By Erin McGibbon Smith of Busy Dr. Mom
10 steps to surviving pregnancy during a global pandemic…
1. Stay home.
Stay home as much as you can. While some evidence indicates pregnant women don’t have an increased risk from the Coronavirus, the data is limited. What we do know is that labor is hard enough without being intubated and put on a respirator, and no one wants to be separated from their newborn at birth. There are few things that are worth risking infection while pregnant. This applies to your entire family, as living in close conditions makes you a single unit. If you have the privilege to become shut-ins—do it. This means no grocery stores, no walks near other people, and absolutely no visitors. Do everything you can to convince your employer (or your partner’s employer) that working from home is possible.
2. Lean on your community
In this time of heightened anxiety people want something they can control. They want to make a difference, and they want to help. Don’t hesitate to accept the generosity of family, friends, and neighbors, unless you want to wipe your butt with old copies of Reader’s Digest.
3. Remove negative elements from social media.
You know those people saying that COVID is just like the flu, high risk people should just take care of themselves, and the world would be better off if 1% of the population died? Ditch them. If they are beloved friends and family you can settle for unfollowing them. They will never know. Your mental health is more valuable than their right to devalue your life and drive you insane.
4. Don’t panic.
Unbridled anxiety helps no one. Buying all the toilet paper in a three-county radius won’t help either. Just be compassionate and kind to yourself. If you struggle with anxiety on a normal day, don’t work yourself into a tizzy about worrying either. This is hard. The Serenity Prayer is your friend. Say it every day. Also, if you show symptoms you will be prioritized for a test. I received my results in under 12 hours.
5. Plan for emergencies.
How do you know what will happen? Well, you don’t, but you can make some educated guesses. What will you do if you get a fever? Think through some possible scenarios and how you will respond, because emergency nurse lines will be busy and wait times will be long. Very long. Don’t wait until you drop a hormone supplement and the cat uses it as a hockey-puck and shoots it under the stove, or you wretch violently from morning sickness (which is really all day sickness) immediately after taking a dose, to figure out what you will do if you are short a dose of medicine. Have a plan and some extra medicine.
6. Stock up on essentials.
Don’t be the jerk who hoards toilet paper, but make sure you have anything else you need that you depend on to maintain a healthy pregnancy. This includes Girl Scout Cookies, or whatever else it is you might be craving. Instacart can also be a lifesaver, especially for food that stores are rationing: twice this week they have brought me Annie’s gluten-free mac and cheese (my current ridiculous craving) within two hours, just in time for lunch.
7. Grieve for the pregnancy you have lost.
Did you have a dream of baby showers, cute dresses that showed off your bump, or a photographer in the delivery room to capture the magic moment? I know I did. Let yourself feel the grief, love on yourself, and move on. Find alternative plans to fulfill the dreams you can, but also be honest with yourself. It sucks, and it’s okay to take time to process it, especially if your road to pregnancy was long and winding. Our loses and pain, or months spent acting like a human pincushion, deserve to be acknowledged.
8. Plan for your labor.
Keep in touch with your medical team to stay abreast of regulations at your hospital. Some women are having to labor alone. Most women are confined to their rooms. Consider a home birth if you are comfortable with it and low risk. If you are required to birth at a hospital, plan who will be in the room with you, but prepare for all eventualities. You may be alone. You may be allowed one person. You may be allowed one person and a doula. The people you plan to have with you may fall sick at the last minute. Have a back-up ready, as well as someone to watch any kids you already have.
9. Embrace the chance to rest.
Let’s face it, pregnancy is exhausting. Take the gift of sheltering in place and get as much rest and mental relaxation as you can. If you are working full-time and caring for children, lean on your co-parent or partner for support. If you don’t have one, try to find a quarantine buddy who can become part of your family unit to provide some support.
10. Get exercise.
Kegels are your friend. Not only will they help during labor, they will also help you to not wet your pants every time you sneeze for the rest of your life. Self-care is all the more important now that you are confined to your house like a caged animal. Any exercise you can do to stay in shape for your labor will be rewarded during labor. In spades.
About the Author
Erin is a writer, historian, university instructor, and work-from-home mom. In addition to personal essays about pregnancy and family life during a global pandemic, she is writing a full-length memoir about her twelve-year struggle with infertility and the joys, miseries, and indignities of IVF. Follow her at BusyDrMom.com and on Facebook.