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Pregnancy in the Time of COVID: ‘You are Not Alone’

by CRYSTAL ROWLAND

Yesterday I left my 37-week ultrasound and non-stress test at my Perinatology office (a subspecialty of obstetrics which deals with high-risk pregnancies.) I was alone in my car driving home with my fabric face mask hanging from my rear-view mirror, my hand sanitizer in my car cup holder, and my discarded rubber gloves in a plastic bag on the floor. It was one of the limited times I am truly alone since the state of California issued a stay at home order in mid-March. My husband doesn’t let me go anywhere for fear of catching the “virus.” Despite my best efforts, a wave of emotions swept over me, and I had a full-on ugly cry breakdown.

I am a 36-year-old mom, wife, and small business owner in San Diego, California. I have a beautiful 2 ½-year-old son. In October, my husband and I found out that after a year and a half of trying for another baby, we were pregnant!! We also found out there was a 99% chance our baby, another boy, has Down syndrome. Due to potential complications, we’ve had many more appointments than we did with my first son, including weekly non-stress tests since April and growth checks. At this appointment, they gave me some unexpected measurement information about our little guy, which added some potential complications to delivery. I asked the questions I thought of, took my notes, and then left.

On my way home, I called my husband to give him the update. Like many expectant mothers I know, even celebrities, my husband hasn’t been allowed to attend any of my recent appointments due to the pandemic, and new doctor’s office protocols. After I gave him the update, he asked questions I hadn’t thought of; why had I not thought of them? I quickly called the doctor back, but at this point, he was frustrated. I was frustrated. Why couldn’t he be there with me?

As I drove home, a wave of emotions swept over me, quite unexpectedly. So many emotions for so many reasons. Frustration my husband can’t be with me at these appointments.

The realization I probably won’t be able to deliver my son the way I wanted.

Sadness that my loving toddler who is obsessed with babies and is SO excited to be a big brother won’t be able to meet his brother on day one in the hospital. Loneliness that our large full of love family won’t be able to visit us at the hospital. Confusion on when to allow family and friends, like my parents who live across the country, to visit us after we get home from the hospital. Worry about bringing a baby with Down syndrome into a world with this pandemic.  You see, individuals with Down syndrome can be more susceptible to respiratory issues, like COVID.

After a momentary fight to build a wall against the onslaught of feelings, I decided to let the feelings break through and rode them like the wave they were. There alone in my car, the only place I am alone these days, I let the feelings wash over me… one by one.

After each feeling I gave it to God. And I was thankful. I thanked Him for blessing us with the perfect baby for our family. I thanked Him for bringing us to this point in my pregnancy without major complications. No heart complications; babies with Down syndrome can have heart issues, and we had multiple fetal echocardiograms during this pregnancy. No growth issues; babies with Down syndrome can stop growing in utero and sometimes require early delivery. I was thankful for an amazing support system of family and friends who I know would do anything we need at a moment’s call. Thankful we have all been healthy and have not experienced health issues from this pandemic.

As I started to feel better about my own situation, I started to think about all the tribes of support I have. There are tribes for second-time moms, tribes of moms of beautiful children with Down syndrome, boy mom tribes, tribes of moms of toddlers, and so forth, but where is the tribe of moms who have expected or delivered babies during a pandemic like this?

The Spanish Flu pandemic is probably the most similar and recent situation, and I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet a woman who delivered or was expecting a baby 100 years ago. So how do expectant moms deal with the emotional ups and downs of expecting during the truly unexpected?

As I looked at my situation, I was once again thankful…I dodged the trifecta; I’m not a first-time mom. How are first-time moms dealing with their first ultrasounds without their partners in the room? How are first-time moms dealing with the unknowns of delivery? How are any expectant moms dealing with the virtual gender reveals and baby showers? How are expectant moms dealing with the unknowns of delivery and new and ever-changing hospital protocols? I know first-time moms who were so afraid their husbands wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital for the delivery they decided to be induced early.

To all those expectant and new moms out there, I see you, I feel you. You are not alone. We are a tribe of our own. We will welcome our babies with the love of a thousand family members with that first embrace. We will take our babies home. This pandemic shall pass. We will raise them as part of a new tribe with new strength and with new knowing.

CRYSTAL ROWLAND

Crystal  Rowland is a political and nonprofit development strategist. Currently, she works with the Pujols Foundation serving individuals with Down syndrome and impoverished people in the Dominican Republic. Crystal lives in San Diego with her husband, Jeff, where they enjoy the puzzle of parenting their 2-1/2 year old son, and are excitedly expecting the arrival their second son any day now.

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