By Andrea McKevitt
Well, 2020 has proven to be one of the most interesting years I have seen in my lifetime. Who would have thought that the time last year when I was taking a pregnancy test, that I would have finished out my pregnancy, gave birth and started parenting during a pandemic. If you had stopped me on the street, I would have called you a conspiracy theorist, and kept walking. Now, I sit here, while I teach from home and think “How is this even possible?”.
Finding out that we were expecting was one of the most gratifying and amazing experiences. We wanted to become parents and it was starting to look like it was going to be a long road. To say that we were overjoyed is an understatement. The first and second trimester came without great trouble. Our little peanut was growing on schedule, I was growing on schedule and we were right on track to give birth in early June. By the time the pandemic was in full swing in NY, we were past our 20 week ultrasound and knew the sex of our baby. So as far as doctor’s appointments went, my husband did not miss that much, but it was a struggle towards the end when I needed to go each week and he had to wait in the car, just in case the doctor told us we needed to head to the hospital. Little did we know that a virus would forever change our introduction to our third trimester and parenthood.
For those who don’t know me, I am typically a glass halful, sarcasm fixes everything, and just keep moving. I believe that with hardwork and dedication I can get through anything that the world may throw at me, and in my 33 years, I have been through the ringer and back again. Being pregnant and beginning my parenting journey during a global pandemic has by far been the hardest challenge and here is what I have learned in the process.
Birth plans: Man, they SOUND wonderful. I want my baby to come into the world listening to the sweet tunes of the Grateful Dead, I will do this without pain medication, while my partner gently strokes my back. My child will come into the world and for at least an hour we will have uninterrupted skin to skin contact, please refrain from administering any vaccines during this time, we just want it to be us. This is what I envisioned, here is what I got. Alone, for eight hours in triage, while they waited for a room to become available. I was alone, not because my husband was away on some grand trip, but because the hospital had limited your support person to only being allowed into the labor and delivery room. My husband had to wait in the car for eight hours, while I labored unassisted in a small area, with just a bed. I wasn’t allowed to walk around the halls or even leave my small area without letting the nurse know. This in of itself could drive someone to walk out and decide to have their child at home, but nonetheless I stayed. After eight hours, there was finally a room. Now what I didn’t know at the time was this, my daughter had decided to grace us with her presence at the same time as 12 other babies in our region. With this particular hospital being the only one within a 15 mile radius, we all ended up there. So it took some time to get the rooms cleaned and ready for the next laboring momma. So birth plan OUT THE WINDOW. It was a “give me the epi, get this little girl out and safely into the world, vaccines sure, do it quick and fast. Skin to skin, the most we can give you is 45 minutes because there are three other women that are in labor and we need to clean the room before we can get them in here.” Now, am I positive that it was only 45 minutes and there were other women that needed the room, nope. Did I pay attention, nope, I just started Facetime with the family to let them know Thea had arrived. If I remember correctly the National board was actually on a call that night, which just to be clear, I would have tried to join if I wasn’t birthing my daughter. So giving birth during a pandemic, 2 out of 10, would not recommend.
Moving on to parenting, what I thought bringing my daughter home would be like: YES, we broke out of the hospital, we will be home by 11am, everyone come converge on our place, we will order pizza and you will get to meet Thea for the first time. What I got: we can’t have any visitors, we will set up a schedule for no more than two people to come to the house at a time, please take off your shoes, wash your hands, and if possible please come right from your house, don’t stop on the way, oh and please don’t hold her just look, no touch. This was probably the hardest part for me. I am a very social person and wanted to share my daughter with the world because come on I MADE THIS! We are now at month 4 and she has still yet to meet everyone, aunts, uncles, best friends, co-workers, you name it. Parenting during a pandemic is nothing like I thought it would be, I imagined play dates all summer with close friends, zoo trips, vacation to the beach, and spending lots of time with family and loved ones. A revolving door, if you will. What it has become, is a constant struggle between what I want to do and expose my daughter to and the guilt that I feel with not knowing if it is the right decision. When you think about having kids, you think about the experience that you will give them, and yes, my daughter is too young to remember the things that I would be doing with her at this point in her life, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel robbed of the CHOICE. That’s the big one, not having CHOICE has become a struggle. Having to cancel my baby shower, easy decision, having to labor in triage for 8 hours alone, a little more difficult, not being able to hold a sip and see or have people to our house to meet our daughter, ISOLATING. Having a new baby is isolating enough, having a baby during a pandemic is a whole other level of isolating. The fear that you feel is at times debilitating. While I do not let the fear control me, I do let it teach me patience. Patience to know that at some point people will get to meet her, and to look at the situation from the “Bright Side”.
Bright side of being pregnant, giving birth and parenting during a pandemic: Time. I was able to spend March, April, May and June, home with my husband. Our relationship was about to change when we added our tiny human. During those months of just us, we were able to enjoy the last moments as a family of two. Giving birth, the bright side, it was again just us. Not having to entertain at the hospital or having people visit without warning, was actually a blessing. Again, the aspect of time. We were able to become a family of three during the two days that we were at the hospital, how to take care of our daughter without unwanted advice and most of all to just enjoy her, alone. The same goes from bringing her home and the month of June and part of July. We didn’t have to share her, my husband got longer than he anticipated to stay home with us, we learned who she was as a person and what she needed without prying eyes. No opinions, no criticism, just us. While I do not recommend being pregnant and giving birth during a pandemic, I can recommend being a parent. For us, I would give the experience a 10 out of 10. I have become a better parent for my daughter. I am more patient, more understanding, more connected, and overall much more confident in my ability to be her mom. While I hope none of you have to experience this, please know to look on the brightside. You can never get those firsts back, but time with your little is precious, enjoy it.