Pregnancy, especially first time pregnancy, is an exciting time filled with showers and celebrations.
But it can also be a scary and stressful time, filled with lab tests, nerves, and endless birth preparations.
Pregnancy during the current Covid-19 public health crisis is something else all together
As the numbers of those testing positive for Covid-19 across the United States continues to rise (at the time I’m writing this, there are over 1,480,349 U.S. cases), there is now so much more for moms-to-be to worry about than just shower themes and check-ups.
Real health concerns about exposure to Coronavirus while pregnant, paired with worry about our family and elderly relatives (not to mention, uncertainty about our own jobs and employment status), are taking a very real toll on the well-being of all the expecting moms out there.
I’m currently pregnant with my second child in my third trimester. Like many of you, I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what the world will look like in a couple more weeks when I give birth.
Will family members be able to travel to watch my 2-year old son when I go into labor as planned?Will my husband be allowed into the delivery room? How can I stock up on diapers and wipes for my newborn when people are hoarding supplies like crazy?
On top of all this: cancelled visits, postponed parties and rapidly changing birth plans are wearing on me (and the hormones don’t help, do they?).
What gets me through each day is staying connected with loved ones (albeit, virtually) and exchanging tidbits of advice with other expecting moms – along with lots of reassurance and commiseration!
During this time, I’ve found ways to stay present and connected to family and the joys of my pregnancy, no matter what is happening in the world outside my door.
Here are a few tips to help you stay informed, healthy, and most importantly, HAPPY during what is becoming an undeniably unhappy time for many mamas-to-be:
1. Keep Healthy
By now we’re all well aware of the things we need to do to stay healthy and safe during this pandemic.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Stay at home if you are sick. Stay at home period, if you can help it. Follow any and all guidelines regarding social distancing or shelter-in-place in your city.
If you want to learn more, skip the online mommy groups and message boards and go straight to resources from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Try to maintain all the other healthy things you would normally be doing before the pandemic: eating healthy, exercising (there are lots of great prenatal exercise videos you can do from home), and sleeping.
2. Stay Informed on Hospital Policy
Depending where you live, you may need to take a deep breath and be prepared for the very real possibility that your birth plan will need to shift.
In New York, it was previously announced that no visitors, including partners, were being allowed to come in with women going into labor. Nationwide, hospitals had been tightening restrictions, with many only allowing one visitor over the age of 18 per day.
Call your hospital and ask for information about changes due to this pandemic and whether they are offering virtual Labor & Delivery tours.
You’ll want to know as soon as possible if you may be giving birth without your partner or support person so you can come up with a plan.
Will you try to Facetime or be on the phone with them? What can your partner do to support you before and after your hospital stay to make you feel less alone (and make them feel less like they are missing a huge milestone)?
As the country is slowly opening back up now, it may be the case that your hospital is allowing birth partners and visitors.
Now is a good time to reach out and find out if there have been any shifts in policy.
3. Be As Prepared As Possible (Which May Be Not at All)
This tip is especially true for pregnant moms, like myself, with other children at home.
Talk to your partner and support system about what you will do about childcare if your original plan is no longer possible
You should also talk to your doctor or midwife about what you can expect in the hospital after giving birth if you are not allowed to bring a support person with you.
You might want to ask who will look after your new baby when you need to go to the bathroom or take a shower during your hospital stay. Will there be nurses assisting with this?
Given new circumstances, if you want to make any changes to your birth plan, discuss this with your doctor or midwife and partner.
You may also wish to think about any changes or additions to the items you pack in your hospital go-bag (e.g. video camera to help document for someone missing the event, a portable charging bank for your phone to make sure you can stay connected even if you are away from an outlet, etc.).
Beyond this, all we can do are the regular things moms do to prepare for labor and hope for the best.
4. Find Ways to Connect Virtually
Just a couple of months before this pandemic exploded, I had been counting down the days until visits and celebrations with family and friends.
Needless to say, these were all cancelled.
There are no replacement for these events, but with modern technology you can still find ways to stay connected.
Try planning a virtual baby shower, weekly dinners with your friends on Facetime or mocktail happy hours on Skype.
If you were taking prenatal yoga or another group fitness class, you’ll probably find that many yoga studios are offering live online classes instead.
Staying connected, even through a screen, will help you feel less isolated. In my case, just texting and video-chatting with my friends and family every week (every day with some of them) is helping me stay happy and sane.
5. You Still Need “Me Time” Even If You Can’t Leave
Another thing many moms look forward to (especially in your third trimester) is finding time for a relaxing prenatal spa day and some much-needed “me time”.
Depending where you live and when your due date is, it may be unlikely that will happen.
Even if we can’t indulge in that mani/pedi at the spa we’ve been dreaming about, it is still important to carve out self-care time at home.
While many adults are missing the company of others during this phase of social isolation, pregnant moms with older children at home are probably DREAMING of the moments of quiet they had when their children still had access to school or childcare.
Talk to your partner about carving out an “R and R” day for yourself before your due date.
You can try meditation, a nice bubble bath & face mask, binge watching a show, or just taking a nap – you’re growing a life, you deserve it!
6. Remember That It’s Okay to be Sad
Look, things are not great right now. There is a lot of suffering around the world, not to mention right in our own homes and neighborhoods, to be sad about.
It’s also okay to be sad over things that seem silly and superficial compared to what others may be dealing with.
Remember, it’s okay to be sad that you cancelled your baby shower. It’s okay to be sad and scared that your birth plan is being thrown out the window. It’s okay to cry over the lack of control you have over something you may have spent 9 months planning for.
This doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you human.
Don’t force yourself to put on a smile if you don’t want to.
(But if you or someone you know needs real mental help or intervention during this time, check out the CDC’s tips on managing stress and anxiety or call 911).
7. It’s Also Okay to Be Happy!
It’s a sad and scary time worldwide. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed each day as more people lose their jobs, get sick, or lose a loved one.
But just like it’s okay to allow yourself to be sad, it’s also okay to allow yourself to be happy.
Don’t let anyone get you down telling you they’re “glad they aren’t pregnant right now” or what a “terrible time this is to be having a baby” (um, both real things that have been said to me).
No matter what else is happening, you are allowed to make this a happy time for you and your family.
Your baby is a joy and your pregnancy is something to be celebrated, even amidst the chaos.
Let your pregnancy put a smile on your face through the sadness and uncertainty around you. Let your pregnancy remind you of the love and possibility in the world.
No one could have planned or prepped for how the world has changed in the past few months, and how it continues to change now.
Take pride in your strength and resilience during this challenging time in our motherhood journeys.
We can do this, mamas, and we WILL emerge stronger than ever on the other side!