This Coronavirus Pandemic really has changed our ability to plan hasn’t it? When I first thought about writing this blog, it was going to be neatly chronological, documenting each step of my pregnancy and its hurdles. But then the pandemic happened, and I feel like I should start there. Maybe because I need the catharsis of writing about it, but also because I know there will be many of you feeling much like I do at the moment.
The overwhelming feeling throughout these last few weeks has been fear; fear of the unknown effects of the virus on my baby, and fear for myself being one of the ‘vulnerable’. Although there isn’t a lot of evidence of the effects of Coronavirus on pregnant women and their babies, there has been the odd story circulating of women ending up in intensive care, or of babies being born early. It’s true that there isn’t a lot of evidence that Coronavirus has ill-effects on mum or baby, but my problem as a doctor, is that it’s because there isn’t much evidence, full stop.
As a pregnant woman, like every other expectant mother, I am more susceptible to infections. This is why we are offered the flu vaccine. So this is where the caution the government have used to advise pregnant women comes from. And I think it’s fair to be cautious – we really don’t want to find out once it’s too late that Coronavirus causes complications during pregnancy or delivery, fetal abnormalities or severe maternal illness. That’s why I’m more than happy to follow the guidelines to the letter and stay indoors for the next 12 weeks (and probably longer). I do wish I had a private garden that I could safely pop in and out of without the risk of sharing it with my neighbours (as lovely as they all are), but otherwise it’s a small price to pay to minimise my risk of catching this virus.
Quarantine during pregnancy isn’t going to be easy for everyone to achieve. I’m a GP which means I’m a keyworker. If I wasn’t pregnant, I would be one of the people for whom social distancing isn’t necessarily possible – I should be going to work. But being pregnant and therefore in the group of ‘vulnerable’ people, means having to think about working in different ways. I’ve been lucky that my workplace are very understanding and protective of me. They’ve arranged for me to work remotely, which puts my mind at ease, knowing that I don’t have to put myself and my baby at risk every day. Working from home is also a real novelty for me at the moment, having done at least one of my telephone clinics in my comfy clothes! But many people have been put in the position of having to make difficult decisions. The rules for healthcare workers have also been ambiguous, with apparently arbitrary cut-offs for when it’s safe to work on the frontline in pregnancy, and when it isn’t. But that’s another story.
Being in quarantine has also made me consider other consequences of social distancing. These might not seem important in the context of the bigger picture, but when it’s been a hard slog to achieve this pregnancy, and I’m not sure I’ll be doing it again, some of the things I’ll miss out on make me feel rather sad. I was looking forward to sharing this pregnancy with my family and friends, having them around me while my bump grew and we got nearer to the new member of the family arriving. I often worry about isolation in pregnancy, and had signed up to local groups and NCT classes so my partner and I could meet other couples in the same situation. I’m aware that pregnancy can feel very lonely for many women and was trying to decrease my risk of this. But now, Coronavirus and the quarantine means that many of us might be feeling lonely throughout our pregnancies and beyond. It’s going to be so important to keep in touch with family and friends with phone and video calls, and I’ve joined loads of online groups so I am always in contact with other women in the same situation.
The romantic part of my brain had imagined a leisurely, summer maternity leave, enjoying walks around the park, and sitting outside coffee shops. Instead I’m going to be sat inside dreaming about how it could have been if Coronavirus hadn’t struck. Even simple things like fulfilling cravings is going to be difficult! We all know how it feels when you get that sudden urge to eat something in particular. But what if you and your partner can no longer just pop to the shops, and have to rely on what you have in the cupboard. And not to mention trying to fill the cupboard when we’re not supposed to be going out shopping too regularly, but the supermarkets don’t appear to be delivering.
Practical stuff is also going to be difficult. Being first-time parents means we haven’t bought anything for a our baby yet. And now we’re not going to be able to visit the shops to try things out. Our shopping will all have to be done online, and I’m already noticing shortages of things we had planned to purchase. I had also thought about using preloved items, in a bid to reduce our impact on the environment. But that’s also going to be difficult, as the risk of infection looms whether it is from picking items up from people’s homes, or wondering where your delivered items have come from.
I do keep reminding myself that things could always be worse, but every now and then I do feel sad for the pregnancy I thought I was going to have, or fearful of the risk of Coronavirus and its complications. But when I feel the little being inside me doing a gentle kick or flipping over, it reminds of the joy and wonder I have to come, and that nothing else really matters. So for now, my partner and I will hole up in our apartment, and keep this cargo safe.
Thanks for reading,
The Vegan Doctor