Pregnant and a pandemic; what it’s really like

2020 has been the year that turned the world upside down, due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.  For me, it has been a surreal mixture of the best year of my life combined with one of the worst.  This is my story of what it’s been like for me being pregnant during the pandemic.

March 2020 rolled around, and my husband and I enjoyed a break away to Dubai.  The day before we flew home, my boss called me telling me to not bother coming into the office as we were all being sent to work from home.  Little did I know I would not see my office or colleagues again for over a year. 

The nation was plunged into the infamous summer lockdown, which saw my husband and I settle in to working from home, enjoying the novelty of zoom calls, not missing the commute, and having ice creams in the garden on our lunch break during that incredible heatwave.  We were both very vary of the virus and took every precaution we could, such as wiping down our groceries and leaving any packages in a ‘quarantine box’ for a few days before opening them. 

When the lockdown was lifted, we were still very careful when it came to socialising.  We went to one, very small socially distanced BBQ with friends, and I went home and saw family outdoors.  After doing a couple of outings, I started to feel less anxious, and was looking forward to enjoying that small slice of semi normal life that everyone else seemed to be embracing, when Covid-19 rates were relatively low as the summer came to a close. 

We found out in early August that I was pregnant, and were over the moon.  I couldn’t believe it was finally happening, and all I could focus on was what the next 9 months would bring.  The excitement was quickly matched with the realisation that there was a new, potentially killer virus doing the rounds, and I now had to protect a growing baby from it.   I suddenly felt that while the lockdown was lifting for the rest of the country, I was heading into a new one.

The first trimester was the first hurdle, and I felt absolutely awful as so many do.  This is when working from home was a huge blessing, as I’m not sure how I would have handled the commute with the nausea and sickness, never mind trying to hide it at work.  I could lie in, work from my bed, and sleep needed.  Ironically even if we had been out and about I wouldn’t have felt up to doing much anyway.  The research available suggests that Covid-19 isn’t thought to have any effects of the development of the fetus if contracted during pregnancy, which is the primary concern in the first trimester.  However, evidence does show that the mother having a fever during the early weeks could have a negative effect.  As one of the key symptoms of Covid-19 is a temperature, I explained this to my husband and we agreed to stay home until our 12 week scan.  This meant no shopping, bars or restaurants, something which I had been craving for so long, but the parental protective instinct was kicking in.

I told myself that once I made it to 12 weeks in early October, I would make the most of the lifted restrictions and have something of a social life again.  Restaurants, pubs and shops were open and I longed for some normality.  Yet when the time came, I found myself reluctant to do any of these things.  Every time I thought about it, my mind went ‘is it a necessary risk,’ and I could never justify it.  After doing further research into Covid-19 and pregnancy, it seemed that it was most necessary to take extra caution in the third trimester, as that’s when our lungs are compromised due to the size of the baby, and Covid-19 targets this area.  The worrying thing is that your body is slightly compromised anyway due to pregnancy, hence why it’s recommended to get a flu shot even if you typically wouldn’t.  I was surprised at how little guidance there was on Covid-19 during pregnancy.  There was no knowing how just how ill I would be if I contracted the virus.

With the virus rates again rising, we then had the November lockdown to endure.  This meant that even if I had wanted to go out and about, we couldn’t.  When December came, the second wave was fast on the increase, so the anxiety of Christmas shopping in busy shops again didn’t seem worth the risk.  I was frustrated as I knew part of this I had brought on myself; there were pockets of time where local restrictions were low, but I simply couldn’t face it.  I had booked a haircut in a bid to make myself feel a little less pregnant and disgusting, before cancelling it in floods of tears due to the fear of picking up the virus there.

Something people often say to me is that “Covid-19 doesn’t affect babies’ development” or that “most pregnant women are fine” but for me that wasn’t any reassurance.  This is such a new virus, they have no way of knowing long term effects and they won’t for years.  What’s more, catching Covid-19 doesn’t just mean being ill at home and having a few days off work.  It means living in one room in your house for 2 weeks, not mixing with other family in the home, the constant worry of having passed it onto one of them, and I knew all I would do is lie there anxiously waiting for every kick to know that my baby was still ok.  I could think of nothing worse.

I am shortly entering my third trimester, so we will be fully locking down even if it wasn’t being enforced which it is anyway as we live in tier 4.  If the restrictions get lifted, we still won’t mix with anyone indoors, or go anywhere public.  Our baby is due in April, and although I hope the Covid-19 situation will be looking brighter by then, we cannot know for sure.  I also do not want any risk of being asymptomatic and testing positive on arrival to hospital for labour, as that will change our plans and make the entire experience even more difficult. 

When April comes, it will have been 13 months since I have been to a shop (aside from the supermarket), pub, restaurant, or even café.  I will have missed out on being the pregnant one at work and secretly enjoying the attention, a baby shower, NCT classes, and none of my friends will have seen me pregnant.  As tough as it’s been, I know that I have done all I can to protect myself and my baby, and when she is here, I am hoping the last year will become a distant memory as the new chapter of our life begins.

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