*Name redacted for privacy.*
I am 34 weeks pregnant with my second daughter and anticipate this to be my last pregnancy as I am 37. All along the way, I have tried to count my blessings as I have a happy marriage, an energetic 27-month-old, and a healthy pregnancy. All four grandparents, while not without various underlying issues, are generally healthy and continually supportive.
I work in the healthcare field and, ironically, my hours have been cut. I will take maternity leave three weeks earlier than anticipated. My husband is an engineer whose hours have also been halved. To think that two career paths which have always been considered stable would suddenly prove otherwise has been a bit of whiplash. We know that whatever happens, our families will come together to help one another. We will not starve, and we will have a roof over our heads.
Our toddler has been staying with my in-laws because I have been afraid of bringing home the virus from work. In my field, it is impossible to stay six feet away from patients. We each have one N95 respirator mask that is supposed to be fit-tested and disposable; neither protocol is being followed as there are no additional masks to be found. I am so relieved to be going on maternity leave, but I also feel tremendous survivors’ guilt. My mother correctly points out that my company asked me to work without protection and then when I was no longer useful, slashed my hours and pay. Of course, she’s right, and I’m tempted to research how to unionize when this is all over, but the point is that I feel badly leaving my colleagues behind. They will all most certainly become ill (or become carriers) and they all have small children, too. I just got lucky that the state will allow me to stay home from work for now.
On the other hand, I feel completely unlucky that NOW is the time when my child will be born. I’m terrified to step into a hospital ~6 weeks from now, during what will almost certainly be the peak time for infection. Rules for support people at the hospital have continued to change and I’m none too certain that my husband will be allowed to be present at the time of his daughter’s birth. What worries me even more is not knowing if there will be any doctors and nurses available at that time. Will they all be sick? Will they stop working if ill or will they keep going, risking infecting my family but risking leaving me to birth my baby alone if they don’t continue on?
With my toddler, I hemorrhaged during birth. Although I continue to use some gallows humor and joke that I may “accidentally” give birth in my kitchen, I am too scared not to go to the hospital to birth the baby. I did not need a transfusion but have already asked my doctor if I should donate for myself in advance considering there is a blood shortage and I have a rare blood type. So far, I have been told this is not necessary.
I plan to pull a Princess Kate and waddle myself out of that hospital ASAP once Baby is born. Nobody even has to do my hair and my outfit doesn’t need to match. I just want out.
I found the newborn time with my 2 y/o to be the most challenging time of my life. Although my feelings didn’t cause me to check off the boxes on the Postpartum Depression questionnaire, I sincerely wondered for many months what I had done by having this baby. My love for her was deep and all-powerful, but I simply did not like what my life had become. It was a bad influenza season, so our pediatrician strongly suggested not leaving the house. The isolation was suffocating. Breastfeeding was not going well. Nobody (except hubby who had to go to work) was sleeping. I knew brighter days were ahead, but it was really hard to see them. Even though family and friends would visit, I hated the endless choir of, “She’s crying, she needs Mommy.” Well, maybe Mommy needs a break.
I kept telling myself this time would be different. You can take a spring baby for walks. You can take a spring baby to a restaurant. You can take her to the mall, to the pool when it opens, to her Grandma’s house. Corona is now laughing at me. At least we can still take walks. And we can still open the windows in the house. I always feel better when fresh air comes through the windows.
My heart breaks knowing that my family will have to virtually meet the baby for a time (AND HOW LONG??). Whenever I imagine the day that they are finally able to hold her, I instantly burst into tears. The day when the bulk of the virus fears are under control, the day when we can look at one another and have (I pray! I pray!) all survived will be one of the most glorious days. I know it will be forever bookmarked in my mind.
It sounds a little cheesy, but one of my favorite songs is called ‘Grateful’ by a composer named John Bucchino. There is an out-of-print (but still available on Amazon) children’s book by the same name with all of the words, plus a CD of Art Garfunkel singing the song.
Some of the lyrics are as follows:
"I’ve got a heart that can hold love/
I’ve got a mind that can think/
There may be times when I lose the light & let my spirits sink/
But I can’t stay depressed when I remember how I’m blessed.
Grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am/
Grateful, grateful, truly blessed and duly grateful."
Despite my worries, I am fully conscious that I am a lucky one. My family is one of the lucky ones. Even if/when we become ill, we are STILL the lucky ones because although our healthcare system is woefully under-prepared and frankly was broken even before Corona, we HAVE a healthcare system. I have health insurance. I will almost certainly have a job with lots of overtime available when this all passes. My husband’s line of work will pick up again. I will have a loving husband and two daughters, something many people only dream of. We will get to have (outside the house) date night again. We will all eventually go to Disney World. There IS a future, and I hope this time will have collectively reminded us that we MUST care for one another. We MUST all behave differently to protect the last and the least, in time of Corona and when the world is healthier. Perhaps this crisis will reform our healthcare system or help to reunite political parties. I won’t hold my breath, but I will hope. I will always have hope and I will always have gratitude.
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