When I got my positive pregnancy test last August, I was ecstatic -- and somewhat shocked. My husband and I had just given up on our plans for a second baby after unsuccessfully trying for a year. I couldn’t believe the little plus sign, which seemed to materialize out of nowhere just when we’d become convinced it wasn’t meant to be.
But once I got over that initial surprise, I felt pretty confident about what lay ahead. After all, I’d been pregnant before - I knew the drill. And indeed, the first months of my pregnancy were totally standard - prenatal checkups, morning sickness, checking my belly eagerly for the first signs of a bump.
The second trimester was similarly conventional (and much more pleasant). We planned a blissful Florida babymoon; I bought my first maternity outfits; I felt the baby kick, and held my breath as we waited to find out the gender at my anatomy scan.
As the third trimester approached, I was feeling good. My energy levels were high and my belly looked adorable. My older kiddo was over-the-moon excited to meet her little sister, and so was I. My family dived into the usual end-of-pregnancy milestones: scheduling maternity and newborn shoots, registering for a flood of baby items, decorating the nursery, and preparing for my baby shower.
Meanwhile, my prenatal checkups showed that everything was progressing normally. As a second-time mom, I let go of many of the anxieties and concerns that plague first-timers and truly enjoyed this magical period in my life.
“I’ve got this,” I’d think to myself proudly as I played with my daughter or expertly applied decals to a nursery wall. “Everything is going so well.”
And then the coronavirus hit.
At first, we read about cases in New York City - uncomfortably close, but still somewhat removed from our suburban home. Then, the virus came to Westchester. It was just one case at first - but I’d read enough news stories to know that one would soon turn to hundreds and thousands. All of a sudden, my positive pregnancy journey had turned into a horror film.
For me, the hardest parts of being pregnant during the coronavirus pandemic have been the near-total lack of information and the overwhelming feeling of loneliness. When the virus came to our area in early March, no one knew if pregnant women were particularly vulnerable, if catching the virus could lead to birth defects, if we could infect our newborns. Treatment approaches had not been worked out; testing was unavailable. Doctors had started warning about a surge in hospitalized COVID patients and advising people to avoid hospitals unless they were seriously ill.
Since I was pregnant, I knew I’d have no choice but to spend several days in a hospital when it was time for baby to arrive. It seemed almost inevitable that the virus would sweep through L&D floors, passed around by moms, visitors, and medical personnel. How could I avoid getting it? If I did, how bad would it be? What about my husband and my older daughter? My doctor’s office offered little reassurance - like the rest of us, they were flying blind.
In light of these existential fears, the smaller disappointments seemed trivial - no baby shower, no pro photos, no social outings in pretty maternity outfits. I won’t lie - giving up these pregnancy perks was upsetting. But what devastated me even more was how acutely alone I suddenly felt.
As I tried to cope with the new reality of giving birth in a pandemic, many friends and acquaintances reached out. But their messages boiled down to a dozen versions of, “I’m so sorry - it must be terrible to be you right now.” Some days, it felt like I was having the same text conversation a dozen times with different people. These well-meaning words from others who didn’t - couldn’t - truly understand my current situation almost made me feel worse and more alone.
What ultimately helped me cope was connecting online with other women who were also expecting pandemic babies. No one’s experience is quite the same, but there is comfort in finding parallels to your own struggles. As the weeks went on, more and more women shared successful birth stories, including stories of overcoming the virus. These stories infused inspiration and hope. They also provided useful information on the practicalities of ever-changing hospital policies and medical advice. Information was still lacking but more details came in every day, helping me regain some of my former confidence.
As time went on, I was also able to embrace the positive aspects of my situation. For example, while some of my friends had to cancel vacations and other exciting plans due to stay-at-home orders, my schedule had already been pretty empty. The last months of pregnancy and the first months of parenthood entail a lot of time at home anyway, so my life this spring and summer would not have looked that different sans coronavirus.
I’m also grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with my older daughter now that her preschool is closed. She has been an only child for five years, and having a sibling will be a huge transition for her (as it will be for me). These last two months of nearly unlimited mommy & me time have allowed us to bond in ways that wouldn’t have been possible with her previous full-time school schedule.
And as for the pregnancy milestones, we’ve found ways to improvise. My husband spoiled me by preparing some of the delicious recipes we’d planned for the baby shower. My amazing friends have been sending a steady stream of baby gifts. And we even did an informal photo shoot outdoors, dressing up and taking pictures of each other.
I’m still a bit scared about what comes next, but today, I once again feel positive about my - now very unconventional - pregnancy journey. And I hope that in a few years, all of this will become just another entertaining story to tell.