We’ve all heard the nursery rhyme: First comes love, then marriage, then the baby carriage. Real life isn’t always so linear, but for many couples, wedding planning and family planning are still inextricably linked—babies tend to follow weddings. Miranda, 32, a fashion brand consultant, had even planned her wedding night to fall on the most fertile day of her cycle. “We have a two-year-old daughter and being close in age to her sibling is something I find incredibly important,” she says. But all that careful planning has been eclipsed by the coronavirus pandemic. Facing down social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions, Miranda and her fiancé have postponed their July 20 wedding—and wedding night—indefinitely.
Pregnancy is always filled with uncertainty. But when the excitement of the unknown that comes with pregnancy is compounded with layers of the unknown brought on by the pandemic, the chemistry of the situation changes. Excitement becomes anxiety. “I started therapy last week,” says Kelly, 32, a software salesperson in Texas. She had planned to have her IUD removed in March so she and her partner could start trying to get pregnant after their April 4 wedding (which has now been postponed until August). But the idea of heading to a Houston hospital where doctors were treating COVID-19 patients for the appointment didn’t seem like a good idea, so she canceled, leaving her pregnancy plans up in the air indefinitely. All the stress has taken a toll on her mental well-being, she says, and triggered stress-induced binge drinking. When Kelly realized it was creating a rift with her fiancé, she sought out a therapist via telemedicine. “She taught me techniques like belly breathing to center myself when I feel anxiety building again,” Kelly says. “She also helped me understand and acknowledge the feelings of trauma and grief I was feeling in my body.”
For some women, the pressure of a biological clock feels more pressing. Gabriella, 32, a project manager in L.A., was concerned she might have trouble getting (and staying) pregnant. So ahead of her wedding, originally planned for July and now postponed indefinitely, she went to a fertility specialist for some tests. “Knowledge is power,” says Christine Mansfield, M.D., medical director at Aspire Fertility Dallas (who is not Gabriella’s doctor). “Doing a fertility test can change your timeline—especially if you want two or three kids.” Gabriella says her results pointed to a diminished ovarian reserve—below average for her age—which meant her fertile window was closing. The doctor encouraged her and her fiancé to start the process to freeze embryos if they weren’t pregnant by the fall, Gabriella says.
“Our excitement to start a family has become a moving target.”
With that in mind, she and her fiancé have started trying to get pregnant. “If luck is on our side, then we would love to plan a combination wedding celebration complete with the baptism of our child,” says Gabriella. “Our excitement to start a family has become a moving target with biology against us.”
Fertility concerns are only one thing to weigh. Deviating from the traditional order of events—wedding first, baby second—means weighing values and cultural expectations against the practical realities created by COVID-19. For Sabina, 28, a digital marketer, it has always been important to first get married and then start a family. She and her Danish partner originally planned to start trying to get pregnant this spring ahead of their June wedding. But with the postponement of their wedding an entire year, and coming from differing cultural perspectives, she and her fiancé are at odds with what to do next. “Should I break my traditional values or stick to my plans? We want to be young parents, and that’s already slipping away,” says Sabina. “My gut is telling me I should wait, but my fiancé's gut is saying the opposite.”
As much as pregnancy plans are often tied to weddings, money and financial benefits like paid maternity leave are also huge factors. Getting everything to line up just right is a delicate process—and COVID-19 is taking a wrecking ball to it. Ewa, 34, a Ph.D. student, planned to get married, find a new job, and start trying to get pregnant. The pandemic upended these plans and created a domino effect: While she's postponed her wedding and job search amidst economic uncertainty, she and her fiancé have fast-tracked their baby-making efforts in order to take advantage of the maternity benefits offered by her current job. “I worry about the health of my future child, but at the same time, I think of my parents and grandparents and how they chose to have kids in communist Poland with limited access to health care and financial resources, and an uncertain future,” she says. “My biggest fear is not making the right life decisions.”
With few answers about how the coronavirus may impact pregnant women and so much uncertainty around the future of the outbreak, being pregnant during a pandemic is a lot to consider. Stephanie Dueger, a psychotherapist for expectant and new parents in Boulder, Colorado, counsels couples to sit down together to evaluate their emotional, physical, and financial reserves. If you’re feeling emotionally connected and financially stable enough to start a family, it might be a good time to make that decision—wedding or no wedding. However, if you’re dealing with the stress of job loss or feeling physically cramped together under quarantine, you may want to wait.
If anything, the pandemic has reminded us that we are not in control of our lives as much as we’d like to believe. “At times like this, it’s helpful to focus on what we can control,” says Denver licensed marriage and family therapist Jennifer Moné, “and put our thoughts and behavior toward those controllable efforts.”
Amanda McCracken is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colorado, where you can find her running trails—or follow her on Instagram @amandajmccracken.
As news about the novel coronavirus pandemic rapidly evolves, Glamour is committed to bringing our readers the most accurate and up-to-date facts. As a result, information in this story and others like it may change, and we will update when necessary. For the most recent news about COVID-19, please visit the CDC, the WHO, and your state’s Department of Health.
Originally Appeared on Glamour