Lifecycles: Pregnancy and Childbirth in the First Year of the Covid Era

Below is the full, unedited text of a story describing the experiences of one new parent during the Covid era. Please contact Covid Stories Archive if you would like to use or reproduce this essay, in whole or in part, for your research or writing. Also, please consider sharing your own stories for preservation in our archive.

My husband and I got married in August 2019 had planned to start trying for a baby in late spring 2020. When the Civil shutdowns occurred there was a lot of fear mongering about hospitals being overrun in the upcoming 20-21 winter flu season (when I would’ve had the baby), but we decided to try anyway because we weren’t going to let this stop our plans. Also, keep in mind that I have a background in journalism and was dubious from the start regarding the media’s panicky, fear-driven coverage. We’re in South Carolina and it just never seemed as bad as the news would lead you to believe.

Anyway, I got pregnant in June (yay!) and aside from dealing with the har-dee-har-har “Made in Quarantine” jokes and explaining that no, our baby was very much planned, we were ready to take on the joys and pains of pregnancy.

Then I started my doctor’s appointments. Appointments that, in the beginning, I had to attend alone. At the ultrasound where we saw our baby for the first time my husband was only allowed to come into the building for the ultrasound itself. He had to stand on the opposite side of the room like a stranger. I was supposed to just be grateful he was allowed inside at all. Later at that same appointment I sat in the exam room and was told that I would only be allowed to have one person with me when I gave birth, and that would not change in the 32 weeks between then and my due date. The thought of not having my mom with me while in labor was too much. I should have left that appointment gushing over my baby’s ultrasound pictures. Instead I sat in my car and sobbed for ten minutes before heading back to work.

And…that’s pretty much how the rest of the pregnancy went. The baby and I were perfectly healthy, but the loneliness was agonizing. So much of what I had looked forward to in pregnancy was ripped away. Baby shower, Christmas Eve at church, holiday gatherings with family (because they didn’t want to expose me or whatever). I practically begged people around me for normality. I needed fun and happy things during that emotional, tumultuous time. I hated wearing masks and took pains to avoid places they were required. During the summer months it was torture to wear them with my morning sickness, and as the baby grew it got harder to breathe and having that horrible, dehumanizing mask blocking my airways made me miserable. As a result there were many places we just didn’t go to since they required masks. I don’t know how many times I said to my husband: “Nothing is fun anymore.”

On March 12 I had my baby in a “textbook delivery” according to the doctor. I did not have to wear a mask. The hospital policy was “we ask that you wear a mask except when you’re pushing” and since they were only “asking” that gave me the power to refuse. You bet I did. My mother was not there, which still brings tears to my eyes as I write this 3 months later. I am so blessed, and God has given me so much to be thankful for. A healthy pregnancy, a perfect baby, and a supportive family. Everything went well for me and the covid response still nearly broke me during those 9 months. I will never forget this time, with the blatant disregard for anything besides covid. I will be like one of those people who grew up in the Depression and stuff money under their mattresses because they don’t trust banks. My trust in all the establishments that I thought were supposed to help people is gone, bludgeoned and shattered. I will never again take public health advice without a dump truck full of salt. I will make my own decisions with my family, because unlike so many politicians and journalists and “experts” (how I loathe that word now) I possess critical thinking abilities and can assess risk appropriately.

And my child will never, ever wear a mask.

(Apologies for any spelling/grammar errors. I am typing this on a phone.)

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