Covid curveball for mom-to-be

Happy pregnant woman visit gynecologist doctor at hospital or medical clinic for pregnancy consultant. Doctor examine pregnant belly for baby and mother healthcare check up. Gynecology concept.

‘I’m due May 15, 2020, which might or might not be during a nationwide South African lockdown as coronavirus pummels the entire world.’

What are pregnant mamas wondering about right now? Everything. They’re wondering about everything.

Covid-19 has thrown me a curveball in my second pregnancy. I’m due May 15, 2020, which might or might not be during a nationwide South African lockdown as coronavirus pummels the entire world.

In a time where there should have been the ups and downs between joy, hope, and normal baby-related questions, I’m no longer thinking about the pram, the car seat, the clothes, the family pictures, and whether an epidural is worth it.

In my first pregnancy, I was anxious, too. Was the next scan going to show abnormalities? Was that cramp normal? Did I choose the right hospital? Would I know when it was time, or would I end up having the baby in the car? How do you change a nappy on such a tiny human? Will modern cloth nappies save the world? (They will.)

Heather Lind of Oribi, with son Cooper. Her second child is due soon.

I had the same worries as any new mother. Would I be able to breastfeed? Would sleep deprivation turn me into a dragon or a basket case?

Disclaimer: If you ask my husband, he’ll never admit to the fact that the sleep deprivation did, in fact, turn me into a basket case for those first few weeks. It will pass, moms and dads. Two-and-a-half years in, I’m back to normal. [side-eyes husband]

IT WENT WRONG

My pregnancy started well, much like the first, but something happened between the mid-March appointment and the mid-April appointment. It was a cataclysm that went from a problem in a country on the other side of the planet, to an invisible threat that made me think twice about visiting my own mother.

My thoughts shifted from ‘normal’ pregnancy questions to survival mode.

Wouldn’t missing an appointment be better than risking exposure at the doctor’s offices? Would my husband, my rock, be allowed into the room with me while I was writhing in pain to bring a new life into the world? Would they whisk my baby away to be sterilised and sanitised and hidden from visitors who would only meet it at six months old?

Panic.

Homebirth pros and cons.

Possible lockdown scenarios as we chatted in mid-March.

What do we do with our toddler? Do we leave him with his grandparents, who are ‘high-risk’ when we don’t know whether a delivery man could (quite possibly) pass it to my husband who could pass it to my son who might be asymptomatic?

Plan B? I go to the hospital ALONE, give birth ALONE, handle complications or last-minute decisions without my partner, and share my joy over WhatsApp if I’m in a state to do so only many hours later (I’m not going to be messaging anyone when I’m breathing through contractions twenty seconds apart, now am I?)

Then lockdown happened. Then extended lockdown happened.

My April appointment at 36 weeks was a hurry-and-don’t-touch-the-door-handles experience. My mask was uncomfortably hot. My husband stayed in the parking lot, missing his first scan in two pregnancies.

I tried not to look afraid, and to pretend that I didn’t wish I’d brought some sanitizer into the appointment with me, just in case. I still don’t know if I should’ve intentionally missed the appointment and stayed home until my labour pains brought me out of hiding sometime in the next month. Probably not.

ANSWERS FOR COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

In the time of pandemics, the goalposts change slightly, but the health of mother and baby is still the priority. It might feel a little different, and we’re all doing it for the first time, even the doctors and nurses who are trying their best to keep you safe and uninfected.

Here’s what you need to know (from what I have been able to gather, and please understand it’s not an exact and definitive list) about the lockdown, and after lockdown, as you tackle this blessed journey with the courage your mother and grandmother have always told you about:

  •  Most South African hospitals are not allowing ANY visitors, especially during the official lockdown period. Some are allowing partners to come into the birthing room, but not allowing them back in once they leave (ONE entry only).
  • Most hospitals have a strict entry policy for both your appointments and your birth. It includes screening (they ask you questions, take your temperature, insist on you wearing a mask, and escort you to where you are headed on the premises).
  •  Your hospital MAY have Covid-19 patients. As South Africa faces the spread of the pandemic in the next few months, however slow, this is going to be a reality. These patients will be kept away from the maternity sections, and precautions will be taken, but you will have to face the coronavirus at some point.

DURING LOCKDOWN YOU PROBABLY WON’T BE ABLE TO (AND PROBABLY SHOULDN’T, ANYWAY): 

  • Organise a baby shower
  • Take a professional pregnancy or newborn photo shoot with your family
  • Attend antenatal classes in person
  • Register your baby with Home Affairs
  • Find the baby immunisations easily (especially if you are trying to avoid medical facilities until the virus settles down)
  • Receive hospital visitors

LIFE AFTER COVID-19

The situation is likely to continue after lockdown, even if the regulations lift. Medical establishments are still going to take precautions (for our sake!) and require stricter rules. Ask questions, and don’t bite the hospital staff’s head off when they tell you something you weren’t expecting to hear. We’re in this together, South Africa.

After lockdown, you may be able to resume some regular activities, but you will still need to be careful about exposing yourself and your little one to the outside world while the virus is still circulating. Prepare for months of self-isolation at best if we are to learn from the countries who have gone through this before us.

Life after Covid-19 exists. You will carry and birth a child into a whole new world with a new appreciation for the sanctity and beauty of life. It’s a universe where dedicated South African school teachers are posting AMAZING BLOOPER VIDEOS, and people like Henry Cock are running 90km up and down their passage to help get 86 staff through the downturn.

You can do this. #nottodaycorona

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