A VERY PANDEMIC PREGNANCY
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Before I share my baby journey I want to start with a few disclaimers. First, I love my son and he is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Secondly, I have been extremely fortunate. Do not confuse my honesty as ungrateful or boastful. Lastly, if you are easily offended and feel the need to “mom shame” me please close your internet tab now. This editorial is going to be sincere, transparent, genuine, and raw. - X0 Amanda
Everyone’s journey in life is different and deciding to have a child is no exception. My husband and I have been together since high school. We are not the sappy romantic couple, but I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else. Our relationship for the past 16 years has evolved as we have gotten older. We grew together but were never really on the same page when it came to having children. In my 20’s I was unsure if I wanted kids and in his 30’s he was skeptical of the idea. During all our years together, we never had a pregnancy scare so it never seemed like a reality for us. Time past and we just kept enjoying life together.
After 6 years of being engaged we finally set a wedding date. I decided to stop taking birth control about 9 months prior to the wedding. The sad reality is many of my friends struggled with fertility and I did not know what our journey would look life if we decided to have children. I felt like that was the appropriate first step and began tracking my menstrual cycle. My OBGYN also recommended having my bloodwork done to test my hormone levels. All my results came back “normal” and after the wedding we decided “whatever happens, happens”.
I got pregnant on our honeymoon within a few short weeks after our wedding. To say we were shocked was an understatement. I honestly did not know how to process the information and did not tell my husband for several weeks after I took a pregnancy test. I did not tell anyone. He eventually called me out for my avoidance of drinking and sushi. Nothing about pregnancy and childbirth was appealing to me. To say I was petrified of both is an understatement.
My pregnancy was textbook. I was nauseous the first trimester, but never got sick. I felt good the second trimester and my hair, skin, and nails never looked better. I was uncomfortable the third trimester, but never got swollen. Except for some spotting each trimester, an aversion to vegetables, and plantar fasciitis in one foot, which my doctor ensured me was normal, my pregnancy went smooth.
I am extremely fortunate and grateful for such a positive experience, but I never fully embraced my pregnancy. I knew I would not be the type of person who enjoyed being pregnant. Pregnancy was something I had to constantly remind myself would be worth the outcome. The changes I experienced, although textbook, were not pleasant. As an athletic person who genuinely enjoyed working out, I disliked being out of breath from walking up a flight of stairs. I had a bout of sciatic nerve pain and could barely walk. Gaining weight and seeing my body change so drastically was mentally challenging for me. I hated not having control over my body. I had to pee constantly and missed food (and drink) freedom. I was a pescatarian who couldn’t stand vegetables and had to limit my fish consumption.
Despite these unpleasantries I tried not to complain. I knew people struggled far greater than I did. I constantly reminded myself how privileged I was to have gotten pregnant so quickly, how fortunate I was to be carrying a healthy child, and for feeling as good as I could under the circumstances. I know people are going to read this and think I am an ungrateful bitch, but this is my truth. I do not judge women who embraced and enjoyed their pregnancy. In fact, I envy them. Societal norms made me feel guilty and I strongly believe we should respect everyone’s experience no matter how different it is from our own. Just because I did not enjoy pregnancy and childbirth does not make me a bad person or mother.
As I approached the third trimester the reality of COVID began to sink in. It wasn’t going away and I was going to have my (first) child during a global pandemic. The state of Illinois went to a shelter in place the week before my baby shower. Since there was no end in sight for this mysterious virus, we canceled the event. Although it was disappointing to have to cancel it was the least of my concerns. Hospital protocols were rapidly changing. Some hospitals were not allowing a partner with you at appointments or during delivery. My hospital went from allowing labor induction at 39 weeks to 41 weeks. There were no visitors allowed at the hospital. COVID testing became mandatory prior to delivery. Everything that was once easy became a challenge, but I remained as calm and positive as possible. I knew this was all out of my control. Stressing would not change the outcome.
As previously mentioned, I was petrified of childbirth. Everyone says that once you get to the end of your pregnancy you cannot wait to go into labor since you are so uncomfortable. I did not care how uncomfortable I was, I would never be ready! For years I had said I would prefer to schedule a c-section. The unknown can be so scary and intimidating. The pandemic added to my anxiety about childbirth. So much was out of my control that I wanted to find something I could manage. I had heard all these horror stories about labor and two of my good friends had nightmare stories only a few months prior to my due date. I really advocated for myself and expressed my concerns with my doctor. I refused to experience the pain of a vaginal birth and the recovery of c-section. It was one or the other! Not both.
My husband and I isolated and social distanced until I went into labor. At 39 weeks I was scheduled to go in for my final appointment and get a membrane sweep to hopefully kickstart labor. A few hours before my appointment the office called to cancel since my doctor was called in for a labor. I only cried a handful of times during my pregnancy and this was one of those times. My fear of childbirth and going past my due date was unbearable at this point.
Three days later, the day my appointment was rescheduled for, I went into labor with no warning signs. I never had a Braxton Hicks contraction. I did not lose my mucus plug. My water never broke. I was never dilated at my checkups. My gynecologist said I was having contractions at my appointments, but I never felt them. My labor came out of nowhere. I was in such surprise and doubt that I labored at home for far too long.
