What to Expect When You’re 37 Weeks Pregnant During a Pandemic
I wouldn’t know from experience since it’s my first time having a baby, but I hear it’s normal to feel a bit nervous and have trouble sleeping as your due date approaches.
When it comes to being 37 weeks pregnant in the midst of a global pandemic… well… there is no “normal”.
After I woke up at 3am today, hungry and having to pee for the second or third time, I proceeded to spend at least an hour scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Eventually I fell asleep again. When my alarm went off at 7am, I promptly deleted all social media apps from my phone. The updates were getting to be too much.
Two weeks ago, I’d wake up thinking about the things we still needed to set up in the nursery. Now I wake up wondering what the state of our local hospital will be like in a few weeks.
By 8am, I added several items to my Amazon cart, among them cortisone cream (stretch marks are itchy), electrolyte drink tablets (I heard hospitals are very dry places), and a 34-oz bag of peanut butter M&Ms (no explanation needed). My husband added a book called “Hurrah for Gin: A Book for Perfectly Imperfect Parents” that was recommended to him by a coworker. The M&M’s won’t arrive until Friday by 9pm, but I’m still convinced it’s better than going to the store.
By the afternoon, I tried to reinstall Instagram, but couldn’t remember my password. After five failed attempts, I decided that “pregnancy brain” was working in my favor this time and gave up.
Throughout the day, email notifications from my town’s community message board app kept rolling in. The posts were talking about Coronavirus cases from a recent house party in Princeton and how local university students were not keeping their distance and instead crowding bars as a last hurrah before going home. Some offered to help out neighbors who were extra vulnerable.
A week ago, I was thinking: “Maybe this baby will be born a couple weeks early. Being pregnant is getting so uncomfortable and I’d really like to meet our daughter now.” Today, I’m thinking: “Will getting to 40 weeks give the hospitals more time to sort things out, or are they currently at the lowest level of pressure they’ll be at for a while?”
I’m going to doctor’s appointments weekly now. Last week, the staff was preparing for a meeting at the hospital the following day to discuss preparedness measures. Most of my appointment was spent discussing the questions my doctor planned to ask at the meeting. Things like:
- Typically patients in labor enter through the emergency room between 9:30pm and 5:30am instead of the entrance closest to the maternity ward. Can the hospital make an exception and have someone on-call to let patients in through the maternity ward entrance during these hours? The emergency room is probably the worst place to be right now.
- Will family members be allowed in the maternity ward waiting room?
- What additional cleaning measures are being put into place for different equipment?
The doctor’s office staff was also weighing whether weekly visits were absolutely necessary for patients with no complications. Could some of these appointments be done through telemedicine?
By the following day, the hospital had restricted visitors with very few exceptions. One person is allowed to come with you when you go into labor. No other family members or friends can enter the building.
After that, I checked the community message boards again to discover that a woman with COVID-19 attended a meeting at the hospital on March 9th before she was diagnosed. I went to a physical therapy appointment at the hospital that very same day. I proceeded to cancel future appointments.
Then I learned that my weekly doctor’s appointments would continue, but that spouses are no longer allowed to join. There have also been staff schedule changes to limit as much time in the office per doctor as possible.
These updates do not make me nervous. In fact, it’s comforting to know that the medical staff I’ve grown to trust so much over the past eight to nine months is not only being proactive, but clearly communicating updates to patients. This is far from business as usual and they seem to be handling it wonderfully. For that, I feel incredibly lucky.
I’m also trying to find the good in all of this: I’m already less active than I’d normally be (thanks, pregnancy-related pain!), so sitting for long periods isn’t that bad. We were considering waiting until after the baby was born to buy most of the things we needed (Jewish superstition), but I ultimately decided that this would make me too anxious and now we have everything we need and don’t have to stress about shipping delays or not being able to set foot in a store. If we do run out of toilet paper, we have a ton of baby wipes on-hand. The kitten has been taking daily naps in the stroller, unaware that a tiny human will be sitting there soon.
What keeps me awake at 3am is knowing that many people are still not taking things seriously. After I hadn’t left the house for three days, my husband and I took a drive the other day to see the outdoors without leaving the car. The surrounding residential neighborhoods were quiet and there were very few cars on the road.
I wish I hadn’t said that I was curious to see how empty downtown Princeton was. As we turned onto the main street, it was packed with people walking in groups. I peeked into a restaurant and saw tables full of people. Online, I saw people posting photos from bars, celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.
I can stay in my house, but the medical staff I’ll need by my side in the very near future cannot. And there are bound to be patients arriving at the maternity ward over the next few weeks who are far more at risk than I am. On top of this, I know of so many women who are due in the next month or so.
Each time I’d learn of someone else with a similar due date, I’d smile and think “I wonder if the maternity ward will be packed when we get there!” It’s now been replaced by the fear that the floor will be packed and short-staffed when our little girl decides to show up.
When I hear that someone has been going about their life with zero changes to their routine, my immediate thought is: “I guess they’re not going to see our baby for a while.” This is not a feeling I want to have at such an exciting time.
One day, we will tell our daughter about how she was born in the middle of a pandemic. But for now, I don’t feel so great when I wake up at 3am, wide awake and hungry.