It's a crazy world out there – can you imagine what it's like to be pregnant in it? Second-time mum Trina tells us what its like to be expecting during a pandemic...
Today I tried to do better. I put on a pretty yellow sundress, dabbed on some lipstick, a bit of tinted moisturiser, and – because it’s been ages – even some highlighter along my eyes and cheeks. Underneath it all, my seven-month tummy heaves and bulges. A linea nigra is starting to show, cutting across my popped out belly button, which my two-year-old loves to rub when she’s falling asleep. “Good morning,” I tell my husband, who’s already working on the dining table, which he’s commandeered as his office space for the duration of the circuit breaker. He looks up, smiles, and – as usual – doesn’t notice that I’ve made a little extra effort. In your third trimester, all people see is your belly. In a pandemic, all people see is your face mask – if they even look your way at all. Weeks before they declared the virus a pandemic, my doctor sent me a message asking me to quit my thrice-a-week pilates sessions and acupuncture appointments. “Consider everyone as sick. Don’t go out of the house unless it’s absolutely necessary or an emergency,” her message read. So this is what it’s like to be pregnant in a pandemic…
According to the World Health Organization, pregnant women aren’t at a higher risk when compared to the general population, unlike seniors and people with existing conditions. However, “Due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, we know that pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections.” This particularly nasty and aggressive virus has turned societies all over the world topsy-turvy, regardless of how efficient their respective governing bodies are running things. The situation is dire and in the frontlines, there’s very little wriggle room – being pregnant during a pandemic is scary stuff. I learned this firsthand when I experienced what I thought was a pregnancy-related emergency a week into the quarantine.
What going to the hospital is like
Fearing an amniotic liquid leak, I found myself in a women’s center in one of the major hospitals in the country. It was eerily empty and quiet. In the hallway, ambulance drivers slumped on seats, fast asleep. While waiting for my doctor, I was asked to fill out a form, asking if I had any symptoms of the virus. I answered truthfully, of course – nothing at all. But I also ticked off the travel box. I’d gone to Brazil earlier this year for work, and this made me a Person Under Monitoring. This meant I had to go straight to the Covid-19 floor for my pregnancy check-up. If I was okay, I’d have to go into self-isolation for two weeks at home. If there was indeed an amniotic leak, then I would be confined in isolation until I had to give birth and stay there until I was cleared. I was only 25 weeks along so I messaged my doctor, panicking, refusing to be checked at the Covid-19 floor. I didn’t want to risk exposing myself to the virus. Thankfully, she got clearance to check me in her clinic, where the results were negative.
I heaved a sigh of relief. It was the best pregnancy-related news I heard during this pandemic. “Don’t do anything strenuous. Don’t do anything that will risk an emergency visit to the hospital,” instructed my doctor gravely. “I don’t want to see you until you are ready to give birth.”
Now, we have to monitor our own pregnancies
That’s the reality now. Scans and weekly visits are out. Instead, you have to monitor your own pregnancy, consult remotely, and hope for the best. Across the world, overwhelmed and overworked hospitals have scaled down their maternity services. Here in Manila, partners are no longer allowed in the delivery room – depending on the hospital, the same is true in Singapore. As you’re pushing out your baby, the entire staff will be in full PPE. Afterwards, you might be cooing at your newborn wearing a face shield. No complications? Off you go after a day. Yep, just another day of being pregnant in a pandemic.
My new normal
I’m not due until mid-July, and by then I’m hoping things will not be as dire. I used to hope things would go back to normal, but that wish is slowly growing dimmer and dimmer as the pandemic continues to rage. Right now, all I can do is stay healthy both mentally and physically. I’m lucky that I can work from home, so I can look forward to the weekly video meetings with my team, which turn into gossip sessions once business chat is over. I’d pour myself a glass of wine, but settle for iced low-fat chocolate milk. I consider myself lucky to live in a house with a garden and to have help. During the mornings, me and my growing, pregnant belly endure a round of light exercise in the sunshine, and later in the day I bake, just like the rest of the population during this pandemic.
I post more frequently on Instagram, but resist TikTok. Online groceries and community bake sales have replaced Net-a-Porter. I watch as my daughter develops an odd English accent, thanks to endless episodes of Peppa Pig. We draw dinosaurs, rabbits and cats with chalk, inspect the garden for growth and the trees for nests. We dance to Earth, Wind and Fire. “Mama, may I kiss Bunbun?” she asks as she toddles to me in the late afternoon, tired after several hours of playing ‘let’s clean the yard’. When you’re pregnant, there is a whole other world growing inside of you. And while the one I’m in is hurtling towards an uncertain future, I try to keep the ones in my orbit spinning in place. On good days, I do this with a slick of gloss and combed hair. And some glitter. That always helps.