be there to see our daughter for a few days after birth.

I have developed high blood pressure in the last two weeks and I am sure the stress isn’t helping. We are now discussing inducing next week to ensure a safe delivery and get ahead of the crisis before it gets worse. The hospitals are controlling everything and my OB doesn’t see it getting any better.

What are your biggest concerns?

My biggest concern is not having my boyfriend, Ryan, there for the delivery. This is his moment too and deserves to be there when his daughter is born. We have wanted and tried for a baby for so long that this is emotionally draining and taking the joy out of this moment for both of us. I understand the strict precautions are there for a reason, but it is hard. I am currently writing this from a hospital bed waiting on results of different tests so they can determine where I fit in with all the other mothers ready to give birth and how we will all be scheduled around each other next week.

How will your birth plan be affected?

There is no plan. It has gone right out the window!

Since the hospital rules are constantly changing I am planning on going with the flow and listening to the doctor. As long as I can get an epidural and a bath tub is available we will be fine!

As of today the hospital I plan on delivering at says Ryan is welcome as my ‘support person’ but the OB said it will be a morning game time decision. I will have to call in and see if he needs a night bag or if he’s just dropping me off at the door.

Any advice for other pregnant moms having a hard time?

Enjoy the bonding you are getting to do now with both your baby and your other half! I’m taking extra time to rub my belly and enjoy her moving around and spending extra time with Ryan before our lives change.

Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.