'Suspended in crippling fear': My pandemic pregnancy

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"Sam is cohost of The Great Equalizer podcast. She is Mom to Elijah (4) and Noah (4 mo) and is married to Ray." Supplied/The Great Equalizer
"Sam is cohost of The Great Equalizer podcast. She is Mom to Elijah (4) and Noah (4 mo) and is married to Ray." Supplied/The Great Equalizer

I spent the first half of my pregnancy convinced that my baby was not going to make it.

I had no reason to be nervous. I'd never miscarried before, my first pregnancy wasn’t high risk, and each time I saw my doctor, she confirmed that everything was progressing as it should be.

That said, stories of baby loss were following me around.

While miscarriage and stillbirths are commonplace enough, so many of my friends and close acquaintances have known the pain of child loss over the last few months, and many had to bear this burden alone, in a cold hospital ward, without the comfort of family nearby or even a hug from a caring nurse.

It's just no longer allowed.

Read: Local study details how lockdown increased the pressure of early motherhood

Sure, many of my friends have given birth in this time without trauma, but my logic dictated that I wasn’t immune to loss (I guess I’m still not). I convinced myself that if those who had lost their babies during the most challenging time in living memory didn't "deserve" a win, what made me so special? 

So yes, let's talk about this motherfriggen pandemic that comes with its unique brand of anxiety.

For a pregnant woman, it's a double whammy of uncertainty. Uncertainty inception, if you will. Add to that my history.

With my firstborn, now a healthy three-year-old soldier, my husband and I faced immense trauma that was beyond our worst-case scenario (barring loss). Crippled by the memory of this birth, I steeled myself for the worst with Number 2 – my pandemic pregnancy.

So, for the first 20 weeks, I protected myself. I didn't allow myself to plan, prepare, to get excited about this new addition to our unit.

Every update I offered friends and family came with a caveat: "So far so good," I'd shrug. "Sure, we're excited, but still being cautious. We’re just taking it one day at a time."

I was arming myself. With each trip to the bathroom, I was ready for the apparent signs of life loss. With each gynae appointment I attended masked, sanitised and alone – I considered the genuine possibility that my doctor wouldn't find a heartbeat.

After every trip to the hospital, I’d sit in my car, scan in hand, and sob with relief that this little life was still inside me, incredulous that I had lucked out when so many of my friends have been less fortunate.

This anxiety – sadness even – didn’t diminish once I reached the halfway mark. But getting the milestone made me realise, with sudden urgency, that I was whiling away this pregnancy suspended in crippling fear.

Also read: '63% C-section rate': From pre-lockdown to Level 5 - researchers share SA parents' birth experiences

I had to acknowledge that if I continued down this path, memories of being pregnant with my second born would be shrouded in darkness, negativity, pain and sadness. I had to permit myself to protect myself in other ways.

I had to allow myself to focus on the successful births that were happening around me. I had to opt-out of conversations that brought up baby loss or traumatic births.

I had to convince myself that it was okay to embrace the thought of a healthy pregnancy and delivery while still holding space for my friends who mourned the loss of their babies.

While my story of an incredibly anxious pregnancy might have taken place in any other setting, it didn’t. It took place during an unprecedented time in history that – I'll put it dramatically – ripped me from my comfort zone, from my support system, from my coping mechanisms.

It also brought with it loss in other spheres of my life.

My close friends and family are struggling financially, mentally, physically. People close to me have lost people close to them, and all I can offer is a long-distance, "I'm here for you".

Call it hormones if you must, but shit is heavy, and my heart bleeds daily for the onslaught of sadness that has ravaged us every day.

I've sobbed, alone in the shower, at the end of the long days, thinking about this overarching pain, but also how I’ve dropped the ball as a working mom. I've cried about missed deadlines, resenting my husband, neglecting my son (or even myself).

And on several occasions, my end-of-the-day cry was because my neglect extended to the little life force inside me that I hadn’t acknowledged at all that day. I was so busy trying to keep my head above water that I'd forgotten I was pregnant at all.

Now that I'm in my third trimester, it's near impossible to forget that I'm pregnant. With every kick to my ribs, I am grateful. But still, that crippling anxiety weighs.

With eight weeks left to go before D-Day, it feels like the walls are closing in on me, and I'm running out of time. I'm not sure I'll have the opportunity to tie up all the loose ends I'd wanted to before this baby arrives. We all want a "clean desk" before a significant life change, am I right?

But being pregnant in a pandemic has taught me – at the very least – that life will happen regardless of whether those loose ends are tied up. And motherhood has taught me that kids are likely to shit all over that clean desk anyway, so realistically I shouldn’t have been too pedantic about it in the first place.

Honestly, I'd love to offer some hope for other pregnant moms during this time. A final word of inspiration from a mom who has managed to see the light through the darkness.  But, I'm afraid those clouds have yet to lift (and God, I hope they do).

So, for now, the best I can offer to other pregnant moms is this:

Strong, Courageous, Brave Women.

As we all prepare to transition from one type of isolation to another – the often-lonely Fourth Trimester – know that we are, in fact, not alone.

Countless women have gone before us, and countless more will follow. So while you may feel like you’re the last soldier standing, buckling at the knees, you never really are.

Noah Jack Herbst was born on 18 October 2020, clocking in at 51cm and 3.335kg. At the time, South Africa had detected a cumulative number of 703 793 Covid-19 cases, with 1662 new case detected in the latest report.

By December, a second wave had hit our country, and soon we re-entered lockdown. Noah was one day shy of four months when our first healthcare worker received the vaccine.

Republished with permission from www.thegreatequalizer.co.za. Read the original article here.

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