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 it was like to be expecting during a pandemic...
One day during my pregnancy, I tried to do better. I put on a pretty yellow sundress, dabbed on some lipstick, a bit of tinted moisturiser, and – because it had been ages – even some highlighter along my eyes and cheeks. Underneath it all, my seven-month tummy heaved and bulged. A linea nigra was starting to show, cutting across my popped out belly button, which my two-year-old loved to rub when she was falling asleep. “Good morning,” I said to my husband, who was already working on the dining table, which he commandeered as his office space for the duration of the circuit breaker. He looked up, smiled, and – as usual – didn’t notice that I’d made a little extra effort.
You see, in your third trimester, all people see is your belly. In a pandemic, all people see is your face mask – that’s if they even look your way at all. My doctor even 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 necessary or an emergency,” her message read. So this is what it’s like to be pregnant in a pandemic…
Pregnant in a pandemic: the scary times
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 had turned societies all over the world topsy-turvy, regardless of how efficient their respective governing bodies are running things. The situation had been dire and in the frontlines, there was 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…
What going to the hospital is like during a pandemic
Fearing an amniotic liquid leak, I found myself in a women’s centre 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 that 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’d heard during the 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.”
In a pandemic, you have to monitor our own pregnancy
That’s the reality of being pregnant in a pandemic. Scans and weekly visits were out. Instead, you had to monitor your own pregnancy, consult remotely, and hope for the best. Across the world, overwhelmed and overworked hospitals scaled down their maternity services. In Manila, partners were no longer allowed in the delivery room – depending on the hospital, the same was 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.
The new normal
I wasn’t due until mid-July, and by then I was hoping things would not be as dire. I used to hope things would go back to normal, but that wish slowly grew dimmer and dimmer as the pandemic continued to rage. All I could do was stay healthy, both mentally and physically. I was lucky I could work from home, so I could look forward to the weekly video meetings with my team, which would turn into gossip sessions once the business chat was over. I’d pour myself a glass of wine, but settled for iced low-fat chocolate milk. I considered myself lucky to live in a house with a garden and to have help. During the mornings, myself and my growing, pregnant belly would endure a round of light exercise in the sunshine, and later in the day I’d bake, just like the rest of the population during the pandemic.
I’d post more frequently on Instagram but resist TikTok. Online groceries and community bake sales replaced Net-a-Porter. I watched as my daughter developed an odd English accent, thanks to endless episodes of Peppa Pig. We drew dinosaurs, rabbits and cats with chalk, inspected the garden for growth and the trees for nests. We danced to Earth, Wind and Fire. “Mama, may I kiss Bunbun?” she asked as she toddled 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 was in hurtled towards an uncertain future, I tried to keep the ones in my orbit spinning in place. On good days, I did this with a slick of gloss and combed hair. And some glitter. That always helped.
Top image: Omurden Cengizvia Unsplash