Pregnant in a pandemic

Last updated on January 22, 2024

32 weeks pregnant

When pregnant with Otis, I wrote a few thoughts on anxiety in pregnancy. Little did I know that second time round I’d be pregnant amidst one of the most anxiety-inducing periods of our collective history. Part of the worry is part and parcel of being pregnant, but the pandemic has certainly added a new dimension…

So how am I doing? Well, like most people, I have good days and bad days. I sway from fear to gratitude to guilt to grief. Grief for what was, fear for what might be, gratitude for what I have, and guilt for my own struggles when other people’s are so much larger.

This situation is hard for everyone – it’s swept the carpet from the comfort of our regular lives and forced us to live in the face of radical uncertainty. No-one knows what might happen next. And while that’s always been true to a certain extent, so many of our comforts and securities have now been taken that we have no choice but to surrender to our lack of control.

For many, the weight is much greater – those who are unwell, vulnerable or have lost love ones, and those risking their lives for our collective good. And everyone who is struggling to make ends meet in their finances, relationships and health. There’s no doubt there’s a disparity in the hardships, but I imagine everyone has had their moments of struggle.

I found the first two weeks of lockdown the hardest. I’m someone who likes to plan and know my path ahead, so to see all those plans wiped out was confronting and required effort to slowly let go. It was also hard suddenly being faced with the loss of nursery and having to juggle more hours of work and childcare than there are in a day.

Victoria and Otis having tea in the garden

The money side of things

I also saw my blog income fall by 95% and years of building a business come crashing down in the space of weeks. I have no idea when the travel industry will recover – some forecasts say it could be years while others are more optimistic – it’s another layer of uncertainty we have to sit with.

But despite the crash of my business, I feel lucky when it comes to finances. I’m eligible for some help from our UK government and I have savings to tide me by. Steve also has a full-time job, and I’m about to go on maternity leave, so will have a little maternity pay until around next March.

I also freelance as an editor/writer with one main contract (around 20% of my income), which I’m due to return to next April. It’s in the charity sector, which is currently being hit hard, so there’s no guarantee the job will survive, but I have that hope to hold onto. Plus hope that my blog (around 75% of my income) will eventually recover. Either way, I know I’m lucky to have any shred of financial security within this, and maternity leave is buying me time, so money is an area where my gratitude is huge.

Otis playing in the kitchen
Grateful for our home

On being classed as vulnerable

I’m also beyond grateful for my health, and for Steve and Otis. While I’m in the at-risk group because of my pregnancy, my health is otherwise good, so I’m not vulnerable beyond that. But I am classed as vulnerable while pregnant and that’s half of what’s difficult while pregnant in a pandemic (the other half comes from the circumstances, but more on that later) .

There have been a few encouraging studies that show pregnant women are no more susceptible to COVID-19 than the general population, but those studies are small and there are also a handful of tragic stories where seemingly healthy women have died. It’s hard not to let those stories grab you.

It also seems unlikely that the illness is passed to babies in the womb, but again the evidence is scant. And while no babies have died from COVID-19, there are some who have had it and struggled.

I rely on the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (RCOG) guidelines, which are frank but non-sensationalist. And I try (often unsuccessfully) to avoid too much news. But even the RCOG guidelines can’t be the reassuring voice I need, as that reassurance doesn’t exist. COVID-19 is too new and rapidly evolving for anyone to know anything for sure. Instead I have to hold onto hope, and do all I can to avoid getting unwell.

A trip to the woods
One of our weekly walks in the woods

Lockdown while pregnant

Steve and I began social isolating around a week before the government enforced a lockdown and we’ll stay this way at least until the baby comes. I’m nearly 33 weeks pregnant, so it’s around six weeks until my c-section.

We go out for a walk twice a week in a wide, open space, but other than that we’re firmly at home. All food is delivered and washed when it arrives, and the same goes for any other deliveries that come to our door (I’ve been ordering lots of plants!). Even if Otis’ nursery opens in the next six weeks, we’ll keep him at home until we’re out of the at-risk group.

And for us, that’s okay. We have a spacious house that we love, and a recently renovated garden that’s bringing buckets of joy. I’m taking delight in cooking and baking more than ever before, and have found a slow rhythm to settle into. We’re finding satisfaction in ticking off to-do list items that have languished for years, and having time to prepare for the baby. We have afternoon tea in the garden every day.

Of course, there are hard moments too – loud tantrums from Otis, somewhat more internalised ones from us, and a yearning for life as it was and the people we miss – but I find it easier as the weeks go by and this becomes our new normal.

I worry for Otis and the effects it may have on him – he often asks for his friends – but I think at two, he’s at an age that’s easier than most. He’s unlikely to remember this at all. Plus we don’t have home-schooling to contend with.

