Pregnancy during COVID-19: How I feel about giving birth in a pandemic

Ballarat's Emily Sweet is weeks away from giving birth to her second child. Picture: Lachlan Bence.
Ballarat's Emily Sweet is weeks away from giving birth to her second child. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

I am weeks away from giving birth to my second child, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the final trimester, it has been a different experience to my first pregnancy, as fears of the pandemic and subsequent lock-down forced us into isolation.

During my last pregancy, my husband attended every antenatal appointment. He would definitely be in the delivery suite for the birth - no plan Bs.

Baby showers and lunches with friends were held. There was last minute shopping to pick out little essentials. Grandparents would pop around to see how big the bump was getting and eagerly await the arrival of their new grandchild.

For the past six weeks, antenatal appointments have been on my own with my obstetrician or midwife, minimising contact with other patients. Face-to-face antenatal classes have been replaced with Zoom sessions.

Social catch-ups and family visits have been replaced with FaceTime and Messenger chats. Online shopping has been given a workout. Weekends isolated at home has sent pregnancy nesting into overdrive.

I have watched every development of this global crisis, which comes with the territory of working in the media, but also in the interests of trying to understand what the coming weeks and months will look like for our family.

My employer enforced working from home early on, making isolation relatively easy. I still had the same day-to-day concerns as others. Do you send your toddler to childcare? Is it wise to go to the supermarket or chemist? What's the risk to your unborn baby if you were to contract COVID-19?

Across the country, we are lucky the pandemic has been well managed. In Ballarat, cases have been minimal and the hospital restrictions for maternity patients are pretty good compared to what other expectant parents are facing around the world.

Last month, our two hospitals announced they would not be allowing visitors aside from one designated person. This has concerned many expectant mums, particularly those first-time parents who are unsure of what to expect.

As a second-time mum, I am fine with having only my husband be there, which will allow me to focus on my recovery, bonding and feeding. I'm sad that our daughter will not get to meet her new sibling in hospital - a rite of passage - but it's a small price to pay.

Ahead of their hospital stay, expectant mums have been asked to think about alternative birth partners, in the event their partners are symptomatic.

If my husband is running a high temperature, he will have to stay home. In the unlikely event this occurs, he too may meet this baby via FaceTime, along with grandparents.

On the flip side, I feel really informed about the current situation and what it means for us, with regular social media updates from our obstetrician detailing the latest changes and restrictions, as well as highlighting the local mothers who have recently given birth and come out the other side.

By the time we bring our baby home, chances are that restrictions may have eased. But anticipating life won't have fully returned to normal has forced me to get my village around me early and know where I will go for that critical postnatal support.

For me, this will be midwives and other health professionals via Zoom, podcasts during midnight feeds and my invaluable circle of friends via chat and Messenger.

And, family - who can still bring home-cooked food to your door.

Emily Sweet is Head of Engagement for ACM, publisher of this website.

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This story How I feel about giving birth in a pandemic first appeared on The Courier.