momchievement unlocked: pregnant during a pandemic

Newborn baby being measured after birth by a medical professional wearing gloves.

Currently in the U.S. and all over the world, we are dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Heard of it?

Where I live in Iowa, we do not currently have any cases confirmed in my county, but I anticipate that changing once folks return from spring break vacations and trips they decided to still go on. And with confirmation of community spread in the state, it’s only a matter of time before COVID-19 reaches my community. Sadly, when I read the comments on local news stories, it’s clear that so many in my own community and in nearby communities don’t take this pandemic seriously, despite my Facebook bubble who seems to really care about reducing community spread.

As of today, I am 36 weeks and 1 day pregnant, with a due date of April 12.

On Friday, March 13, I called the office of my midwives and asked about the possibility of an elective induction at 37 or 38 weeks, to hopefully get ahead of the likely scenario that very soon the local hospital will be overrun with people who are either suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. As of Friday, they said no because the guidance/rule is that there is no elective induction prior to 39 weeks without medical indication otherwise. Since I have no medical indication, I would not be allowed to elect for an induction. Of course, in most circumstances, this makes sense. There are plenty of very justifiable reasons to keep the baby in as long as possible, even after 37 weeks when they are considered term. But right now, nothing in this country is business as usual.

To be clear, because when I’ve talked to people in my life about this it seems to them that my main concern is me or the baby becoming ill because of the virus. That is only the slightest of my concerns, as otherwise pregnant healthy pregnant people and babies seem to deal with this illness, in most cases, “just fine” (ignoring the fact that there’s just not a lot of evidence either way). Instead, my primary concern is being in the hospital at all when resources (both human and medical) are slim. Giving birth is a high-risk activity during which any number of things can go wrong at any given time, and the U.S. doesn’t have the best maternal mortality track record to begin with. So what if I’ve been healthy during my entire pregnancy, save having a couple of mild colds? Things can change in an instant in that hospital room.

What if I hemorrhage? What if I need blood and if donations are down as a result of this pandemic, it may be in short supply? Luckily, I am AB+ and am therefore a universal recipient…but this does very little to comfort me if there just isn’t enough to go around. What if most of the staff at that point are ill or are called to other parts of the hospital to help, leaving the labor and delivery unit also short-staffed? What if I need to have an emergency c-section? Are there enough beds in the hospital to accommodate me and my newborn baby for a longer stay than I anticipated? Will the labor and delivery unit be forced to give up beds to people with other ailments at any point if things get bad enough due to COVID-19?

What if my newborn baby needs emergency medical attention right after birth? Are there going to be enough healthy providers to make sure my baby survives something that would otherwise be completely survivable if it weren’t for a global pandemic?

In that critical moment, do they, as they do now in Italy, have to make split decisions about who lives and who dies? Would we be the ones who would be picked to survive? And if we were picked over someone else, and I knew that, how does it feel to know that the rest of my life?

You see, it’s not just about becoming ill with COVID-19. There are so many other factors to consider. While these thoughts and concerns may seem alarmist to some, these are very real dangers if you read the news of what is going on around the world and even right here in the U.S. as hospitals prepare for a surge in cases.

In this time of uncertainty and fear, one thing is for sure: if we all come out of this next few weeks and months happy and healthy, this will make for one hell of a birth story.

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