Pregnant during Pandemic

Topic: Pregnant during Pandemic: The Bump That No One Saw

This morning I caught my lonely reflection in my hallway mirror: my work-appropriate blouse fitted down to where the view of my computer’s Webcam ends, then heavily stretched over my rounded stomach—the bottom few inches of my belly protruding over baggy sweatpants below. I’m nine months pregnant, but the world hasn’t seen me.

On June 28, 2020, in the thick of COVID lockdown, I found out I was expecting my first child. Inability to drink alcohol during the pandemic aside, being pregnant in 2020 has been nothing short of bizarre and challenging. At times I have felt maddeningly alone, missing the rewards of sharing my life milestone or the ability to reach out for help when I needed it most.

In July I saw my baby on ultrasound for the first time—alone. COVID restrictions meant my husband was not allowed to come with me to doctor’s appointments. I laid there on the exam table, my face shielded behind my mask, looking at my doctor, shielded behind hers, as she pointed to the screen. Suddenly there was a beating heart and a third face—the only one in the room that was not veiled. This is how it will be through delivery: I will never see my obstetrician’s face.

For months my belly has grown a few inches south of my Webcam: no colleagues have seen me pregnant. And by the time I return to the physical office in Boulder, Colo., where I work, I will have a child that nobody saw me grow. Many of my colleagues don’t even know I’m pregnant. Without the need to explain my getting visibly rounder, it feels like an odd secret—a secret I would not have had the option to hide any other time.

Sometimes I’m grateful for the isolation. I got to endure nausea in private, be exhausted in private and work from my couch on the days when it felt too hard to stand. Luckily for me, I had a job that allowed me to work from home. Luckily for me, I had a job at all. And as others also reported in a 2020 survey of 70 pregnant women in Ireland, taking a break from life’s fast pace while I grew another life did, at times, bring me peace.

My challenge instead has been letting go of the picture I had in my head of what pregnancy was “supposed” to look like. Gone is the fantasy of the Good Samaritan on the crowded bus giving up his seat for me or of colleagues in the hall asking how I’m doing. Also gone are the strangers trying to touch my belly or giving me unsolicited advice. Sometimes, without that constant feedback, I forget I’m pregnant. At other times, the aches and pains I feel in isolation seem stronger than they would be if someone was around to provide distraction.

Topic Discussed: Pregnant during Pandemic: The Bump That No One Saw

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