“I had been looking forward to pregnancy and motherhood my entire life, but of all the possible disasters I could have imagined, never did I expect pregnancy during a pandemic to be one of them. Given my mother’s history of pregnancy and her birth with me, I expected the usual complications for first-time mothers. You know, gestational diabetes, slow-progressing 24-hour labor, and pre-eclampsia, to name a few. It was never on my radar to contract the very virus that had run, and still is running, rampant all over the world, much less to get PTSD and a severe case of perinatal anxiety as a result of it. Yet through it all, my only focus and motivation were to get my little blessing as close to term as possible.
The only reason I decided to take a pregnancy test the day we found out was because of a dream I had. In my dream, I was breastfeeding twin girls at Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by all of my husband’s family. Without further thought, I immediately woke up and headed to the bathroom. And then nine positive pregnancy tests later, I screamed for my husband to come into the bathroom. He did not want to believe it because I had already gone several months without a period, and technically I was only 2 days late at the time.
That week was actually quite eventful, not only for us but for the rest of the city of Houston. If you are from the great State of Texas, you know we take the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo very seriously. Not only were we Houstonians very doubtful the Coronavirus would make its way here, but we definitely were not anticipating the shutting down of this event. It was incredibly shocking by the end of that week, there were already a handful of people who tested positive for the Coronavirus. The city immediately implemented a shutdown for all non-essential workers.
Shortly after the virus had arrived in our city, our apartment lease ended, and my husband and I decided to move in with my mother. We had already gotten confirmation of pregnancy through a blood test my primary care physician ordered, and my hormone levels proved extremely high, definitely indicative of a pregnancy. At 6 weeks pregnant, everyone who needed to know about our pregnancy knew and were all absolutely excited at this news. The first thing I did the day I got those test results back was contact the certified midwives at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women for an appointment. The soonest they could schedule me was at the 10-week mark for a viability ultrasound an introductory appointment with the midwives, but they made it noticeably clear I had to come to the appointment by myself. This is the first of many adjustments and differences encountered for pregnancy during the pandemic.
My first trimester was uneventful, to say the least. Yes, I had morning sickness pretty much all day long every single day until around the 20-week mark, causing me to lose 14 pounds, but we were all quarantined at home not exactly doing much. My husband, the project manager, worked from home for about 2 months. My mother, the kindergarten teacher, worked from home until the following school year. We were not leaving the house for ANYTHING that was not absolutely necessary, such as prenatal appointments for me and days my husband had to go into the field. Netflix, Hulu, Instacart, and walks around the block were the only things getting us through the first couple of months of pregnancy and the pandemic. We even did our gender reveal in our driveway by ourselves with two cannons we ordered online and invited our friends and family to join us through Facebook live. That had been the highlight of the journey at that point.
My husband went back to work in-person and my mother, who started her summer break, and I were comfortable visiting my closest cousin and her young kids at home. We were all being careful with every single thing we did and every single place we went. Masks at all times, sanitizing when we were unable to wash our hands, and social distancing. We stayed in public places the least amount of time possible and we were not going to restaurants, malls, or anything crazy like that. We would take the kids to the park, go on walks, go to each other’s houses for dinner, and for drives with each other. We were all just going crazy at home!
It was a couple of weeks into this extremely limited routine I started to feel sick on a Thursday. I just had a slight cough and a headache fixed with Tylenol, so I called my midwife and she advised me to take over-the-counter medication to help with the cough, but not to worry about it until I got a fever. As the days progressed, the cough got worse and I started getting congested with more frequent headaches and lightheadedness. On Sunday night, I felt so terrible and started having body aches, so I took my temperature, and it came up at 102 degrees Fahrenheit. I called the midwife on-call immediately and she said to stay calm, keep taking the medication I was taking for the cough and headache, and she would schedule me for a COVID test the next day. I went to OB emergency on Monday as instructed and was told my nasal swab results would come back within 24 hours. I did not think much of the test at this point. It had to come back negative because there was no way I had it if no one else I had been around was sick or symptomatic. Except when I got the call about being positive on Tuesday morning, I just fell to my knees and started crying. I mean seriously, it was a screaming and breathless type of cry.
The midwife explained exactly which medications to take, when to take them, and natural remedies I could do at home to help all of my symptoms. At this point, I had never felt so physically run down in my life. Not only was I experiencing all of the symptoms of pregnancy listed in the second trimester, but I was experiencing all the symptoms of COVID listed as well. Everything from headaches, back pain, round ligament pain, nausea, and vomiting, to breathlessness, lightheadedness, fever, body aches, loss of taste/smell, cough, and finally congestion. I could not tell which symptom was from what health condition. On top of the emotional roller coaster pregnancy hormones induced, I was just ashamed and terrified at the fact my baby could die inside of me at 23 weeks pregnant, just one week shy of viability. I could not help but feel guilty. My husband rushed to get a fast result test, and within 3 hours, we were informed he was also positive for COVID, as expected with all his exposure to me. Thankfully, my mom’s test was negative, so she left the house to stay with a friend who had also tested negative just until my husband and I got through this.
