Pregnancy & Parenthood in a Pandemic

Melanie, here! It has been radio silence on my end for nearly a year now. I have taken the backseat with writing posts, and adopted a more editorial role with Roam & Mosey. This is because shortly after my last post, Coping with Quarantine, I became pregnant! Before I go on…I know that fertility, pregnancy, birth, and loss can be tough subjects for some readers. If that is the case, I want you to know that these experiences are uniquely mine, and I do not take any of them for granted. Also, if you feel the subject matter is too sensitive, please feel free to stop here and consider checking out some of our other published content.

Our seeds started to sprout in late April!
An August harvest of tappy tomatoes, black beauty tomatoes, cayenne peppers, bush beans, and sugar snap peas.

Yes, my coronial pregnancy was planned. My husband and I wanted to start “trying” after our trip to Iceland last March (which didn’t happen), and we were fortunate enough to conceive on the first try! While everyone else was navigating mask wearing, unemployment, and being stuck at home – I was navigating my first pregnancy, becoming a mother, and working as a nurse during a pandemic. I am going to share some of my experiences with prenatal care, delivery, and “the 4th trimester”. Whether or not you have kids, plan to have kids, or never want them – I would like to give you a glimpse at how this unique experience unfolded, and what you might be able to expect if you find yourself in the same boat in the near future! 

When I became pregnant (but didn’t know it yet), I also became nauseous almost immediately. I called off my next scheduled shift at work because I thought I had contracted COVID and needed to be tested. It was very early in May, and at that point literally everything was a possible symptom so I did not want to take any chances. My COVID test resulted negative, and I could not figure out why I was feeling so terrible. My husband suggested I might be pregnant. I laughed and was adamant that could not be possible – for some reason I thought it would take us multiple attempts to conceive. After my negative COVID test, I still had approximately 11 days before I could take a pregnancy test. I did try one of those “tell you early tests”, about three days before my monthly visitor was due to arrive – negative. I was SURE I was not pregnant but my husband still disagreed. Four days later, it turned out he was right all along! 

THE positive pregnancy test!
5/17/2020

I immediately made my first prenatal appointment for mid-June. Because of COVID, there were/are very strict visitor policies in place at medical facilities throughout the country. However, on my providers website it stated that fathers/partners were allowed at prenatal appointments so my husband accompanied me to my first visit. We made it through the security questionnaire at the door – no we have not tested positive for COVID, no we have not been exposed, no we do not have any symptoms. GREAT! Security let us through and directed us upstairs to be checked in. When my doctor entered the exam room she looked shocked and upset. She let us know that my husband should NOT have been let through by security but since he was already present, he could stay. She clarified that visitors were only allowed to prenatal appointments for ultrasounds. We got very lucky that he was present for this first visit because he would not actually be allowed to come to another appointment until my anatomy scan at the end of August, and then not again until my delivery in January. My pregnancy was confirmed via ultrasound, and we were both able to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time! Because my husband was only at these two appointments, he confessed that he did not feel bonded with our baby throughout my pregnancy, and that it did not feel “real” until after Baby L was born.

Our first glimpse of Baby L.

Other than nausea, I didn’t really have any other symptoms for the first two trimesters. I used Preggie Pops to fend off the overwhelming urge to vomit all day long, and frequent snacking on carbs such as pretzels and crackers helped too! Acid reflux started around the middle of my third trimester and presented quite the challenge when trying to sleep through the night. Antacids, lots of water before bed, and sleeping propped up on multiple pillows proved to be futile attempts at achieving comfort. As a nurse, I worked all the way up until I delivered my baby. I did not appear pregnant until about 7 months into the pregnancy, and at 9 months I cut my shifts down to 8 hours instead of 12 hours because my feet and back couldn’t take it anymore. I used a maternity belt to help with some of the back and hip discomfort after my belly started to grow – I would recommend ordering a size up of this particular belt because you will get BIG in the final weeks. While at work I was able to ask my coworkers questions and discuss my experiences with them, which was helpful. Also, my work family volunteered to float to the COVID units when it was my turn – so I was never exposed throughout my entire pregnancy. Most of my close friends have had children already, and they were also very supportive via text and Snapchat regarding the navigation of pregnancy, what to expect, and the postpartum phase. However, it would have been nice to be able to actually spend time with my friends and extended family. Pregnancy brings a whole slew of hormonal fluctuations, and at times it can feel quite lonely. I naively thought I would be immune to these silly mood swings – I was very wrong. A strong support system, especially during a time when physical connection is cut-off, is SO important. It really does take a village.