Around 2am on May 18 I went to bed with some minor discomfort. I thought maybe it was something I ate or the start of Braxton Hicks contractions since I was due in three days. At 5am I woke from the pain and intensity. I told my husband I thought I was having contractions and started timing them. The stupid app I downloaded to track them kept varying from “call your doctor” to “go to the hospital immediately”. I had no idea what to do since I had no experience and decided to just call my doctor. He moved my appointment from 1pm to 9am and said to “labor at home as long as possible”. I did not want to be the person who went into the hospital and was sent home. I did not think I had a high pain tolerance and at the time the contractions were manageable. Sleep was futile so I tried to past the time and distract myself from the pain by taking a shower and blow drying my hair. If I were in labor at least my hair would look good. My husband kept brushing me off since I was managing so well. He even left me home alone for an hour to finish up some work. Looking back, I cannot believe I let him leave! I was just so calm and convinced I was not in labor. I kept telling myself to just breath and watch the clock. I would be going to the doctor soon and he could tell me what was going on. When my husband came home from work, he found me trying to manage the pain with a bath. Eventually, while contorted in some weird yoga pose, I said it was time to go. We grabbed our bags and headed to the hospital. As we drove to the hospital I was in an insane amount of pain and regretting my decision to labor at home for so long. Luckily the hospital is only five minutes from our condo.
The hospital provided a wheelchair to my doctor’s office because the contractions were so close together it was challenging to walk. When the doctor checked I was already 5 centimeters dilated and in full-blown labor! The nurse and receptionist helped me back into the wheelchair so I could be admitted. All I could think about was how I labored at home too long. I kept thinking I was so stupid and most people had an epidural at this point. For what felt like forever I was wheeled to labor and delivery. The major issue when going into labor during a global pandemic was they separated me from my husband so I could get a COVID test. I labored alone in a room for forty minutes while I waited for my test results. The contractions were not manageable at this point and seconds felt like hours. When my test results came back negative they transferred me to a room. The walk from the testing room to the delivery room was when I lost all my remaining dignity. For some odd reason they had me walk unaided. I was clutching onto the walls as my hospital gown kept falling off. The pain was so severe I did not care.
My husband was still not permitted to see me until my blood work was complete and my epidural was in. Getting an IV and taking blood from me is a nightmare under normal circumstances. I have rolling veins that give everyone trouble. After being poked multiple times and having blood pouring down my arm, they made me wait to get blood work results before giving me the epidural. Getting an epidural when you are having contractions is extremely scary. I could not stay still for very long as the contractions were so close together now. I am not ashamed to say I was screaming and swearing during all this. The pain was all consuming. Once the epidural was administered and working properly, I was finally reunited with my husband. He was in a fantastic mood as he was just sitting in a waiting room for the past 2 hours while I went through hell. Alone. The epidural was a game changer. I anticipated it would be more painful when it was administered, but it was a godsent. I do not know how people have a baby without one.
I finally felt at peace and remember my husband asking the nurses how long it would be. Her response was “hopefully by the end of my shift and I just got here”. My doctor came to check on me 15 minutes after I had the epidural and informed us that I was 10 centimeters dilated. IT WAS TIME TO START PUSHING. I do not know how I had any strength left in me, but I refused to drag this pushing process out. I am not a competitive person by nature. It was like I was in a competition with myself. I knew there was no other option so why prolong the inevitable?
I am forever grateful to the nurses that were on duty during my delivery. They were wonderful. My doctor was wonderful. And the biggest shock of all was my husband was AMAZING. I would have bet everything he would have passed out or had to leave the room, but he really stepped up. Our doctor knew we wanted him to stay away from “the action” and he was NOT cutting the umbilical cord. He counted and cheered me on while I pushed. He stayed with me and got me through one of the most physically exhausting things I will ever do. Even though I had an epidural I could still feel pressure and was very knowledgeable of what was happening during the process. I do not know if it was the adrenaline or fear, but I pushed for less than 15 minutes. Edward Santino Paloian (Sonny) was born at 12:52pm weighing in at 7 lbs 1 oz and 21.5 inches and the most beautiful blue eyes.
Everyone said my labor and delivery was “ideal”. Luckily, I only needed one stitch for a minor tear and since I had an epidural for less than 30 minutes I had no adverse side effects or swelling. I will never forget the second I was no longer pregnant how much better I felt. It was like the past 9 months never happened. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulder. I really felt good despite how physically challenging labor was. Looking back, I am grateful for my delivery experience, even though it was painful. I am eternally grateful that I was able to get an epidural in time. Laboring at home was difficult, but it allowed for a quicker delivery. My husband was and still is in awe of how strong I am. I am secretly proud of myself too.
I would not change my experience for anything in the world. All the time I spent worrying and being anxious could never have prepared me. Nothing in my life will ever compare to the outcome, a son that brings us so much happiness and joy. We could not imagine our lives without him.
Writing this brings back so many memories. I honestly do not know how I survived. How did I get so lucky? Despite that luck and the “positive” experience, I do not think I would ever go through it again. I am in awe of what my body did. I keep thinking how insane pregnancy is. How my life will never be the same now that I am a mother. How I would find strength and determination I never knew I had. I have so much admiration for every women’s pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience. No two are the same, but they are all extraordinary.