If you are delivering a baby anytime soon, chances are you are experiencing some extra anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare providers are recommending pregnant women take extra precautions and consider themselves an at-risk population for contracting the virus. As there is limited data on the effects it has on mothers and newborns, many of our worries are left unanswered right now. What we do know is that our birth and/or postpartum experience will likely be affected in one way or another by the outbreak. Expecting moms are altering their birth and after care plans as hospitals instate new rules that limit visitors and doulas. And since we do not know when this will end, there is concern about how this will affect the postpartum period while settling in with a new baby.
After my 36 week checkup with my OBGYN yesterday, I had a complete emotional breakdown. Understanding the recommendations to best protect our baby and our family for the foreseeable future overwhelmed me with uneasiness. It is natural for the mind to run wild with worst case scenarios, especially with life growing inside of you that you’d do anything to protect from harm.
At the same time, we know from research that stress and anxiety are NOT healthy for babies in utero. Paying attention to our mental health in this unsettling time should be a priority for us expecting mommies and our families. After some meditation and journaling last night, I realized there is a lot I cannot control right now and there is much to fear. But I am in control of how I respond and how I go into this process emotionally. Knowing I could have this baby any day now, I am making it a priority to recalibrate my mindset. I believe this is a very important shift for me to make for the sake of my baby, my family and myself.
When working with the complicated emotion of fear, I like to identify what I’m afraid of, acknowledge and validate that it’s real for me, then create an affirmation to repeat whenever the worry rears its head (which it will many times, and that’s okay). Below I am sharing my biggest fears about having a baby during such an uneasy time for society. With each concern there is an acknowledgement and an affirmation that helps me focus on what I can control: my mindset.
Fear: My baby is or will be at risk. Even if my family and I take every recommended precaution, others may not and my baby may suffer.
Acknowledgement: It is normal and expected for you to feel extremely protective of your unborn baby in general, but especially right now.
Affirmation: My family and I will do everything in our power to protect our baby’s health. We will focus on what we can control rather than panic about what we cannot.
Fear: The COVID crisis will leave a dark cloud over my birth experience. The current state of our society will be the main thing I think of when I look back on the time I had my baby.
Acknowledgement: It is okay to wonder if the fear and anxiety is all you will remember. Both are powerful emotions that are especially heightened right now.
Affirmation: I am in control of how I view and remember my birth experience. I can choose which pieces of the picture to focus on when I look back at this time. I will look for and focus on the positive and beautiful parts of bringing our baby into the world.
Fear: The Coronavirus crisis will derail my birth plan and my postpartum plan.
Acknowledgement: My birth and postpartum plan will not be able to go the way I envisioned due to the current pandemic. It is okay to feel upset, anxious and worried about this.
Affirmation: I am adaptable, strong and resilient. As I surrender to the things out of my control, I will put my energy toward what I can control with my birth experience.
Fear: If I contract COVID-19, I may be separated from my baby after birth.
Acknowledgment: Being separated from Baby would be incredibly painful. My fear is real and natural.
Affirmation: Both Baby and I will be okay, even if this happens. I will lean on my support system, enlist professional help and do anything it takes to keep Baby and me healthy physically and emotionally. With the right help I am capable of handling and overcoming anything.
Fear: My postpartum mental health will suffer greatly from having a baby during this troubling time.
Acknowledgement: My mental health may be more unstable and require more attention than expected after having this baby, and that is perfectly okay.
Affirmation: I will get the help I need, take advantage of the resources available and come out the other side from this. It will make me a better mommy to my children and a stronger person overall.
Fear: It will break my heart that family and friends won’t be able to come meet our baby for a while. I will suffer from this lack of in-person connection with others.
Acknowledgement: This is hard for me as a social person who leans on her community for support. It’s okay to feel lonely and/or sad about this.
Affirmation: I will find the positives in this experience, such as how much time my family will have to bond with our new baby and with each other.
Fear: I may not have the same sort of access to amenities that can make the postpartum period easier such as in home lactation support, cleaning services, food delivery, in person support groups, etc.
Acknowledgement: It makes sense to be scared that the current pandemic will make a tender time of my life more complicated and challenging.
Affirmation: There will be other ways to access the resources I need the most. This time will give me a new perspective on what matters the most to me: my family.
*It almost feels inappropriate to write about how my birth experience will be affected by this pandemic when people are dying and losing loved ones. At the same time, I firmly believe every person’s mental health is important. Being honest with how mine is impacted from this crisis is something I find necessary for the well being of my entire family. My heart goes out to everyone at this time, and I send my deepest gratitude to all the healthcare providers fighting at the frontline for the safety and wellness of all of us.
Resources for Expecting Parents Regarding COVID-19: