I'm Pregnant in a Coronavirus Containment Zone and Here's What My Life Is Like
They say having a baby is much easier the second time around. Whoever said that obviously wasn't pregnant in their third trimester during a global pandemic.
When I heard in the news that there was a coronavirus outbreak happening across the world and making its way here, I hardly paid attention. During this pregnancy, I caught just about everything going around, including a norovirus and an upper respiratory virus that was so bad that I was prescribed an inhaler. I couldn't imagine what could be worse than that.
But now, less than a month until my due date, I am living in what feels like a completely different world because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here I am in a containment zone and there's a chance I may give birth without my husband by my side.
Living in a Containment Zone While Pregnant
In mid-February, as there was talk of the virus showing up here, we coincidentally sold our apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and bought a house just north of the city in New Rochelle to make room for baby number two on the way. My focus during this time was just to survive packing up our lives after living in the city for 15 years, while eight months pregnant with a toddler. Once I got through that, my mission was to find an OB, plus a hospital to give birth in that took my insurance. I thought surely all of this would be the biggest stress I'd have to overcome before giving birth.
After I made it through that, the news hit that some of the first cases of COVID-19 in the country were in my new town and that my home was officially a "containment zone." I received a deluge of calls and texts immediately after, which didn't help the uncertainty and stress of this time. I was living in the epicenter of the outbreak in our country and was starting to regret my decision to move, putting myself and my unborn baby at risk. (Little did we all know, that it was actually the best thing we could have done, having more space at home with a toddler full time during what eventually would be a state-wide lockdown.)
In the meantime, thousands of people were quarantined in our area and the National Guard set up a testing site in our local park. It was both the scariest and safest place to be during this time. Our grocery store and other local businesses were where those that tested positive also shopped. I immediately self-quarantined finding this out, cooking all of our family's meals and turning down trips to the city for shoots and events that I had scheduled.
My husband, a NYC public school teacher, took the same precautions, saying it was in everyone's best interest for him to stay at home until we found out more. An official from the Department of Education (DOE) said he should "just get tested," but without symptoms, that was an impossible task. He continued advocating to stay home, between potentially contracting the virus, spreading the virus during his commute, and of course, infecting his pregnant wife at home.
I wrote the hospital where I was planning on giving birth and asked what were to happen if my husband or I tested positive for the virus and they promptly responded that my husband would not be allowed at the birth and if I had it, my baby would be separated from me for weeks.
The thought of this put me into a tailspin of emotions. My toddler, sensing my fears, asked me every few hours, "Are you happy?" He has been the best distraction through it all, but I've spent much of my time in this quarantine crying. Showers have been my daily escape just to let it all out and soak up some comfort amidst my fears during this time.
The city ultimately shut down the schools and my husband has been able to work from the safety of our basement. Our only outside interactions these days are on social media, FaceTime, and through our window, thanking Instacart and UPS drivers for their service, while still in fear their packages may contain traces of the virus. I continue to shout to my husband to "leave the boxes in the garage" and "wash your hands" every time a delivery shows up.
Possibly Giving Birth Without My Husband
I finally was in a good place after some time at home avoiding the virus with my husband and son. I even came to terms with the realization that I can't have a doula at the birth, my son won't meet the baby right away, and my family probably won't see the baby for months.
Then New York hospital systems made the decision to not allow anyone, including partners, to be present at the birth or after. I wasn't sure how I would do this without my husband by my side if my planned hospital were to make the same call. I honestly think he's the reason my complicated first birth ended up going smoothly. I keep running through my head what it would be like to be alone in the hospital during this time, with understaffed, over-worked medical personnel and limited supplies.
My father claims to have saved my life at my birth because it was a holiday and the hospital was understaffed. He grabbed a doctor at first notice of flatlining on the monitor to help unwrap my umbilical cord from my neck. I keep thinking that if he wasn't there, would I even be here today?
I've received numerous messages from others, to "stay calm" or "just birth at home." With less than a month to go until my baby arrives, these options are way easier said than done. With an influx of moms-to-be in the same position, there aren't midwives or birthing centers available at this point.
I keep joking that my husband may have to YouTube "How To Deliver A Baby" like he does for fixing things around the house. A part of me isn't joking, and I fear that there will be more deaths and complications as a result of this decision.
I'm trying to remain hopeful that my hospital will still allow my husband to be present at the birth and that I'll have a healthy baby either way. I should feel lucky to have the access to the medical care we have, but it's been difficult to have the confidence in that during this time.
Liz Teich is a New York-based fashion stylist, lifestyle blogger, on-air style expert, and mom of a toddler (and one on the way). Her blog, The New York Stylist, covers affordable wardrobe ideas, advice on motherhood, cool things to do in NYC, fitness after baby, home decor trends, and a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry. She also has a personal styling business where she helps moms find a style to fit with their busy lives.