Reflections on 2020: Pregnancy During A Pandemic
Back in May, I began counting the weeks of my pregnancy while I was still counting the weeks of lockdown. I stopped paying attention to the latter long ago. So much time at home, and I've been pregnant for much of it. A pandemic pregnancy is all I know, and despite the circumstances, I've found so much joy in this time. Now that I’m nearing the end of this journey and about to begin that of parenthood, I’m looking back as part of my year-end reflection.
My pregnancy began in April, when New York was in its massive first wave of COVID-19. Life ground to a halt and everything was shut down. Our daily routines were upended and a new, scarier reality was settling in.
Earlier in the year, when we were starting to get a sense that this virus was a real threat, I'd raised the notion of perhaps putting our attempts to get pregnant on hold (we'd begun trying in the fall of 2019). I'm glad that we didn't, because no one could have known back then that we would still be in the midst of the pandemic now. I could have never imagined then that almost a year later, we'd be days away from the baby's arrival in a country where the numbers are worse than they were during the spring peak. I couldn’t have imagined that our go-bags would include PPE masks, nor that my hospital protocols would include the possibility that I'd be delivering alone (a support person isn't allowed in if they test positive for COVID during the admission process).
I'll start with what I feel that I've missed out on due to the pandemic. This list is small but still significant to me.
The biggest one is the fact that I had to go to all of my baby appointments alone. Seeing the baby move during ultrasounds was such a special experience, and it made me sad that Kevin was never able to be there for a single one. The first time I saw the tiny bean wiggle on the monitor, I was taken aback by how adorable that goldfish-sized movement was, and awed that there was a being practically dancing of its own free will in my body. It was perhaps my first moment of wonder at the fact that I was carrying a life. I wish so much that Kev could have been there for all of those ultrasounds. I think each would have been so special for him too.
Going to the doctor has been strange overall, with masks, temperature checks, and hyper-awareness of being out in public. Twice, we had to go into Manhattan to the hospital where I will be giving birth for more in-depth testing, and the precautions they have to take are really apparent. I'm glad they have strict protocols, but the experience is jarring nonetheless.
Going anywhere during this time has been a matter of risk calculation. We've forgone even very small, socially distanced gatherings because we didn't want to expose ourselves or the baby to any level of unnecessary risk. We missed out on a summer's worth of pre-baby hangs.
The pandemic also took from us a planned trip to Paris in March. This was just before I got pregnant, and it's really such a shame that we missed out on a last hurrah of sorts, when travel was just about the two of us. A week in Paris before getting pregnant would have had me going out (from drinking and raw seafoods) with quite the bang: we'd planned our meals in advance and had lots of oysters and wine on the itinerary. We very likely would have planned a baby-moon as well, exploring a new city in the summer or fall. Alas. We can absolutely count being grounded as money saved, but these are life experiences for which I would have gladly paid.
Let's move on to the upside of being home during this pregnancy, as there have been plenty.
I'm so thankful to have not had a daily commute. I wasn't showing at all for some time and I know myself - I wouldn’t have asked for a seat if I didn't happen upon one. I really don't know how I could have possibly stood on a subway for 45 minutes at a time with how tired I often felt all through my first trimester. I would have been miserable in the office too, not being able to sneak in the breaks my body really needed during that time.
Secondly, not having to buy maternity workwear has been a nice source of savings. It sounds trivial but once the baby bump grew to a certain size AND the weather got colder, I realized how much of a money and space suck it could have been.
For the most part, I think I could have worked with several items in my existing wardrobe, which incidentally includes plenty of not-maternity-maternity items, mostly dresses. Who knew? Well... I did, kind of. For a few years now, I've taken mental notes in the back of my mind when shopping, giving extra points to items that could pull double duty during pregnancy. Maybe it was one of the ways my biological clock was ticking.
Once the weather cooled down and the baby grew larger, I found myself extra thankful that I could live in Kevin’s sweatpants and my old ratty tees that I don’t mind getting belly oil on. I also often wear a luxurious linen robe that Kev got me as a gift, paired with slip dresses which to my delight have no trouble at all accommodating my growing belly.
Staying home has allowed me to eat more mindfully rather than out of convenience, since we have to grocery shop and I don't have the option of stepping out for a quick lunch or snack near the office. I drink way more water at home too, since I'm working right next to my kitchen. These have led to healthy weight gain and have helped me to feel pretty good about my nutrition overall during this time.
Another perk of not being exposed to outside food and drink is that I’ve had fewer reminders of the things I can't consume during this time. Absolutely no one is going to happy hour, so I’m not missing out.
Being home with Kevin has been great overall, and being around your partner more in general is really nice while pregnant. He takes care of me in little ways every single day, whether it's making sure I take my pre-natal vitamins, filling and refilling my water bottle, or just encouraging me to take a nap when I'm trying to fight drowsiness for no good reason. Despite him not being able to join me at the OB appointments, this togetherness has allowed us to share the experience of pregnancy quite intimately. The baby will come into the world knowing his voice just as well as he knows mine, and that knowledge makes me smile.
Lastly, one of the biggest benefits, which I'm only truly seeing now as I reflect, is that because I haven't been out and about, I’ve gotten minimal comments on my changing body or requests to touch my belly. I get to show friends and family when I want to rather than being subject to random remarks at just about anyone’s whims.
Although comments that do get made to a woman typically come with nothing but good intent, I‘ve really appreciated this freedom from unsolicited attention. It's allowed me the precious opportunity to figure out for myself how I feel about it all, free from the gaze of others, free from having to react to others' assessments.
And by myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that I love these changes. I feel proud of them, so much so that it surprises me. I feel beautiful, lush, and feminine. I love my baby bump, even and especially now, in my 38th week and at the largest it's been. I've found myself looking in the mirror and marveling at my belly; I think the soft curve makes a pleasing line. Most of all, I've loved knowing that these changes are purposeful. My body was built for this, it knows exactly what to do.