Pregnant during the coronavirus crisis: 'Never did I imagine this would end in what feels like an apocalyptic nightmare'

·6 min read
The author's baby girl, in-utero. (Photo courtesy of Kamilah Newton)
The author's baby girl, in-utero. (Photo courtesy of Kamilah Newton)

Just two weeks ago, as I bought the last of the decorations for my upcoming baby shower, I thought about how I couldn't wait to bask in my glow and welcome my princess, due in late April, with the celebration of a lifetime. Now, as a New Yorker and single mom about to go on lockdown in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m left wondering how I will get her everything she needs to survive.

My son’s school is closed for at least the next month, my baby shower and maternity shoot have been canceled and my mind is swirling with worries about lack of access to newborn essentials. Never did I imagine that my pregnancy would end in what feels like an apocalyptic nightmare.

Trying to maintain the safety of my household with both a 6-year-old and a baby in-utero is by far the hardest challenge I've ever faced. For the first time, I am physically incapable of protecting my first born and I’m also immunocompromised by my unborn. It feels like every time I have to make store runs for the survival of my son, I’m endangering the health of my daughter. Plus, becoming the warden of hand-washing has been exhausting, my son’s hyperactivity hasn’t been calming in the least and I don’t know how to emotionally process the reality of “the city that never sleeps” being brought to its knees.

When the author was pregnant the first time around, at left, she was 18 and had just lost her grandfather, who raised her. Now, expecting her second child amidst the coronavirus pandemic, she fears an even harder road ahead. (Photos courtesy of Kamilah Newton
When the author was pregnant the first time around, at left, she was 18 and had just lost her grandfather, who raised her. Now, expecting her second child amidst the coronavirus pandemic, she fears an even harder road ahead. (Photos courtesy of Kamilah Newton)

I've been a single parent for years, and typically pride myself on both my independence and productivity. The first time I was pregnant, I was only 18 years old, facing both housing and career stability as significant challenges — all while mourning the loss of my grandfather (who raised me) and training to become a nursing assistant. But this current situation has left me particularly vulnerable and feeling emotionally paralyzed. Instead of being the boss of my life, I’m on edge waiting for Facebook Live updates from the mayor about what's to come. This might be the last time that I carry a child, as it has been a lot on my body, and I am finally financially stable enough to savor the moment in a way I wasn’t able to the first time around. But now this national crisis has snatched all of that from me.

Aside from the seasonal depression that was just easing up, I now have the added stress of calling the companies involved in my shower to postpone my orders, and then calling a bunch of guests to deliver the disappointing news. As someone with anxiety, despite being high-functioning, I’m finding that any moment not spent shopping, working or homeschooling my son is instead spent worrying about how we will come out of this pandemic. It’s scary thinking that I won’t know if I am already infected until two weeks from now, or how this could potentially affect my baby and if my son is at risk.

While playing Dr. Google, as I’m sure we all are, I found a few vaguely reassuring facts. Because of the novelty of the virus, very little is known about how it will affect the pregnant population, but according to the CDC, “there does not appear to be any increased risk of miscarriage or other complications such as fetal malformations for pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19.” Additionally, a study of nine pregnant women who were infected and had symptoms, showed that none of their babies were affected by the virus and that “the virus was not present in amniotic fluid, the babies’ throats, or in breast milk.” With that, I’ve breathed a very shallow sigh of relief.

A box of baby shower items sits, untouched, on the author's couch after her event had to be canceled. (Photo courtesy of Kamilah Newton)
A box of baby shower items sits, untouched, on the author's couch after her event had to be canceled. (Photo courtesy of Kamilah Newton)

I also try to focus on the fact that I am not alone. I have friends who aren’t even able to have their orders for baby formula fulfilled online. Store shelves where baby food, diapers and wipes used to be are now emptied out, and other mothers-to-be have shared similar concerns.

Nikki Thompson, a fellow co-worker is now seven months pregnant, shared the following with me: “I'm a first time mom-to-be and have waited 34 years for this moment. I looked forward to baby shower gifts and shopping at baby stores to prepare for our new arrival. But due to the current pandemic, our baby shower has been canceled and I've been discouraged to leave the house. So how do we prepare? We now have to rely on online shopping and miss out on all the first time baby shower and baby shopping experiences we were looking forward to. At this point, we are grateful for my health and the health of our baby. Trying to find grains of hope in the midst of chaos.”

And then there’s the combination of guilt, dread and terror that sets in when I think about the idea of bringing my baby directly into this chaos. I don’t have any idea if I’ll have adequate access to doctors or if the hospital will even be a safe place to give birth. I imagine that we will have medical-staff shortages until this is all over, and if it won’t be over until the end of the summer, as predicted, then I’ll have long since experienced the worst of this. Both me and my daughter.

If this epidemic has shown me anything, it’s certainly this: How everything can change in a New York minute. At this point, I’m simply hoping to maintain a sense of normalcy, health and sanity for myself and my family.

For the latest news on the evolving coronavirus outbreak, follow along here. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.

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