When I discovered I was expecting my second baby in early February 2020, nothing could prepare me for the distressing news that was about to rock the world and put restrictions on our daily lives that we have never had before.
Having a second baby was already quite a fearful decision for me; I suffered with PND following the birth of my daughter and last year I was also diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which would make pregnancy and the postnatal period a little more complicated. I feel like I have waited for a long time to try for our second baby due to needing to get on the right medication to control my illness, so when I fell quite quickly, my fears quickly turned to elation. And now, living through the worst public health crisis in 100 years, it couldn’t feel like a worse time to be pregnant. Some of the more minor issues are things like having cravings that can’t be fulfilled; unlike my last pregnancy 4 years ago, my husband can’t be sent on an 11pm run to buy me a packet of Haribo. But then there’s the bigger issues. In April I headed to my 12-week scan alone, praying I would see a little heartbeat flickering on the screen. I was filled with immediate relief when I did, but then a pang of sadness that my husband couldn’t see this incredible being on the screen. And then I feel guilty for not counting my blessings. I am carrying a healthy baby. I am safe at home. And yet I and still struggling and feel so disappointed to be missing out on milestones.
I know so many pregnant women are facing challenges; some are preparing to give birth alone, others are worrying about who will look after their children whilst they labour. In fact, I posted about writing this article on my Instagram and I was flooded with stories from pregnant women, all with different stories but all carrying the common theme of anxiety during this time. A pending arrival and birth brings uncertainty anyway, but when guidelines are changing daily it is really hard to plan ahead.
I have been really mindful in ensuring I read news from reputable sources; seeing rumours of women facing birthing alone almost tipped me over the edge. Being pregnant brings heightened emotions anyway due to hormones, and some things I read in the early weeks were almost enough to tip me over the edge and begin a catastrophic thought spiral.
My advice for women who are currently pregnant;
- You may feel alone but know that you are not. Thousands of women give birth every week in the UK, so whilst it may feel isolating this time is very much a shared experience by many. I am in a few Facebook groups where women all share similar experiences, similar fears, and similar struggles to me.
- It is okay to experience some of this as a type of grief. It’s okay to grieve for your baby shower, it’s okay to grieve for your partner attending your ultrasound, it’s okay to grieve browsing for nursery items and baby clothes in shops, it’s okay to grieve hearing your babies heartbeat at midwife appointments, it’s okay to grieve your antenatal class, it’s okay to grieve your birthplan, and it’s okay to grieve proudly walking around and showing off your growing bump.
- Connect with others online, but don’t put pressure on yourself if you feel differently to them or are doing different things. Right now, some pregnant women are flourishing; they’re nourishing their body with healthy foods, homeschooling their older children with seeming ease, and performing prenatal yoga every day. Others are finding this a massive struggle, haven’t showered or left the house in days, and are living off bowls of cereal (side note – I fit into the latter).
- Seek support when you can and if you need to. There are doulas offering online support and virtual antenatal and hypnobirthing courses. similarly, and more importantly, don’t avoid seeking medical advice if you need it, for example if you’ve noticed reduced movement. Hospitals are a scary place to visit at the moment, but they are probably actually one of the safest with the cleaning and hygiene regimes currently being implemented.
- Cut yourself some slack. You are growing a human. Some days may be a total write off, others you may feel like Wonder Woman – or not – it really doesn’t matter. This time will pass, and your unborn baby will have no idea what you did, or didn’t do, during this time. One time we will all look back on this time, we will share our stories with this baby when they are grown, of how we were the women that carried and birthed babies during a pandemic.
- Consdier ways you can still experience the joys of pregnancy, just in a different way to how you expected. We are planning to host a virtual gender reveal in a few weeks, I have signed up to pregnancy yoga via an app, and I am doing a virtual antenatal class – the plus side is that all of these have been cheaper than they would have been if I’d physically done them meaning I can save money for when the baby comes.
Hang in there mamas, you got this, and you are so much stronger than you think.