That's probably been the most commonly asked question since the start of the coronavirus scare. And slowly I have been changing my answer from, "Oh, just trying to stay positive!" to "I'm hanging in there!" and honestly, now those words are just words to me. Why? Because I am not staying positive. I am not hanging in there. I am eight months pregnant in the middle of a pandemic, for goodness sake and my mental load is so. heavy. right now. In fact, I think I've cried more over the past week (especially three specific days) than I have my entire pregnancy. Yesterday I had a doctor's appointment where everyone including myself had to wear a mask and talk about how I'm coming up close to my due date. Seeing the reality of the new normal... do you know how difficult it was for me not to cry? The world was so different during my last doctor's appointment and I so longed to be able to turn back time where the doctor would come in and ask if I had any concerns and my reply would be, "Nope!" This time I came in with a list of questions, starting off with, "Is my husband allowed to be at the hospital with me when I go into labor?"
If you know me at all, you know that I am typically the type to look at the positive side of things, or rely on humor (see: memes) to get me through any difficult transitions and tough times, and yes, that includes pandemics. Every day I've been trying to find the positive in all this, and there has definitely been a lot of good. Examples:
My husband Pete and I moved into our house before the coronavirus, which means we actually had help during our move.
Pete has been working from home which means no more alarms going off before the sun is up, and we've had breakfast together.
I've had a lot of time to cook and bake since I'm home anyway (hello, apple crisp in April and weekly cupcakes!)
But slowly, it's become harder and harder to use the positive to mask out all the emotions I've been feeling. These emotions did not just immediately come after the start of the coronavirus, by the way. I've been dealing with a lot of transitions since the start of my pregnancy and when news of a pandemic hits, the emotions just compound.
I have been so grateful that my entire pregnancy has been pretty textbook and complication-free since the start. My baby has been perfectly healthy in there, but the world outside has been not so great, which leaves me feeling like crap. Ever since I got pregnant, I've
quit my job as a nanny (and if you've ever spent nearly 3.5 years immersing yourself and your energy into another family, 12 hours a day, day in and day out...it doesn't feel like you quit a job. It basically feels like you abandoned a family and left a piece of your heart)
started a business
dealt with the news of a cancer diagnosis in my family, along with other diagnoses that are still mysteries
transitioned into a new house in a new town which means getting used to my family being further away from me and trying to navigate the new changes here
I know life is full of changes. So it might not be a lot for you take in, but it has been for me. Every day along with these changes, my own body has been surprising me every day with new things that I have to accept because "it's just a normal part of pregnancy". However, we can all agree that it's not fun trying on your clothes and realizing you've outgrown them from just a week ago. It's not fun bumping into everything. It's not fun trying to figure out why you can't sleep. It's not fun not recognizing your own body.
So, on top of that, comes this pandemic. Can you just imagine with me for a second how this has gone for me?
I had a baby shower planned for me, then the governor called for a ban of gatherings, leaving my family with no time to come up with a new plan and the only option was to cancel it.
I don't have the luxury of wandering around Target to find things that didn't get bought from my registry (+ extra miscellaneous things).
If I order anything online, everything is back-ordered, which means everything will most likely come after the baby is born.
I can't go out to Hobby Lobby to finish decorating the nursery.
My last months of being kid-free has and will be spent without going out on dates with my husband, nor will we even have the option for a last minute night away.
I've had to change my exercise routine so much since becoming pregnant but so far had one outlet that I was still physically able to do, which was going to the gym for one class 3-4 times a week, but my gym has closed.
There's no such thing as a quick run for any food cravings with my friends.
The governor has deemed photography nonessential, which for my business means that I went from a dead winter season, straight into no work, straight into maternity leave, and who knows how long I will be out of work for, so all the confidence I had in my business is going straight down the drain.