All of this is made much easier by Steve being on furlough. He’s doing at least 60% of the care for Otis and also working his way through a huge list of DIY and prep for the baby. His furlough is likely to end in May, which will be harder as we’ll both have less hours for everything. We’ll also swap the balance of childcare – and looking after an energetic two-year-old is getting trickier as I enlarge. But Steve will still be home, so I can call on him when needed, and that’s more than I’d have had pre-pandemic.

Grateful for the garden

Getting used to a new kind of pregnancy

The other half of the struggle of being pregnant in a pandemic comes from all the circumstances that have had to change – from the help that will be available to the rules around who can be with you at the hospital. Plus all the uncertainty that lies around that. The RCOG guidelines are being updated regularly and I somewhat dread what might come next when I receive my email update.

For me, the hardest thing currently is that partners are only allowed to be there for the birth itself and then have to leave once mothers and babies are transferred to the maternity ward. With Otis, Steve was there the whole time, from when Otis was born until we left the hospital the next evening. I’d had a c-section, so his help and support were invaluable. There was a lot I couldn’t do. It’s most likely I’ll have a c-section this time too, so I’ll be reliant on the midwives for help. Post-natal wards are notoriously busy, so I’m nervous about how we’ll manage, and I’m hoping the rules may have been relaxed by the time I give birth.

The rules are even tighter if you or your partner have symptoms of COVID-19, so that’s another reason we have to be extra careful. It would be heart-breaking to have to give birth alone, without Steve there by my side. Or worse, to have to be separated from the baby because I was unwell.

Going to hospital during a pandemic

I’m also anxious about having to go to hospital for the birth itself as, after weeks of being cocooned, we’ll be risking exposure to the virus. I’ll be relieved to have made it the birth virus-free, but I’d also like to avoid it thereafter.

Perhaps more importantly, I need to avoid it beforehand and I currently have at least two scheduled appointments at the doctors’ surgery/hospital in the next six weeks. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but I’m hoping these can be done online or over the phone. It’s not ideal as there are checks that are better done in person, but it might be a necessary compromise we have to make.  

Afternoon tea in the garden with tiger
Afternoon tea in the garden with tiger

The first few weeks

Once our baby is born, his first weeks will be very different to Otis’. We won’t have the same help or visitors we had before. But we’re also very lucky (and grateful) because, rules and health permitting, Steve’s parents are hopefully going to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks, largely to look after Otis while we re-get to grips with life with a newborn. They’ll also look after Otis while I’m giving birth so that Steve can be there with me. Although Steve’s parents will self-isolate for at least two weeks before the birth, we’ll also need to make a back-up plan in case either start to show symptoms.

Preparing for every eventuality

There’s a lot to second guess and plan for in any pregnancy, but being pregnant in a pandemic has heightened that. I read a line in a pregnancy book the other day warning readers not to panic buy too much for their baby as it’s not an apocalyptic situation and all shops would be open and everything able to be delivered within 24 hours. It really highlighted the extraordinary nature of the situation we’re in. There is no guarantee the shops will have what we need and it’s even less likely it could be delivered so quickly.

I’m in a WhatsApp group with other expectant mothers and many have said they’re struggling to find newborn clothes. Some of the big retailers have even set a limit on the number of items you can buy. And nappies are also quite hard to get. I know it’s not advised to stockpile, but there are some things I know I’ll need and others I don’t want to struggle to get in an emergency (medicines, nappy rash cream etc…) so we’re having to think about every eventuality.

Positive caesarean birth story
Our first trip to a cafe with Otis – not so sure we’ll be able do this with baby number two

What next?

One of the hardest things about the whole situation, for the whole world, is not knowing what comes next. How long will we be in lockdown? How long will we have to social distance? What will that even look like? What will the new guidelines be for the next days, weeks or months? Will there be a second wave? And how does this all end?

My new son’s first experience of the world will be very different to what I had imagined just a month ago. And as will our experience as parents. I had been looking forward to a maternity leave spent with friends in the park, at the baby cinema and doing all the things I loved with Otis. But that’s looking ever less likely. I’m not sure what this new life will look like – maybe we’ll have to wear masks, maybe they’ll be another lockdown. I just hope we’ll be able to see loved ones. And I know some of these ‘losses’ are trivial, but they’re part of what kept me sane when caring for Otis, so it’ll be a case of having to find new ways to adjust.

Pregnant, vulnerable or not, adjustments, big and small, are what we’re all having to face. I’m so thankful for what I have, not least for being pregnant and the baby that will soon be in our lives, but underneath that blanket of gratitude, I’m still having my moments of struggle and grief for how life was. This is a difficult time for everyone, and I wish you all good health as we find our way through it.

1 thought on “Pregnant in a pandemic”

  1. Oh Victoria, I really feel for you. This is such a difficult time to be pregnant. I really hope everything goes well and Steve is able to be with you at the hospital. Sending lots of love. xxx


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