The Perks and Pitfalls of a Pandemic Pregnancy

Back in June, I wrote a blog post about the massive curveball quarantine has thrown our family in the form of a brand new baby, expected January 2021. I never ended up publishing it because… well, it was a little rambling and even more woe is me. At the time, I was just trying to sort out my own feelings about the craziness that has been 2020, and now, at 32 weeks pregnant, I feel like I’m more equipped to write about this pregnancy.

But I’ll back up. I found out I was pregnant on May 13th, a Wednesday. I had just put the finishing touches on my personal statement for my grad school application and Jeremy was finishing his workday and taking over baby duties for the evening. We’d been in full lockdown mode for about a month. The weekend prior was Mother’s Day, and although my sweet husband spoiled me thoroughly, I was a very moody, very emotional brat. To the point that he had gently suggested maybe I take a pregnancy test, because I hadn’t acted so volatile since the last time I was pregnant.

I decided to humor him that day, even though I was absolutely certain there was no way. I didn’t even tell him I was taking one – I figured I’d just casually let him know it was negative and take one thing off his plate. Tillie had just turned one, and I finally felt like I was back to my old self. I felt like we’d finally gotten a handle on this parenting thing, I was so excited to hopefully start a Masters program in January, and I’d just lost the final pound of remaining baby weight. We discussed maybe having a baby in 2023 or 2024… no rush!

So, you can imagine my surprise when, within 30 seconds, there was a stark second line on the pregnancy test. I started frantically yelling Jeremy’s name, and he left Tillie strapped into her high chair so he could come kill a spider – that’s what he thought my panic was about. If I’m being completely honest, I spent the next couple weeks spontaneously crying and texting my mom, “It’ll be great, right? This age gap will actually be perfect. School will always be there later. This will be awesome… right?”

If I could go back just six short months in time, I’d tell myself that yes, this will be great! I have no doubt about that anymore. And while this pregnancy looks absolutely nothing like my first, I’ve found that there are so many unexpected silver linings. But I’ll get the pitfalls out of the way first…

Solo appointments. As soon as I got the positive pregnancy test, Jeremy and I pretty much accepted that he would never attend an appointment or an ultrasound with me this pregnancy. Well-meaning friends would say, “Maybe things will get better and he’ll be able to join!” but we believed the experts who repeatedly said that things would only get worse once we entered cold and flu season. Personally, I’m glad I never got my hopes up. I made peace with solo appointments right off the bat, and they haven’t been so bad!

Fears about labor & delivery. This has been the scary one lingering over my head. I’ve heard stories about partners not being allowed into the delivery room, and my panic attack-prone self is nervous about the possibility of wearing a mask while in active labor. Logistically, though, I’m terrified that the pandemic will prevent family from being here, and I’ll have to deliver alone while Jeremy manages childcare. Of course, those are all hypotheticals and I’m doing my best not to dwell on them.

Added health anxiety. I wouldn’t say I’m a hypochondriac, but I’m definitely hyper-aware of every little physical sensation. During my first pregnancy, I would spiral into full-blown terror reading about preeclampsia, incompetent cervix, PPROM, you name it. While birthing a healthy, full-term baby has certainly eased a lot of those pregnancy fears, they’ve been swiftly replaced with concerns about contracting a novel freakin’ virus. I feel an immense responsibility to protect this little boy, and getting him here safely is my only focus.

Nerves about having two under two. I used to think that having Irish twins would be a blast, and I once excitedly told Jeremy I’d love to just “pop them out back to back” and get it done with. Then I actually had a baby, and changed my mind in warp speed. I get really impatient and mean when I’m sleep deprived, and I struggle with terrible perinatal anxiety. I micromanage baby sleep schedules because that is the one thing that makes me feel in control during the chaos of infancy. I’m not proud of any of those things, obviously, but it’s just who I am as a mom. I know I’ll have to loosen up when I have two little ones… but I’m just worried I won’t know how to.

