Here’s What It’s Like to Be 9 Months Pregnant During a Pandemic
I’m getting ready to deliver my first child and many people have been asking me what it’s like being pregnant during one of the wildest, scariest times in history. So here it is—my experience from the time things started getting crazy to now.
March 12; 34.5 Weeks Pregnant
The last place I went before I quarantined myself and my almost nine months pregnant bump was a mom-friendly spa. (That’s Spa Lé La for my L.A. peeps.) I chatted with the owner about how I planned to book an induction massage at 39 weeks and how I would follow the appointment by getting “the salad” at the restaurant across the street. (For those unfamiliar, Los Angeles restaurant staple Caioti Pizza Cafe has a salad that purportedly helps speed along the labor process. It’s a whole thing.) Believe it or not, at that point, COVID-19 wasn’t securely on my radar yet.
But, by the time I arrived home, the world looked very different. New York was under “safer-at-home” instruction and Los Angeles was close behind it. Within days, our infant care and breastfeeding classes would become Zoom sessions and our hospital tour became a virtual one. As the countdown to my due date ticked on, I grew more and more worried.
March 19; 35.5 Weeks Pregnant
My OB appointments were always something my husband and I looked forward to. We loved hearing our son’s heartbeat, watching him wriggle around in utero and peppering our doctor with questions. But as I mentally prepared myself to leave the house for the first time in a week, the coronavirus outbreak mounting, those special moments were overshadowed by growing panic.
I watched with anxiety as others at my doctor’s office didn’t stand six feet apart, or eyed my husband and me quizzically for wearing masks. By the time we arrived home from the doctor, California was also officially under “safer-at-home” measures at the request of Governor Gavin Newsom.
Like some terrifying premonition, I saw headlines warning that New York labor and delivery wards were no longer allowing support persons or spouses to accompany birthing mothers, and it felt like only a matter of time before we on the West coast experienced the same restrictions. My mom group was abuzz: Some said mothers were being induced early to avoid the peak. Others said friends were going into early labor because of the stress of it all. Some began to talk about home birth. And as this spiral of both too much information and not nearly enough seeped into our household, I couldn’t help but cry.
Well-meaning friends and family began reaching out telling me this would all be over by the time our son was set to arrive. Many expressed sympathy and offered to pick up groceries or FaceTime with me to help ease my dread. I was grateful for the support, but I also felt angry. Why weren’t people standing six feet apart? Why were there all these memes making light of the situation? Why couldn’t I just have the normal birth experience I had been hoping for?
March 26; 36.5 weeks pregnant
On Thursday, I texted with my therapist, who reminded me that you can only control your reaction to a situation—pandemics included. My husband added that none of our big life milestones had gone exactly as planned. My grandma suffered a stroke right before he proposed. My mother died shortly after we got engaged. When we got a puppy, our cat started vehemently disliking me. But we’d gotten through it all he reminded me, and we would get through this.
Even so, I found myself fixating on the news, obsessing over my hospital’s policy on birthing partners and willing my child to arrive as soon as possible so his dad could still be present for his birth.
Of course I knew this obsessive thinking wasn’t serving me. And of course I knew there were certain upsides to being homebound during the last weeks of pregnancy. (To quote Mean Girls villain Regina George, “Sweatpants are all that fits me right now.”)
Still, there were nights when I couldn’t sleep because I was scared. And as any mom can tell you, pregnancy is emotional enough without the threat of a deadly illness. Add total isolation from family, friends and caregivers and it’s a lot to take in.
Before this all happened, my husband’s mom, a former nurse, had planned to stay with us when the baby first arrived. Our nanny would also be on hand so we could rest and not fixate on dishes and spit-up splattered onesies. We had the privilege of support in place. Suddenly, we weren’t sure when our parents would even get to see our son in person, let alone when it would be safe to welcome anyone into our home.
