The coronavirus pandemic is changing all of our plans for 2020.
For my family, the most important date circled on our calendar is in early May, when our child is due.
In March, I spent a Sunday afternoon on a Zoom call with a midwifery practice to learn about home births. With a due date right around the time that some doctors predict hospitals will be packed full of coronavirus patients, I wanted to figure out my options.
How the coronavirus threatens the elderly is much discussed. But pregnant women also have particular vulnerabilities. A knee surgery can be rescheduled, but my baby is coming whether I like the timing or not.
The government’s current guidance to pregnant women isn’t of much use. We are advised to take precautions. Sadly, we know babies can get the coronavirus. A newborn baby in London tested positive for the coronavirus. The mother and baby were separated for treatment.
It is difficult not to worry during pregnancy even under normal circumstances – about labor and delivery, keeping a newborn healthy, and the many life changes ahead.
But the current pandemic creates new fears.
I worry that a fellow patient will have it, which may require the labor and delivery wing to be shut down or the medical staff to be quarantined. I worry that doctors who work with patients across floors, like NICU doctors, might not be available. I worry that medical staff won’t have the proper protective equipment, so will unknowingly pass the coronavirus to my newborn.
And my list of worries continues to grow. Two New York hospitals banned husbands and doulas from being present during birth. After many concerns were raised, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order requiring hospitals to allow one person in during childbirth.
Friends have assured me that the hospital wings that house labor and delivery won’t be converted to help coronavirus patients. I recognize that the plan would be to keep them open. The challenge is that the coronavirus has proved that it is highly contagious and unpredictable in how it affects some people. The coronavirus doesn’t follow our plans.
As a millennial, my experience as a pregnant woman during a pandemic has made me gain a greater appreciation for the challenges of balancing public health and individual freedom. And the critical role of personal responsibility.
What can a pregnant woman do? We can pay attention to the latest news and research. We can stay home and share our story to encourage others to take the pandemic seriously. We can put together backup plans. Then, like everyone else, we have to wait and see.