How it feels to be pregnant during the coronavirus pandemic

I found out I was pregnant on 29 February, about three weeks before lockdown. I’ve thought a lot about how it feels to be pregnant during the coronavirus pandemic and I wanted to share my thoughts. In part, this is an activity for me – as much as it is for you. I have a daily diary I’ve been documenting the basics in but being pregnant with your first child during a national crisis deserves a bit more airtime, in my opinion.

I’m thankful we told our families early. I feel like this pandemic has robbed me of a lot of things, but it didn’t stop us from being physically present to tell our families.

When you tell your family and friends is a real personal choice and we decided to tell the people we’d want there for us if something went wrong quite early on. I’m grateful we made that call otherwise it would’ve been another milestone we had to endure via FaceTime.

The first trimester

I didn’t get sick in the way I expected I’d get sick. In fact, sometimes I wondered if there was something wrong in the absence of sickness. It’s funny how pregnancy can make you crave symptoms you’d usually be hellbent on avoiding.

I was tired, though. The way I can describe my tiredness was like I’d just got off of a 13 hour flight and hadn’t slept. It felt like jet lag and on more than one occasion I fell asleep on my keyboard.

In some ways, being at home during this time was nice. I didn’t have to travel into London, get on the tube or worry about hiding my pregnancy at social gatherings.

I didn’t take on as much work because I knew I couldn’t last the day without a nap. I’d usually wake up at 7.30am, have breakfast and then go back to sleep for an hour (I have no idea why). Then, I’d have an hour nap at 11am or 1pm (depending on work) and be in bed asleep by 9pm at the latest.

I couldn’t have achieved this if everything was “normal”. I slipped into a pregnancy routine almost immediately and when I diverted from it for whatever reason, I could feel my body shouting at me to slow down. At the best of times I was travelling at a glacial pace, so by “slow down” what it really meant was “stop”.

I often wonder if the lockdown helped my body during the first trimester. Would I have been even sleepier? Would I have felt sick without the opportunity to eat every five minutes? It’s hard to say but I like to think that it did help because I like to think these things happen for a reason.

Although little glimmers of enjoyment permeated my first trimester, there were some glaringly obvious negatives from the offset.

The first was the lack of face-to-face time with any sort of medical professional. I had my booking appointment over the phone, my first midwife call over the phone. My doctor had no idea what the protocol was for pregnant women (I was one of the first at my GP surgery during lockdown and it was yet to be decided) and I felt like (and still do feel like) I’ve been shoved from one person to another.

Of course, this isn’t anybody’s fault. Like we’ve heard many times before, this situation is unprecedented and it’d be wrong of anyone to expect anyone to just know what to do amid a global pandemic.

I was meant to meet my midwife between 8-10 weeks. I should’ve had some initial blood tests done and my blood pressure taken. That couldn’t happen. I’m still yet to meet my midwife, and that feels really weird to me.

Being pregnant for the first time is only going to happen once but a large part of that “special” time has been taken away because coronavirus trumps everything.

It’s hard to say whether I would replace that feeling of relaxation in the first trimester with the feeling of security that having a midwife and doctors more readily available to you gives. Without ever having the latter it’s hard to know how much it would’ve impacted me. I still have questions that I find myself asking my friends and family because I don’t really know who else to ask. Being at home, though, has certainly helped me to listen to what my body needs rather than what my clients/social life needs.

The 12 week scan

I’ve had a lot of questions about my 12-week scan. James wasn’t allowed to come with me – which we took in our stride, but is still a strange experience. We were well prepared for the fact he couldn’t come with a letter we received from the hospital about a month prior.

I felt a bit low on the day we received that letter because it was further proof that this lockdown wasn’t going anywhere.

It can be hard to manage your heightened emotions due to being pregnant and your emotions because of the coronavirus. I do feel proud of myself for how I’ve dealt with it. I’ve felt completely calm throughout and whenever I have felt a bit like I want to scream into a pillow, a nap tends to sort out those feelings.

I went to the scan alone and I saw a lot of women crying. Part of me felt devoid of feelings because I wasn’t crying into my face mask. Being in your first trimester is hard enough, but the emotion associated with being in a hospital during a pandemic – alone – was a lot.

I loved the scan so much. All the worries about people around you wearing face masks and everybody slightly on edge just drift out the window when you can see your baby moving on the screen. It’s really amazing and it’s something that James needs to see. We’ve already been told he can’t come to our 20-week scan – in mid-June – so we’ve found a private clinic that will allow James to come too.

The second trimester

The second trimester is a lot easier – mentally and physically – than the first. Although, I did have a breakdown because we didn’t have Special K the other day. In any other case one of us would just pop to the shops, but now you have to weigh up the risks associated with that and even in my Special K lacking misery, I knew that there was no point in going to the hassle (at 9pm) of going to the shops.

Now, though, we’re beginning to enter a new phase. We can’t go shopping to test buggies, we have signed up to NCT without knowing whether we are going to have to do that virtually or not. The same goes for hypnobirthing.

I have virtual fatigue, I really don’t think I can add another virtual event into my calendar.

On the flip side, it’s still nice to be at home. Our weekends being free means that we have got a kick start on sorting the house and will begin to move stuff out of the baby’s room in the next few weeks. It’s unlikely that would’ve been the case if everything were back to normal.

Another plus is virtual yoga. Not having to go anywhere to do it is a nice treat. I can just flop from the sofa to the yoga mat and be ready for the class.

Mental health

I have an endless amount of respect for any couple who are going through a pregnancy during the coronavirus.

It’s a time of contradictions. One day I’m happy to be able to spend the day lounging in the garden, the next I crave normality or get frustrated that I don’t think I’ve had my blood pressure taken enough. I’m tempted to buy a blood pressure machine, but that’s a separate issue.

It’s not just pregnancy to consider, either. There are people who have dealt with a whole cycle of pregnancy loss throughout this without the help of their friends and family. Miscarriage affects a lot of people and I’ve read some very interesting articles about miscarrying during the coronavirus. It’s an incredibly difficult time regardless, without adding a global emergency into the mix.

Women haven’t had access to the usual miscarriage procedures because the hospitals are too busy meaning the “at home” option of medication is the only option. These stories go widely unreported because a lot of women don’t want to broadcast this to the world, but they are happening and it is really rubbish. 

Don’t let anybody tell you that people have it worse than you when you feel like you’re having a really crappy day because of everything that’s going on. That is a valid piece of advice whether you’re pregnant or not.

I tell myself every day that I shouldn’t feel frustrated by the situation because people have it worse than me, but my frustration (and anybody else’s frustrations) are entirely valid.

I think that marks a good place to end this blog post. If you’re pregnant at the moment I have so much respect for you. In fact, I have respect for everybody managing this, it’s not easy.

My wish for the next few months is that things start to ease up, so perhaps if you’re in your first trimester still, you’ll have the opportunity to take your partner to your scans.

Also, one last piece of advice – be on it with your midwife and hospital. Don’t assume they have a hold on what’s going on right now because they are super busy. Chase if you feel like you’re not getting the care you should have, make sure you’re getting all your appointments and don’t be afraid to keep calling.

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