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'I'm pregnant in a pandemic and scared' 

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We knew parenthood would be an adventure. We bought all the books – “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “A Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy,” countless baby name books – and read them to prepare for the birth of our first child.

But nothing could have prepared us for this.

As I sit in our nursery, 35 weeks pregnant, in the glider chair where I imagine myself rocking our son to sleep, I have a bad case of the “what ifs?” And they’re not the typical “what ifs?” of first-time moms. These aren’t typical times.

They’re “What if one of us tests positive for COVID-19?” and “What if our baby tests positive?” and “What if my parents won’t be able to visit their first grandchild?” Like so many things with this virus, we just don’t know. And I’m scared.

For months, I’ve been keeping tabs on news about the virus. I kept track of where it was – from overseas to the west coast – and told myself not to panic. After all, the odds of it reaching here were low, right?

Some of the news was reassuring. A small study in China of nine pregnant women with COVID-19 found they did not pass it on to their newborns, nor was the virus transmitted through breast milk. Some pregnant women who tested positive had preterm births, but it was unclear if that was related to the virus. While these studies were promising, doctors caution that there’s so little data out there.

By the end of February, I felt like I was staring down a bullet train about to derail. On my social media feeds and online forums for new moms the virus was being dismissed as something that only affected older people. At the same time, every health expert and scientist was screaming that it was serious. Panic was starting to set in.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve watched all our carefully laid plans evaporate in seconds. We canceled our baby shower. We didn’t let my parents into the house with the gifts. We talked to them through an open window since they had flown into town and we couldn’t know they weren’t sick. We quarantine any packages for 24 hours before bringing them into the house. We wash our hands constantly. We haven’t taken any visitors.

My husband and I are working from home. I haven’t left the house in 14 days, and I won’t except for doctor’s appointments until the baby arrives. My husband has left twice for groceries and a stop to the post office.

We had planned to have my mom and my sister-in-law in the delivery room with us to help coach me. Now, that’s not an option.

Strong Memorial Hospital, where we plan to have the baby, has implemented new visitor restrictions that don’t allow most patients to have visitors. Laboring mothers are an exception – but they’re restricted to one person. That will be my husband.

Following guidance from the state, he must be asymptomatic for COVID-19 and cannot be suspected to have ties to any recently confirmed case. And he can’t “switch out” with anyone else. Once he’s there, he’s got to stay in my room. It’ll just be the two of us.
click to enlarge CITY freelance writer Kathy Laluk at home in the nursery awaiting her son. She is due to give birth in late April. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHY LALUK
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHY LALUK
  • CITY freelance writer Kathy Laluk at home in the nursery awaiting her son. She is due to give birth in late April.
What if things get worse? Then it might just be me in there. The thought of my husband not being there for the birth of his first child breaks my heart.

I fear that without more extreme social distancing measures, more personal protective equipment for hospitals, and increased testing, my doctor may get sick. Labor and delivery nurses may get pulled away from the maternity ward. My OBGYN told us a week and a half ago that if things get really bad, they may have to put two new moms to a room. While that’s not ideal, it’s a pill we’re willing to swallow. We’re all in this together, right?

But what if things get really, really bad? Say people start going out again by Easter as President Trump suggested this week. Health experts have predicted that will only lead to another spike in cases, roughly two weeks later. That’s when our baby is due. What then? Will there be a hospital bed for me? Will there be enough medical staff to help my son and me should something go terribly wrong?

These are the “what ifs?” I’m talking about.

I don’t blame the hospitals for implementing these restrictions. I get it. The changes are meant to protect my health and our unborn son, and the doctors and nurses and countless others who are scrambling to keep up with the explosion of cases. But that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.

It hasn’t been all bad, though. We hadn’t planned a babymoon, so this has been a nice substitute. We’re really enjoying one another’s company. We’ve finally gotten around to setting up the nursery and organizing all the little clothes and toys and books. Together, we felt our baby’s first bout of hiccups – a small reminder that not everything is bleak. And we’ve had the unwavering support of our families and friends – although from a distance. We are so fortunate that we, and by extension our son, are loved.

“One day at a time,” I often remind myself. But the news is changing so fast. We reassure ourselves that our doctors and nurses are working around the clock, doing everything they can to make sure we will be okay. Most of what happens is out of our hands – which is almost always the case in child birth.

But some of what happens will depend on others’ actions; it will depend on others heeding the warnings of public health officials, taking precautions.

I hope that they do and that someday we’ll be able to tell our baby the crazy story of his birth and all the people who made responsible choices so he could live a full and healthy life.

What a little warrior he will be. That’s no “what if?”

Kathy Laluk is a freelance writer for CITY.
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