It was my first day back at work from my summer holiday and I just knew that I was pregnant. I took a walk over to the pharmacy across the road from my office and bought a pregnancy test. I took it during my work day, (unromantically enough) and it was positive. I walked back into my office and nobody could’ve guessed why my holiday blues had been replaced by giddy smiles. I got home and told my husband and my son, Max, and we were all so excited at the thought of our family growing.
With this being my second pregnancy, I knew there were certain things I would do differently this time around. My type-A personality had arranged with my mother and mother-in-law for their visits to to be back-to-back in order for them to be here to help out at my delivery and then the weeks after. However, regardless of how foolproof I thought my plan was, I couldn’t have been prepared for what was going to happen.
Throughout my whole pregnancy, my body felt much different compared to my first pregnancy. I felt like my bump was bigger, I felt heavier, I was experiencing more aches and pains and my sleep was much more interrupted this time around. I was convinced that I would go into labour earlier than my due date, which was March 28th, and I worried that my mum would miss the birth as she was scheduled to fly out 3 days before my due date on March 25th. Of course, all the travel arrangements were made long before COVID-19 spread throughout the world. In my final month of pregnancy was when the virus started to spread within the UAE and preventative measures were beginning to take place. My last few visits to my doctor leading up to my due date were surreal and the hospital felt eery. There was now a desk at the entrance where you were asked various questions to ensure that you have not been exposed to the virus or had come into contact with anyone who potentially had it. The usual excitement I felt during and following my appointments had now been replaced with an overwhelming urge to get in and out of the hospital as fast as possible. I couldn’t help but think of all of the first-time mothers and the contrasting experience this was compared to my first pregnancy. Every pregnancy is special but any new mum going through this is being deprived of the joy and excitement leading up to the birth of their child and instead those emotions are being replaced with fear and uncertainty.
The more the virus spread and more cases were reported, the more it began to sink in that my pregnancy and delivery, would be effected by this. With one month left before my due date, my son’s nursery announced it’s closure. I was heavily pregnant and I now had my four-year old at home, trying to launch my freelancing business that I had been working on and preparing to launch for the months prior. The stress of knowing that my business would have to be put on hold with no end in sight and the financial, mental and emotional effects this would have, slowly began to eat away at me. Let alone the stress of not knowing how my son would deal with being confined to our home. These were all factors that had an effect on my mental state but I knew that I had to maintain my calm for the sake of my whole family. I kept on reminding myself that I’m not the only person in this situation and there are people in much worse circumstances than me. I also had my mum’s arrival to look forward to.
Then just a few weeks after that, we heard the news that visas and visas on arrival would not be permitted. Soon after that, flights were being cancelled. My mum and I scrambled to find alternative routes for her to be able to be here but it became evident that it was pointless. That’s when this all began to feel extremely real. Everything was very quickly being taken out of my control and I felt completely helpless. Even though everything was happening fast, I was finding it difficult to process the reality. I sat in bed reflecting on what had happened in just a month and how crazy everything was. I immediately wondered how me and my husband would function as a new family of 4 with no help from family.
Not long after air travel was banned completely, and lockdowns started to take place with my due date fast approaching. My husband arranged leave in order to ensure that he was home in case I went into labour.
My first son, Max, was induced 5 days after his due date. My decision at the time was largely made because my mum and mother-in-law, who had flown to Dubai for the birth, had their return tickets booked and I wanted them to be around for the days following the birth. So this time, the first thing I said to my husband when I found out I was pregnant was that I did not want to be induced. I plan on this being my final pregnancy (never say never!) so I wanted to wait until the baby came on his own. I had also planned to have a waterbirth, which my Obgyn recommended as I had decided to not use any pain relief during my labour and water is known the ease some of the pain. As COVID-19 started to control the final month of my pregnancy and my delivery, it became clear that it would now take control of my birth plan too. My doctor reached out to me as I approached my due date and told me that waterbirths had now been cancelled as part of preventative measures. I was upset but I could understand given the circumstances. Then a few days later she sent me a message, a few days before my due date, she brought up the possibility of me being induced seeing as I was entering my birth week. I told her I wanted to wait until I was a week overdue so I, very hesitantly, booked it even though I expected to go into labour before the date we planned. For that entire week, the thought of being induced tormented me. I felt frustrated, upset and even angry. This was the final piece of control that I was desperately clinging on to and I did not want to give it up. But with news of partners not been allowed in delievry rooms in otehr countries around the world, I feared that the longer this baby took to arrive, the worse the situation would become. The day before my induction I sent my doctor a message asking to postpone it for a few more days. We spoke and I was honest with her about my concerns and frustrations. She reassured me that the decision was mine but in one very simple text message, everything became clear in my mind and she gave me the clarity I needed that this would be the right decision given the current circumstances. It read, “Look at it this way; Covid is spreading. The sooner you have your baby, the sooner you can be back at home and isolate properly with your family“. In that moment everything seemed to fall into place and I realised that I needed to surrender. This was far beyond my desire of having the waterbirth I had my heart set on, or the natural labour that I so desperately wanted. It was now a matter of keeping myself and ultimately my family safe in a situation that we were all experiencing for the first time.
The final piece of news that I had to overcome was that my son, Max, would not be allowed to visit me in hospital. I cried a little realising that the dream I had of him visiting me in the hospital room for the first time and meeting his little brother was no longer a possibility but I quickly reminded myself of the bigger picture and this too was just part of the story.
On April 3rd, at 4:07pm, Leo was born. Almost immediately after I gave birth I experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I was grateful that I had made it to that point after what had been an overwhelming and uncertain build-up. The silver lining was when I found out that I would only be staying in hospital for one-night, meaning that I would be able to get home sooner to both of my babies.
The feeling of being home was one that I will never forget. I wasn’t even concerned about typical worries that new parents have, such as, the baby sleeping or if I would manage to keep the house tidy with a new baby around. All I cared about was that we were healthy and home together. I felt like I had just finished running a marathon and I’d won. Ultimately what got me through this strange, unpredicatble and uncertain time was eventually surrendering to the circumstances. We do not have control and once I admitted that to myself, I was able to allow myself to grieve the birthplan I wanted and the plans that I had set. After all, who can plan for having a baby in a pandemic?