baby

The silver linings I've found about having a baby during a global pandemic.

Queensland Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Health

In early 2020, I was excited to discover I was pregnant with my third child, but nervous about going through the experience as a mother of "advanced maternal age". I worried that the world of pregnancy and babies had changed in the five years since I'd been there. 

Then the whole world changed. 

As the first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed on Australian shores, high-risk individuals were urged to stay at home as much as possible. I wasn't far enough along to be attending regular prenatal appointments yet, and I struggled to work out whether my pregnancy put me into that category. I madly googled European cases of COVID-19 positive mothers who had already delivered, trying to work out how the virus affected babies and how worried I needed to be. I hit the mummy-to-be forums, and gave myself nightmares thanks to the horror stories being shared on there. Thankfully, I discovered Queensland Health's COVID-19 Guide for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women and began checking regularly for updates. It was a relief to have an up-to-date source of clear information instead of relying on the rumours and speculation flying across social media. 

To start with, the guide made it clear that pregnant women should follow the same advice as the general public. To protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19, you should stay home if you're sick, get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, stay 1.5 metres away from other people (and where that's not possible, wear a mask), wash your hands with lots of soap and water, and sneeze or cough into your arm or a tissue. You should also try to avoid: going near other people who are coughing or sneezing; touching your mouth, nose and eyes; shaking hands; and hugging or kissing others.

Even prior to official lockdown directives, our family decided to shelter in place. We pulled the pin on everything, and my husband began working from home. The children and I had a new daily to-do list consisting of socially distanced beach swims and an hour of homeschooling. My girls and I began doing something we hadn't done since before my eldest started primary school - we simply played all day. I let them take the lead and we had an absolute ball crafting and building cubbies. They were immediately happier and more relaxed during their days at home with a newly present mother who had previously been trying to pour from an under-filled cup. I will forever be grateful for the bonus time I could give to my OG babies before devoting the majority of my attention to the needs of my third and final baby for the first few months of his life. 

Watch: A thank you to masks. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.
ADVERTISEMENT

Being forced to slow down quickly highlighted that we had all been going way too hard. Did I really need to be following my pre-pregnancy fitness program, volunteering at the school, running the girls to one activity after another, all while I was growing a human? We are expected to soldier through every condition that pregnancy throws at us including all day sickness, sciatica, exhaustion, anxiety, high blood pressure, constipation, insomnia, and just the sheer exhaustion. Minus the good meds and booze. I was diagnosed with a low-lying placenta, so had to add hanky panky to the long list of do-not-dos. Any single one of those conditions warrants tea and sympathy in everyday life. It seems that it's only pregnant women who are not afforded that luxury, and are instead urged to count their blessings (as they count their hemorrhoids). I regret pushing through and failing to honour my body for its miracle work during my first two pregnancies. 

Everybody knows the belly becomes public property the minute a mother starts to show. But being in lockdown almost forced me to have a Kylie Jenner style secret pregnancy, and I didn't miss the comments from perfect strangers about the size of my bump and whether or not I should be carrying my grocery bags. As a mum of two girls, I had braced myself for hearing "bet you're hoping for a boy," approximately six million times over the space of nine months (or even grosser, "bet dad is hoping for a boy"). Instead, I only heard it about three million times from friends and family, but I'm thankful my girls didn't have to hear it every time we popped into the shops. I also didn't have to worry about pregnancy FOMO. There were no Saturday nights spent on the couch watching Instagram stories of my friends going out for drinks (and I didn't have to invent excuses to not attend those events). 

Katie on the beach during her pregnancy. Image: Supplied.

ADVERTISEMENT

As my due date drew nearer and my scans and appointments ramped up, I realised not being permitted to take the children along with me was a blessing in disguise. I was able to concentrate on what my caregivers were telling me rather than responding to never-ending snack requests. I was relieved to not have my girls in the room when late term complications popped up and my obstetrician and I had to work together to make a plan. 

As Queensland Health's COVID-19 Guide for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women states, it's important that you attend all your antenatal appointments leading up to the birth of your baby. If there's an outbreak or you're concerned, you can contact your healthcare provider to see how your appointments are offered - either by face-to-face or Telehealth.

My amazing OB remained cool and calm throughout what was an entirely new experience for the doctors and midwives as well as the mothers, and noted that despite the worldwide chaos, her patients were finding COVID silver linings. 

She mentioned that at the time of lockdown, women enjoyed the fact they could just spend time with their family and children, and that many patients found it beneficial not to have too many visitors whilst they were in hospital. Instead, they could enjoy time with their partner and newborn and recover. 

Queensland Health's guide, as well as my OB, also made it clear that hospitals are taking extra precautions to make sure that hospitals are extremely safe for you and your baby during COVID-19.

When my son was born, the lack of visitors in the hospital was divine. I'm the proud owner of under-producing breasts, supplementing with formula and using a breast pump from the get go with each of my babies. It's one thing to hold your darling child to your breast like the very picture of a contented goddess mother in front of the in-laws. It's a whole different look hooking yourself up to a milking machine and having your bleeding nipples sucked in and out of a plastic cone in polite company. My son scored the most breastmilk out of all my children because instead of entertaining guests, I spent the first few days and weeks topless, relaxing into pumping and feeding, while bingeing The Affair on Stan. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Baby Roy. Image: Supplied.

More benefits presented themselves when I brought my newborn home and restrictions began to ease. In the past I'd asked visitors to use the hand sanitiser we'd placed strategically at the front door, and limited the amount of cuddles.

In 2020, guests brought their own hand sanny, left the snotty toddlers at home, and rescheduled if they had been in contact with anyone under the weather. We should definitely keep doing that - not just the basic hygiene - but supporting new mothers after the birth marathon by not putting them in a position where they need to beg people to be cautious around their babies. 

Somehow, my pandemic pregnancy ended up being the one that holds the most special place in my heart. The challenges were immense but what I recall most strongly was the feeling of closeness with my little family. We got the time together we needed to reconnect, and I learned to be a little bit gentler with the body that has given me three beautiful children.