By Matthew Moore
Constant discomfort, unwelcome belly rubs in public, and a never-ending need to go to the restroom are just a few of the normal disadvantages to pregnancy. Piling a global pandemic on top of everything else can make a stressful life experience even more draining.
Lindsay Coleman spent most of her second pregnancy in a pre-pandemic world. She and her husband Jacob discovered she was pregnant in August 2019. By March 2020, hospitals began to limit visitors and her husband wasn’t able to come to the last several doctor’s appointments. She was worried about the condition of the delivery room when her April due date approached. “We started being concerned whether or not he would be able to be in the hospital,” she said.
Allison Kemp is the mother of 2-year-old Brooks and found out in December 2020 that she and her husband Tyler would be welcoming their second child into the family. Kemp knew from the beginning that things would look much different the second time around. When she goes to doctor’s appointments, her husband is not allowed to sit in the waiting room but is allowed to come inside once she is in her exam room.
Both women say they always felt safe at appointments. “I did want to get in and out of the hospital as fast as possible just to limit exposure,” Coleman said of her experience in March and April 2020. Kemp thinks that after a year of learning how to limit risks and contraction of the virus, the health protocols feel pretty seamless. “I think they’re used to it by now, as sad as that sounds. They’re used to wearing a mask and sitting a little further away,” she said.
By April 4, 2020, 9,276 people had died nationwide of COVID-19 with 229,418 positive cases. America was beginning to experience one of the first major waves in cases and deaths, and Coleman and her husband were masked up in the delivery room awaiting baby Caroline’s arrival. The delivery went smoothly, but the most noticeable difference was the lack of visitors after the birth.
“We could have no family, friends, or our first daughter there to share in that joy with us,” she said. Kemp doesn’t expect that to change by the time she delivers in late August 2021. “This time around, the likelihood is that the waiting rooms will be empty. There won’t be crowds of people waiting to see your baby.”
Once her daughter was cleared to go home, Coleman says they took social distancing and safety measures very seriously. “I didn’t fully breathe a sigh of ‘Covid relief’ until after two weeks had passed being home from the hospital without a call that there had been an exposure.”
Her husband’s father was still working in person, and because of that they waited nearly two weeks to introduce baby Caroline to that set of grandparents. Other friends would deliver groceries and wave from the driveway. Coleman feels justified in her cautiousness, saying, “my biggest concern was long term effects of your lungs and cardiovascular system.”
Kemp has a unique experience during her pregnancy: the opportunity for a vaccine. For her, getting the vaccine is something she absolutely wants and would encourage others who feel comfortable to get it as well. “It’s a cost-benefit analysis for me. If something were to be wrong with pregnant women getting the vaccine, there would be red flags at this point.” The FDA has cleared pregnant women to receive the vaccine, and at this time there are no known safety concerns, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “It would be much worse for me to get COVID-19, because the severity of what I’m going to deal with is going to directly affect the baby,” says Kemp.
Coleman and Kemp both had non-pandemic pregnancies before and were grateful this wasn’t their first experience of bearing a child. For first time mothers going through pregnancy during this time, Kemp thinks the less populated delivery rooms will offer unique experiences for parents. “I think it will be different, but it will be sweeter,” she said.
When asked about advice for new and expecting parents, Coleman’s husband Jacob offered this insight: “I don’t recommend pandemics.” Jacob was able to work from home during her maternity leave. She notes how special it was to all be at home, regardless of the circumstances.