The beauty of experiences is not always as we expect and plan – that’s what the COVID-19 pandemic proved to me. Many things changed the moment the virus took over the news, and soon the world and how people live – how I live to protect the growing life inside me.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown
The lockdown was just the first part and the easiest of the entire pregnancy during the pandemic. All I had to do was stay home, stay healthy and stay clean. It helped that authorities emphasised under strict protocols that pregnant women were a top priority to staying home – I only had to sit and look pretty.
I was grateful because like others, I was allowed to work at home even before the outbreak of the virus all over the country due to the risks of travelling to and from work when I was pregnant.
Despite the safety of being home, my obstetrician-gynaecologist always reminded me to wash my hands and avoid close contact, even with my partner, as much as possible. It didn’t matter if the people in the household were not infected with the virus, they still could be carriers of the virus.
For someone like me who felt peace and comfort with physical touch and quality time, having minimal to no interaction with my partner and family was difficult.
I soon started to experience anxiety, insomnia and depression. Yet, I had to remember the well-being of my baby. This wasn’t a permanent set-up.
Facing Complications In The Midst Of Lockdown
Soon, my immune system and resistance were threatened when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes – one of the factors that, again, added me to the list of most prone to contract the virus. I was told this could also be risky for the baby to be overweight, underweight – or worse, stillborn.
Just two months to my due date, it didn’t seem quite alarming until I showed signs of preterm labour. My belly would contract, tighten. I thought it was normal after meals, but it didn’t soften or relax after a few hours. I would have a mucus-like discharge and my number of urination just doubled.
When my obstetrician-gynaecologist diagnosed me with preterm labour, this was when I was told stress, pressure and depression do play a huge role in pregnancy. Being diabetic didn’t help the case either. I was more or less 7 weeks away from delivery, and it may seem near, but my baby would be considered premature if I gave birth any sooner. So I was advised by my doctor that we should wait until week 37 or 38 since I was already experiencing preterm labour.
The worrying factor of all this was that I wasn’t getting the sufficient attention I needed from my obstetrician-gynaecologist. I have been talking to all my doctors almost online all the time, getting diagnosed with issues through consultations done ‘online’. The only time I would leave home was to get my vaccine shots and see my diabetologist. The COVID-19 pandemic did change the way we live our daily lives.
Everything was going well. I was prescribed with insulin and my blood sugar was under control. I was also given uterine relaxants to ease the tightening of my pregnant belly which was considered contractions and grounds for childbirth anytime soon. Come September 6, 2020, I was ready to deliver the baby boy I am blessed with.
The Diagnosis Of COVID-19 Positive
On September 4 of 2020, I received a call at 3:06 in the afternoon.
I was COVID-19 positive. How was that even possible?
Before childbirth, you are required to take a swab test to make sure you, your baby and all your medical attendants are safe from the virus. So on the 31st of August, I was given a request to take the swab test.
It’s not something you want to hear during the pandemic for various reasons. In my case, the hospital expenses go up – I pay for all the personal protective equipment my medical attendants use, I pay for the isolation room my baby and I acquire. My baby and I are also mandated to take another swab test. I pay for the exclusivity of the delivery room and every other room I occupy because I am positive with the virus. It’s the pandemic – everything is expensive to assure the safety of everyone’s health. I had a caesarean delivery and it’s the pandemic – so all the expenses when I gave birth went up.
Luckily, everyone in the household was negative with the virus. It was just me. But, how? I never left the house without my partner, I shared the table with everyone in the house. How was this possible?
What did this mean for me while I was home, crying to the bad news? What do I have to do?
The first thing I did was cry – I needed a clearer mind and better judgment. I couldn’t panic – I had to have faith that my baby was safest in the womb. Doesn’t every baby have their ecosystem in their mothers’ bellies?
I had to focus on my baby and my diet – relaxing and not dwelling on the fact that I’ve contracted the virus would help me through it. Getting plenty of sleep is also the number one factor that would keep me healthy through this phase…
At least, that’s what my doctor said.
Since she wasn’t best for the task, she referred me to another doctor to handle my childbirth, another obstetrician-gynaecologist from the Infectious Department. Before I go further, allow me to brag she’s such an angel in human form!
The new doctor advised me to go into total isolation – own room, own dining utensils, own toiletries. If I had to interact with anyone in the household, I had to minimise talking, just pass-by and always disinfect the toilets and bathrooms we share. I was also prescribed to take vitamins C in the morning and evening along with all the medications I was prescribed before being COVID-19 positive.
It wasn’t easy – I was used to late-night conversations with my partner when our baby would kick nonstop, I still liked helping him cook and do household chores.
Now, he was just a flight of stairs and a door near but he felt so far. I would only leave the room to use the bathroom and wash my dining utensils and I couldn’t even say more than two to three words to him. I cried every night wishing it was over.
I wanted to embrace my partner again. And, soon, I wanted to embrace our little boy, too. I just wanted to get better.
You can’t stay calm and avoid stress when the very people who are keeping you together are the same people you have to avoid. Just a little more time and this will all be over.
Childbirth And Re-testing For COVID-19
A week after being diagnosed with COVID-19, I retook the swab test and underwent a c-section to deliver my baby boy two hours later. That was done all in the same day. While it may have been simple, it wasn’t because I had to wait for the results of the swab test before I could be anywhere near my newborn child.
All I could do was hear my baby’s cries from afar, see his face from afar or from a video call from my partner. It was hard. I would walk past his nursery, watch his movements from inside his hospital bed as he played with my partner – all I could do was watch. It was such a beautiful moment that it hurt to be that near yet so far from the two.
The Darkest Before Dawn Was Over
But then imagine waking up one morning, with all the nurses who were so happy taking care of you is ordering you to go and carry your baby. I couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell me at first, I was even offended for being talked to with stern voices.
I had to sit up sluggishly to properly talk to them because my incisions weren’t going easy on me. And when I looked at all my nurses in front of me, smiling, I understood what they were trying to say.
I didn’t even have the time to ugly cry. I just had this straight face with tears falling one after the other or all at once. I just had to sit up better, get off the hospital bed and walk to my baby’s nursery. It wasn’t easy walking around with stitches in my gut and nerves all over the place with this simple realisation, but I just had to see and hug my baby.
The moment I was just a couple of meters away, I just couldn’t contain my happiness and hold back the tears as I approached my partner and our baby boy.
I have recovered from COVID-19.
I could embrace my partner again. I could hold my baby and sing him to sleep every night. I’ve never felt so blessed in my entire life – to have such great doctors who attended to our case at such short notice, and loving nurses who took care of me and my baby while we were in isolation. I’ve never felt blessed and graced without the love and support of my partner and family while I went through the darkest days of my life.
One thing I realised after going through all these dark days was that you won’t always have sunny days. You won’t always have what you want. You also won’t always be okay. All of that is fine.
Go through the dark days, and have a cup of hot chocolate while you’re at it.
These clouds don’t last, the COVID-19 pandemic won’t last either. Dark days are inevitable to remind you of the best days of your life. The best days of your life won’t always be the sunny ones, too.