The beautiful thing about all of these worries and concerns is that they’re all survivable. Despite my fears, I’ve also switched into serious mama bear mode: I will get this little boy here whether I’m in a mask, all by myself, whatever. I will do whatever I need to do. I cannot change the timing or the circumstances, but I can sure as hell conquer my first big challenge as this baby’s mama.

And now for the happier stuff! I was so surprised to discover that, for me, there are so many amazing things about being pregnant during this crazy season. I certainly don’t want to sound flippant or insensitive, because God knows there are families grieving and sacrificing and facing brutally difficult situations right now. But it’s an act of self-preservation to look for the good stuff, and I’m lucky to have found plenty.

Hibernation. One result of my intense perinatal anxiety with Tillie was mild agoraphobia. The second I left my house, I could feel my heart start to race and my palms sweat. I had to be medicated just to make it through prenatal appointments. I desperately wanted to take everyone’s advice and squeeze in plenty of date nights before baby arrived, but going out to restaurants filled me with sheer panic. While I’d never say that being in lockdown is a healthy or realistic “cure” to this strange pregnancy agoraphobia, removing the pressure to “go and do” has also alleviated a huge amount of stress. Even after nine months, Jeremy and I are enjoying our quarantined date nights of takeout and Netflix.

Excitement about having two under two. I’m still pretty terrified, but I’m also absolutely and positively thrilled that Tillie is going to have a sibling only 21 months younger than her. They’ll grow up together! I know we’ll be in the “baby trenches” for a while, but so what? Our family will be complete, and we’ll get through it. I can’t lie – I’m also really excited to toss all of this clunky, tacky-colored baby equipment sooner rather than later! The more I’ve thought about it, the happier I am to have them close in age.

Renewed focus on my mental health. I knew that having a baby during a global pandemic could amp my anxiety up to 100, especially considering my history. From the moment I found out I was pregnant this time, I’ve focused on taking care of myself from the inside out. I’ve worked through a pregnancy anxiety journal, and I’ve given myself a ton of grace about what is and isn’t realistic for me. I’ve said “no” to extra work assignments, limited my caffeine and sugar, and kept up a running routine for the calming effect it has on me. I’ve talked openly with my medical providers about my history with perinatal anxiety, and made sure I have every tool in my toolbox this time around. In a weird way, having a baby during such a crazy time has forced me to prioritize my mental health more than I would have otherwise, and I’m thankful for that.

Postpartum plans. I went full-speed ahead with my grad school application despite learning I was pregnant, and was thrilled to find out last month that I was accepted. Instead of being disappointed that I can’t start in January as I had planned, I’m viewing my August start date as the perfect light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll get to spend seven precious months at home with both babies, and then I’ll get to start this exciting new chapter once I (sort of) have my bearings. Plus, our family will be complete, and there will be no more pregnancies or newborns [perfectly, chunkily, happily, and adorably] interrupting future school or career plans.

Finally, I’ve been straight-up humbled. I had no intention of having a baby while this pandemic is still posing so many problems. In fact, when everything began shutting down in March, there were several memes going around about how there would be a huge baby boom in nine months because everyone is stuck at home together. I told Jeremy, “Can you imagine wanting to be pregnant right now? That is so dumb. That sounds like a nightmare!” Oops. Despite being a completely Type A control freak, I have to admit that the surprises the universe has thrown my way have always turned out to be the best parts of life. This baby included. My mom loves to remind me of that piece of wisdom, “We plan, God laughs.”

We are so excited and grateful for this baby. I recognize how incredibly lucky I am to experience pregnancy and motherhood, and I do not take it for granted. During the hardest days of my first pregnancy, I always told myself that it would be worth it in the end. Now, after having Tillie, I know it’s all worth it in the end. While this pandemic pregnancy certainly caught us off guard, we could not be more overjoyed to complete our family in early 2021.

(And I also can’t wait for all of the amazing Mother’s Day gifts that I will be owed for all eternity after bringing a baby into the world during this madness. Hint, hint, Jeremy & baby boy.)

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