My 6-month pregnant belly!

Fast forward to the end of January. I was 40+ weeks pregnant and mis-er-a-ble…so I opted to be induced after a discussion with my OBGYN. I heard mixed reviews about the induction experience of others, I was scared, but ultimately I believed that particular route would be best for my body and result in a safe and natural delivery of my baby (I was right!). Because I essentially had an appointment to have a baby, I was required to undergo another COVID test – negative. The hospital only allowed one visitor for the delivery, and obviously I chose my husband. He was not required to have a COVID test but he did need to wear a mask whenever medical personnel were in the room. I cannot speak highly enough of the medical staff during my birthing experience, especially the nurses who advocated for me and truly made my delivery comfortable and enjoyable in the midst of all the worldly chaos. After a relatively smooth labor, on January 25th at 0242 Baby L joined us Earthside, weighing in at 7lbs 8oz and 19.5” long. Because the hospital was full of COVID+ patients, the goal was to get home as soon as possible. Neither Baby L nor myself had any complications, and we were discharged the afternoon of January 26th – about 36 hours after delivery. As we were leaving the hospital my husband and I donned the required masks, and we planned ahead by purchasing a car seat cover to act as a mask for Baby L.

Very pregnant, very exhausted.

Whew. This has been a lot. Bear with me while I jump into the 4th trimester.

What is the 4th trimester? It is an often overlooked and forgotten part of the pregnancy experience which encompasses the first 12 weeks after a baby is born. For mom, this period includes healing from delivery, learning how to breastfeed/pump (if she chooses this route), more hormonal fluctuations, accepting bodily changes, learning to function while sleep deprived, and all things caring-for-baby. For baby, this period is adjusting to life outside of the womb and comes with a lot of crying, sleepless nights, frequent feedings, and frustration as their little nervous system develops. My first two weeks home were a complete blur. There is SO much that nobody talks about regarding becoming a new mom…like how badly it hurts to go to the bathroom after pushing a baby out (underwear ice packs are a godsend), leaking breasts, night sweats, hormone induced hives, and especially the baby blues and postpartum depression. One of my closest friends has created a podcast, Moms Who Keep It Real, where she shares her parenting experiences with moms and dads, discusses several of the aforementioned topics, and more! Listen to the podcast here, and give her a follow on Insta!

Mom, Dad, and Baby L.

Regardless of challenges presented by the pandemic, there were a lot of things I personally was not prepared for as a new mom such as how long it would take to get ready to leave the house! When Baby L has a doctor’s appointment at 1130, we start packing the diaper bag and getting ready at 0900. Who knew some babies refuse to sleep alone FOR WEEKS? We are still camped out on the couch nearly six weeks after coming home. Breastfeeding is hard, exclusively pumping is harder. Diapers are expensive and not all of them agree with baby’s bottom. Everything makes you cry. Everyone wants updates the first few days after you give birth, but you are too tired and in too much pain to respond to everyone. Your pets will feel neglected – remember to give them some extra loving when baby falls asleep! You probably won’t drink hot coffee again for a long time. If something works to soothe baby today, that same thing might not work tomorrow. And so on…

Hazel in Baby L’s swing.

Overall, becoming a new parent has been a complete learning curve, and doing it while in the midst of a pandemic has often been stressful, scary, and lonely. But I promise that when your little baby coos and smiles at you for the first time, you realize every lonely and sleep deprived day and night are worth it. You realize your little baby is the future of our world and even though things might seem bleak right now, there is hope, and we will come out on the other side of this crazy pandemic. Once Baby L is a little older, and COVID settles down, I hope to begin sharing more traveling and parenting experiences with you!

-Melanie 

“One day this is going to be over – can you imagine that day? How we’ll come out into the sun and laugh and hug and sing and dance and hold hands? I’m living for that day. It’ll be like nothing we’ve experienced before.” – Glennon Doyle

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