Pregnancy in a Pandemic

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When I first tested had a positive pregnancy test last fall, I could have never envisioned my pregnancy would unfold the way it did. I was nervous (how could I handle three?). I was excited (my last baby!). July seemed SO FAR away. And just as none of us could have guessed we would be here today, I certainly never would have predicted how events would unfold.

We began to hear rumblings of widespread deadly disease out of China in early winter – just a few weeks after that positive test. Within a matter of time, cruise ships were stranded with cases on board. And then it began to hit in our mainland. We all know how the next months would proceed; we have been living it all together as a nation.

At first, I was reassured reading reports that not only did COVID-19 seem to not affect children, but there was not evidence of harm in pregnant women or their newborns. It seemed too good to be true, but certainly hopeful. I researched, talked with my doctor, and weighed my options – see, not only am I pregnant, but my husband treats COVID patients in the hospital. Many of my “doctors’ wives” friends were isolating from their husbands, as in the beginning there was much concern about surface transmission and asymptomatic spread. After deciding on a middle ground with my husband – he would leave his shoes by the back door, undress in the laundry room, immediately shower, and lysol his phone upon return of every shift – we had to decide how much of a quarantine we would undertake. Based on our discussions, I have not entered a restaurant or store since March 13th. We have seen our parents, but only recently indoors; for several months, we only talked from the car or yard. We have played with four neighborhood families (our bubble). And I know many families have these same stories.

As more information came forward about COVID in relation to pregnancy, my hope turned to concern: there was evidence of higher hospitalization rates in pregnant COVID positive patients, and the blood clots that seem to affect young adults with no other symptoms were seen to cause placental clots in pregnancy, leading to late term miscarriages. Pregnancy was now considered a high risk condition.

pregnancy during the time of COVID

At the same time, a tide was turning in the country. No longer were we in this together, jamming to instagram live kitchen concerts, sharing memes, and driving in birthday parades. As our city and state moved into “phase two” and masks became more prevalent, there was also a distinct change of tune – anger, righteousness, and pointing of fingers. As a high-risk person, being pregnant, I had to choose the safest route for my family. Continue lock down. Wear a mask at doctors’ appointments and in the drive through. Turn down play dates.

During the height of the pandemic in the Northeast, specifically New York City and New Jersey, reports surfaced of women in labor and delivery being denied any visitors, including “support people” (the term for whomever will be guiding you through labor, typically a spouse or family member). Outrage ensued – this was after reports from Italy of multiple women to a room laboring and delivering without visitors or family. Both the cases in NYC and Italy were stressful and for the first time, my thoughts shifted from how to keep healthy and safe during the pandemic to what would happen when it came time to deliver during a pandemic.

I do not deal well with uncertainty. I need plans, I need to know what to expect. Well, it turns out that the nature of a pandemic is that things change daily. What we know, how we proceed, what rules we put in place. Back in March and April, I thought surely by July, this would all “blow over” (insert your laugh and eye-roll) and I could have my last baby in normal conditions – my best friend bringing me Muddy’s grasshopper cupcakes as she meets my girl, another best friend arriving with Chick Fil A as my first meal postpartum. Family gathered around. Our girl’s namesake great grandmother holding her great granddaughter.

Clearly that isn’t the case.

As I write this, I am one week from my scheduled cesarean section. I will be COVID tested upon admission to the hospital (and this is even different from just last week when I checked; thanks to lengthy testing turnaround, they are not testing two to three days in advance for pre-op patients, but rather doing a rapid test day of). I am allowed one support person – at my hospital, this person has to be the same for the duration of my stay. If I test positive, the hospital recommends that my support person care for the baby and both isolate from me (mind you, they are not testing the support person – and if I am COVID positive, I am pretty sure he would be as well, so that is a bridge to cross if needed). Since I am planning to breastfeed and believe in the importance of skin to skin, isolating from the baby would not only be emotionally is taxing, but I am concerned for my breastfeeding journey.

c-section pregnancy

Many moms in similar situations say they would refuse to isolate from their newborn, and while I’m inclined to refuse, I cannot imagine how it would feel to expose and infect my newborn with COVID. I have read extensively on the subject and there is not concrete evidence – and the thought keeps shifting. For example, as of end of June, the CDC recommends isolating a positive mother from a newborn or, at the least, keeping the newborn six feet from the mother except breastfeeding, with the mother wearing a mask at all times. There is emerging evidence just this week about COVID transfer through breastmilk, which is of course concerning. On the whole, children fare better with COVID and are a low risk category, but research shows newborns and infants are at a much higher risk than toddlers and young children.

So here we are. I am 38 weeks pregnant. I have essentially not left the house since March. I have had massive amounts of family time with my two girls – for better and for worse. When I think about it, I do believe that part of the reason this pregnancy has been easy on my body is because I am taking things so slowly: not working, not going to the gym, not out and about. And I have to admit that it has been easier to save money for the costs of a birth and subsequent baby when you can’t browse TJ Maxx and Target in person (though I am sure my postman would disagree based on the number of Amazon packages we receive). Being home has brought us closer to our neighbors and made us more intentional about staying in touch with our friends, albeit virtually.

So here’s to hoping that keeping a positive outlook will mean the end of my pandemic pregnancy journey will be positive as well. And while my pandemic pregnancy started with a positive test, I really hope it does not end with one as well.

newborn in hospital bed

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Kathryn
A native Memphian who did a 5-year stint in Knoxville for undergrad+grad school, Kathryn loves Memphis. Being a Memphian by birth and by choice, she takes any opportunity she can to share her favorite spots with anyone who will listen. Kathryn is married to her high school sweetheart, a fellow VOLS grad who now works at a local hospital, and mom to Ruthie, born January 2015, and Kate, born August 2018. After being team #midtownismemphis for (almost) her whole life, Kathryn traded in bunaglows and original hardwood for closet space and access to Target. She's adjusting to being an East Memphis mom, but luckily still makes it to all her favorite Midtown spots. Being a mom is the hardest but best thing she's ever done.

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