Speaking of photography, I had one thing on my Christmas list this year which was to have a birth photographer for my baby. And guess what option is out the window now due to the mandates and the new hospital policies? Yep, birth photography. This was the number one thing I wanted to have, being a photographer myself. I would finally have the chance for my own life to be documented, but that no longer is an option. I have people telling me that it's lucky that I know how to take photos. No. When you're in labor, do you think the number one thing on your mind will be to take photos of yourself? No. THIS IS WHY I HIRED SOMEONE. I wanted to practice what I preach. I also hear people saying to give Pete the camera. But you know what happens then? What happens then is a highly integral part of the story becomes missing from the photos. Yes, I will probably bring my camera anyway, but I am 10,000% heartbroken. I have to hope that I have the strength to hold the camera and be well enough to get photos of the baby's first hours. Actually, I did a Fresh 48 session about a week before the world collapsed due to the coronavirus and have been meaning to blog about it, but I haven't been able to make myself do that since it's a reminder of my inability to have the same for my child. It hurts.
The newest policy at my hospital is letting one person in as my support person, that person hopefully being Pete. If he shows any symptoms, he can't come with me. Can you imagine that with me? Being alone during labor and delivery? After witnessing a close friend deal with a terribly traumatic experience with a health care provider at the hospital while no one was in the room with her, I'm absolutely terrified at the possibility of not having a trusted advocate in the room with me at all times.
And what happens if I show any symptoms, you ask? Well, I give birth, then the nurses bring my baby straight into a warmer, away from me. In a different room. If I'm reeeally persistent, they said I could probably convince them to keep the baby in the room, but six feet apart. But how would I live with myself if I passed anything along to him?
After the hospital, if everyone appears healthy, we'll be good to go home, but still practice social distancing more than ever. We are not allowed any visitors. My parents and in-laws won't be able to hold their first grandchild until he's at least one or two months old. My siblings won't be able to meet their nephew. My vision of having all the kids I'd once held as newborns get to hold MY newborn is out the window. We're advised to not have meals brought to us. We won't be able to go to the park and enjoy a walk without having a panic attack when someone gets too close to our bubble or sneezes or coughs within earshot.
"May is the perfect time to have a baby!" is what everyone said to me whenever they asked when I was due. "It's not too hot and not too cold, and you can take your baby everywhere!" Now those words ring in my ear like a big tease because, surprise, you can't take your baby out everywhere during a pandemic.
So here I am, just worn down and tired of it all. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the hospital doesn't change their policy again and lowering the support person limit to none at all. I'm praying that between now and when I give birth, the number of cases at my hospital remains zero. If you're wondering why I'm "paranoid" about this virus, these are my reasons. I've never been a "germaphobe" or one to freak out over this stuff, but when it affects the possibility of my son meeting his mom or dad when he takes his first breath in the world, I will continue to freak out. I will continue to not let you come within 6 feet of me. I will continue to be disappointed in any workplace and organization who continue to let their workers come into work just because we are not yet required to shelter in place, even though there are safer yet viable options that continue to be brushed off since "it's not that bad yet". I will continue to wonder how selfish people can be when they are not self-isolating or think "it's not a big deal". I will continue to question how many visitors you've had come inside your house even if "they're family". Because just because you're feeling healthy, doesn't mean you're not spreading it. Just because you might never see me or get in contact with me, you could still be contributing to the numbers, and those numbers impact the hospitals, including the one where I will give birth.
So please, stay home. Stop thinking this is all a conspiracy. Let me meet my son when he's born. You will never regret the decision that errs on the side of safety.
Also, let me be clear. I know we're all going to get through this and I know this is temporary. I am emotional and everything feels out of my control. I can't stop the virus from making its rounds. I can't stop people from living their lives. I also can't hide from this pandemic. I can't just run away til it's all over. So I'm stuck. However what I don't need right now is for anyone to try to get me unstuck and out of this funk. I have seen a lot of posts about positivity, and I'm grateful for it. I'm glad people have landed there, but I'm not 100% there yet.
It's normal for us humans to listen to problems and try to be the person who finds a solution and fixes it. But I ask you to not try to fix this for me. I don't need you to tell me to look on the bright side. I don't need to hear anything that starts with, "But at least..."
I know things will get better. I don't need to be cheered up. I just need you to understand and agree with me that it sucks. I will get over this eventually, but give me time. I'm grieving a lot firsts that have been robbed from me, seemingly out of thin air, and it hurts.
And yes, I know stress is bad for the baby.