Welcome back Sara Pic! You may remember Sara from her alt-theatre coverage and editorial assistance a few years back. Born and raised in Uptown New Orleans (McMain ‘96!) Sara is currently hiding from the virus in the suburbs of River Ridge with her spouse, stepson, and three dogs. When not putting together her twins’ nursery, she is a law librarian.
Double Anxiety: Pregnant During a Pandemic
As an older first-time mom with a history of anxiety, I thought I had every possible worry already running through my mind when I found out my two microscopic embryos successfully implanted in my uterus last November. I had the usual pregnancy worries—miscarriage being the worst, but also all the possible health complications like high blood pressure and diabetes. I also had concerns about being a mom of twins: more health issues, but also, two babies?! At once?! And then there are the worries particularly grievous to us New Orleanians: realizing I was due in July, what if a hurricane happens? What if we lose power while I’m nine months pregnant? What if we have to evacuate? I thought I had every worry covered, but it never occurred to me to worry about a pandemic.
A Threat Emerges
I was paying attention to what was going on in Wuhan in February, and concerned that something might happen here—but not concerned enough to think anything of going to several parades during Mardi Gras. Mid-February, I was beginning my second trimester and finally starting to show as an obviously pregnant person. I liked going to the parades and dramatically sitting the entire time because—look at me—I’m pregnant! I saw other pregnant people on the parade route and felt like I was part of a special club.
Two weeks went by, and the first cases of the novel coronavirus started appearing in New Orleans. Suddenly, my anxiety spiked. My employer started allowing everyone with special medical conditions to work from home. When a security guard told me all the other pregnant people in the building had elected to work from home, I took my laptop and left immediately. All of a sudden, the fear had become too real.
Even though everything was upended overnight, it was still hard to tell what we should be doing or how worried we should be. My anxieties about pregnancy, about motherhood, about hurricanes even—they are all based in known quantities. There are reputable authorities I can consult. But a pandemic? With a new virus? I had no idea.
From what I could tell after reading the few small studies done, it didn’t seem that this was like the Zika virus, where there was actual potential harm to my babies. The bigger risk was to me. As an older mother who also has asthma, if I ended up on a ventilator (and possibly in a coma), I may give birth without even knowing it. That might be the worst case scenario, but even the more realistic scenarios were terrifying. Like maybe I get the virus and have to be quarantined from my babies for two weeks. Or, maybe I don’t even have the virus, but the hospital won’t allow my spouse to be with me for the birth. There’s just still so much unknown.
Find the Bright Side
We’ve tried to take it day by day. I stay home as much as possible to minimize my risk, but that also means my spouse and 13-year-old stepson have to stay home too. They understand, but I still feel guilty, especially now that the lockdown is lifting.
I can’t see my family, who wanted so badly to celebrate this time with me. It’s just too risky. My sisters and mother cancelled my baby shower. It’s a small thing, I know, in a world of much worse things happening to so many people; but still, a personal loss. I wasn’t sure that I would ever get to experience pregnancy and motherhood in this way, and when I did, all I wanted to do was share my joy with the people who love me. Instead, I am mostly alone.
My spouse isn’t allowed to come with me to my prenatal visits—not even my ultrasounds. I tell myself I’m lucky that my spouse can still be there for my delivery, but it still hurts that per hospital policy no one else—not my mother or sisters or stepson—can visit us. Everyone will have to meet my babies for the first time via FaceTime. And it’s hard to know when they might be able to meet in person even after we return home. Though the virus seems to affect children less, there is more concern for newborns, whose lungs are still developing.
I suppose it isn’t all bad, though. In some ways, I am living every pregnant person’s dream: I get to stay home, in bed mostly, wearing sweatpants and no bra all day. Though I am still working, I can grab a nap at lunchtime if I want. When my feet itch from all the swelling, there’s no one around to care if I scratch them relentlessly. Something I’ve learned over many years of struggling with anxiety is to try to find the bright side, wherever you can.
Baby’s First Quarantine
Now that lockdown is ending, at least for now (because yes, I fear that a second wave of infections is coming), I try to look ahead and plan for the future. Planning is another way I’ve always managed my anxiety. But it’s so hard to know what the future will look like until we get a vaccine. Years ago, I bought my sister the New Orleans Baby Book, full of New Orleans “baby’s firsts,” such as “baby’s first Jazz Fest,” “baby’s first trip to Audubon Zoo,” “baby’s first sno-ball.” I always planned to get one for myself if I was ever able to successfully get pregnant. I went online to buy it the other day but found myself hesitating, because I really don’t know when they will experience many of those firsts. Any kind of festival or big event next year? Unlikely. I’m hesitant of even smaller experiences, like going to Café du Monde for baby’s first beignets.
Stricken, I asked my spouse, “Should we even get this? Who knows when they will be able to experience these things?” My spouse reassured me that it’s OK if they are toddlers and not babies when they have these firsts, but it’s hard not to see this as yet another loss. The loss of a future I thought I could plan for, when really, the future will just do what it wants.
All we can do is keep taking it day by day and remember that we are lucky. We are going to welcome new lives into the world very soon—and who knows what kind of amazing things they may do to make this world a better place
illustrations Victoria Allen