Sometimes this fear of going at it alone, just my husband and me, overcame me. But then I thought of the pregnant women who didn’t have the luxury of being able to quarantine, or the ones who lived in higher-density outbreak areas, with less access to health care. I thought of the mothers on our team here at PureWow who are now doing everything in their power to juggle childcare, fear and a full-time job. I thought of my grandmothers, both of whom gave birth to eight respective children (some of them during wartime) and handled it with grace and fortitude.
April 2; 37.5 Weeks Pregnant
At nearly 38 weeks pregnant, I visited the doctor and was told I was in very early labor. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was frightened to see my OB and face the risk of contamination. When I arrived at the office, my temperature was taken, I was asked if I had a specific list of symptoms and was escorted into a large waiting room where the only other person sat about 20 feet away from me. The usually bustling office was empty, save for a nurse or two, and I headed to a private room to await a doctor.
I felt self-conscious about the mask I wore, since I knew many health care professionals didn’t have adequate access to personal protective equipment in this very scary time. (My husband’s woodworking hobby led him to purchase two reusable masks last year, long before we had even heard of the coronavirus.)
When the doctor appeared, she assured me that our hospital’s policy is firm: Birthing women are allowed to have a support person in the labor and delivery room. (Unfortunately, my husband will need to leave when I move on to post-partum recovery). Since he’s no longer allowed to be present for these appointments, we FaceTimed him to tell him the news and show him the latest ultrasound.
I went home with a small nugget of positivity: At least I wouldn’t go through this alone and baby boy’s arrival was right around the corner.
April 6; 38 Weeks Pregnant
After a weekend of false alarms, I noticed I was bleeding at 9 p.m. on Sunday night. At first, I was excited that this might be a sign labor was ramping up. But then I kept bleeding and started getting worried. My immensely dedicated doctor got back to me via email almost immediately and suggested I head into the hospital. My husband hurriedly put together his hospital bag (still forgetting his snacks) and I tried to remain calm despite myriad fears. Was my baby OK? Was it really a good idea to go to the hospital at what’s being called the worst week for the virus? Was I being dramatic about the amount of blood escaping my body or was this really cause for concern?
As we drove to the labor and delivery ward and hit every red light, I grew more and more fearful. I felt like I was putting myself, my husband and our baby in danger by willingly going to the hospital for something that might be nothing.
We parked in the nearly empty underground lot and navigated the series of elevators, selecting buttons with our elbows, until we arrived at the entrance. Aside from security and the nurse screening arrivals, the usually busy hospital was eerily empty. The white marble and high ceilings felt like something out of a sci-fi movie.
We were asked a series of questions about our health, our temperatures were taken and we were deemed fit to continue to the visitor check-in center. After that, we cleared three more check-in centers and another bank of elevators before being allowed into the L&D area.
The bleeding, it turned out, was simply due to “cervical changes.” And although my blood pressure was higher than it should be, our baby remained healthy and my contractions remained non-progressive. I’ve never been more grateful to hear our child’s heartbeat, but I still woke up (at home) the following morning feeling a sense of dread for potentially having put him and us at risk. Did I do something wrong to make my body scare us like that? I knew it was important to be kind to myself during this time, but I was grasping at straws to find some sense of control in a situation in which I had very little.
April 10; Nearly 39 Weeks Pregnant
As for where I’m at now: I feel an aching in my back, a cramping in my abdomen and the flutters of my son’s feet in my uterus. And I must admit that I harbor a sense of sadness for myself and all the other pregnant women enduring this—whether they’re five weeks or 40-weeks along. But I’m eager to find the silver-lining and eager to welcome my son so I can see with my own eyes that he’s OK.
Until that happens, here are the positives: My husband will be there for the birth, and will be physically present post-partum. Our home is ready, and I know we’re competent adults who can handle whatever comes together. Our parents are safe, and not seeing them now is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Perhaps most importantly, we are all alive and healthy. My son just punched me in the bladder to tell me so.