And through it all, I just kept thinking, ‘One more day. I just need to make it one more day closer to get this baby viable. If anything happens and we need to deliver this baby, please let it be after 24 weeks.’ I prayed and prayed God would help us through this time, not only for my husband and I’s wellness but for the life of my unborn child. The next 2 weeks were the worst experience of my life. I was sent to the hospital after my oxygen saturation proved very inconsistent and spent several hours there so the baby and I could be monitored. I was 24 weeks pregnant and again, my husband was not allowed to come with me. The midwife on-call that day came in full PPE when she examined me. I am talking a regular medical-grade face mask under an N-95, under a face shield, with booties over her shoes, and what looked like a giant blue plastic bag over her body. She explained I would get a chest x-ray to make sure my lungs were not super full of fluid, and if everything stabilized, I would get to continue treatment at home with my husband. The test results all came back with comfortable levels to send me home with, so we just stayed in touch over the phone for another 2 weeks until I was finally cleared to come in for a much-needed prenatal appointment. My prenatal care was pretty much delayed a month because, during weeks 23, 24, and 25 of pregnancy, I was not allowed to come into the office for a regular checkup due to my diagnosis. No checking of my baby’s heart tones, no blood pressure checks, and no ultrasounds.
When I was finally recuperated enough and presumed negative for COVID, I came in for an appointment with my midwife and an ultrasound. This is where the anxiety picked up full speed. I had lost weight again and the ultrasound revealed my baby was measuring quite small. If one more ultrasound after that revealed a decrease in the growth of our baby, then the midwives would not be able to attend to my pregnancy anymore because we would then require intervention from an OB/GYN. We would be considered a high-risk pregnancy. My anxiety after this appointment left me crying and shaking at the mere thought of even going outside my house for anything other than a prenatal appointment. I asked my midwife for a referral to the women’s psychiatry practice at The Pavilion for Women to see how I could get the anxiety under control. After just one appointment with my psychiatrist, I received a Zoloft prescription and talk therapy for a diagnosis of severe perinatal anxiety and PTSD.
For the rest of my second trimester and the beginning of my third, I pretty much locked myself inside the house. Although I was told several times by family members I was exaggerating by never going outside except for medical treatment, I did not care. I felt I needed to protect my baby. We have no idea about the long-term effects pregnant mothers and babies could encounter after having been positive for COVID. No one could understand what I was going through, and it felt so lonely. If it were not for the support of my husband, my mom, my psychiatrist, and my midwives, I would have been much worse off. Thankfully, my midwives advocated for me at every turn. They initiated what the hospital called ‘COVID protocol’ where the pregnant mother and fetus are closely monitored. This meant growth ultrasounds every 4 weeks until the 36-week mark, prenatal appointments every 2 weeks until the 36-week mark, and then biophysical profiles and non-stress tests beginning at 36-weeks. The third trimester included the care of five rotating midwives, a pelvic floor physical therapist, a perinatal radiologist, and a perinatal psychiatrist.
As if my pregnancy were not dramatic enough, my blood draw revealed I was extremely anemic at 37 weeks. This required every other day iron infusions until I went into labor, which turned out to be awfully expensive and required me to sit in a chair hooked up to an IV for 2 hours at a time. Thank God I did not have to work through this whole pandemic! At my next to last iron infusion on November 12, 2020, I walked in contracting every 8 minutes. The nurse who managed my iron infusions decided to check my cervix and see where we were at and it turned out I was already at 3 centimeters dilated! Not only that, but my blood pressures were slightly elevated. She immediately called down to triage and told them I was coming as soon as I finished my infusion.
Because my blood pressure continued to be elevated, they decided to induce me. However, the labor and delivery floor was completely full with other laboring moms, so we had to wait until a room opened up. Mind you, the entire time we were in triage, we had to keep our masks on. We were in triage from 11 a.m. on Wednesday until 3:30 a.m. on Thursday morning when a room finally opened up. They did my COVID test and thankfully, it came back negative, which meant I could labor freely without the hassle of wearing a mask.
The first step to induction was starting me on Pitocin so my contractions would get closer together and help kickstart labor. The contractions I was getting once the medication started were nowhere near what I was experiencing the day before when they were 8 minutes apart, so after eating breakfast I decided to take a nap for 3 hours. I woke up when the midwives came in to check me, and I had only progressed a centimeter, but I had also gotten up to 90 percent effaced and +1 station. Then, once my water broke around 11 a.m., things got really intense really fast. Only 2 hours after my water broke, I was at 10 cm and ready to push! My daughter came out 6 minutes and five pushes later. My mom and my husband were crying through their masks and I was able to catch my sweet girl and put her on my breast to breastfeed immediately. She latched on no problem and I of course had to get my typical pandemic birth ‘We did it!’ picture with my fist in the air. It was the most amazing day of my life.
We were discharged 2 days later and drove home doing a recap on everything that had just happened. We were parents now. Not only that, but we became parents and got married in the very year that had the entire world completely stressed out. There were, and are, bad situations in every single country and complete uncertainty all year long, but we were able to create some of the most precious memories this year we will cherish for the rest of our lives. From here on out, not only is the rest of the country adjusting to this virus and its long-lasting effects, but my husband and I will continue to alter our lives to parenthood during and post-pandemic. Our world will never be the same, and my husband and I would not have it any other way. We feel so blessed things happened the way they did because we were absolutely up for the challenge. We now spend our days fawning over our daughter and cannot wait to see what 2021 has in store for us.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Abigail Sique. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about pandemic pregnancies:
‘We used Zoom to ‘gather’ and share your gender. We did a drive-by and virtual ‘shower.’ I have loved ones who never saw my pregnant belly in person. I’m glad I can consider 2020 the year of YOU.’: Mom pens touching letter to ‘pandemic baby’
‘She’s cancelled the baby shower. She stands alone, quarantined, for her first prenatal appointment. There will be no visitors—at the hospital or at home.’: Woman pregnant during pandemic says ‘I will choose to be fearless’
‘I went to my baby checkup today alone. My doctor and I elbow bumped through weary smiles. As soon as I got into my car, tears started rolling down my face.’: Pregnant woman shares ‘devastating’ reality of expecting mommas during pandemic