I haven’t talked about it much, but I’m pregnant and due with my second baby in November.
I’ve been quieter about this pregnancy for several reasons. For starters, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Not that you need reminding. I understand the sentiment that good news is something to be celebrated, particularly in times of crisis. But frankly, it feels uncomfortable to share something happy (and personally exciting) when so many people are struggling with massive challenges – COVID related illness themselves or sick relatives, unemployment, canceled fertility treatments, economic stress, and of course the day to day struggle of working and parenting.
Then, of course, there’s the judgement. Several of the people I’ve told have responded with “Right now? Was it a mistake?” Pregnant women always face judgement and scrutiny (try ordering a coffee when you’re visibly pregnant and wait for the disapproving looks; you don’t want to know what happens if you decide to eat sushi), but it seems to be amplified now. Deciding when to have a baby is, like all things pregnancy related, a decision for that individual or couple and their doctor. Not for the rest of us.
Work is another big factor. There is not a working woman in this country who hasn’t worried about how pregnancy will impact her career. My job is supporting working parents, and I still stress about the backlash and doubt pregnancy creates (I know it’s real, I experienced it last time). Imagine in other fields.
And finally, it does feel weird to be pregnant right now. There’s very palpable stress, anxiety and fear – not to mention all the unknowns ahead. It’s strange and a bit unnerving, but here we are.
If you’re also pregnant right now, congratulations! And, wow. Let’s figure this out together. Pregnant women are currently being asked to forgo many of the medical and social support structures we are used to, and it’s changed everything. We have limited support as we stay isolated at home, and it means many of us are keeping our news private even longer. That’s potentially bad for a few reasons, including the fact that employers cannot be expected to properly support working moms without fully understanding the impact of pregnancy – doctor appointments, exhaustion, and nausea, to name a few. If we’re headed out for “dentist” appointments and hiding first trimester struggles, they’ll never know what we’re experiencing. Importantly, it also means women aren’t getting emotional support from friends and family during this exciting but taxing time. On the plus side, morning sickness at home is a lot easier to deal with than at a cubicle.
Even my OBGYN’s office is different. Much to my surprise, I miss the full waiting room. Last time around I always ended up in the waiting room with the same people and there was something comforting and communal in watching us progress through our pregnancies together. I miss the more regular sonograms and check-ups and knowing that everything is all good (not entirely though, it’s also nice not having to carve out time for as many doctor visits). I miss having my husband in the appointments with me. Last time he fainted on our very first visit – he was not ready to hear that heartbeat! This time, I chuckled about that memory to myself as I laid there alone with the technician listening to the heartbeat by myself.
I’m not a very anxious person, but like everyone, I worry. I worry what will happen if I get COVID19 and pass it to my baby? What happens if I get it and we have to be separated for 2 weeks at birth? Will my parents be able to come? When might they meet their grandchild? What will the world look like in November? If this baby ends up needing a NICU stay too, how do we deal with going back and forth to the hospital (where we’re exposed) and coming home to our other baby who will only be 15 months at that time? There are so many more unknowns this time, and that’s exhausting. And I’m incredibly lucky. So far my pregnancy has been normal and easy. I have some idea what to expect. And most importantly, I am not worried about losing my health insurance (a dire situation for the many women who are now unemployed, or may become so, and lost their employer sponsored healthcare at this critical time).
One thing that hasn’t changed? My desire to talk to other parents. Last time around it was nice. This time it’s essential. We’re trying to process and understand a new pregnancy journey in a changed and still changing world. Connecting with other parents is a lifeline. On top of the changes to pregnancy, working parents are attempting to navigate a changed workplace at the same time. How do you prepare for leave if you’re still home? Do you even take leave if everyone is working from home and/or will people expect you to be working? What does it mean to “go back” if you’re not actually going anywhere?
These are new challenges for all of us, and most don’t have answers yet. Last time I had a few friends who were having kids at the same time and we would chat occasionally. This time, that’s not enough. We need communities, coaches and small group support specifically built for new and expecting working parents and the unique challenges we face. I couldn’t find that, so we built it at Kunik. We’ve recently launched Kunik Crews to support new and expecting working parents. If that’s you, we’d love to have you join us.
No matter what your experience has been and your journey looks like, I hope you’re getting support and help. We might be shelering at home, we might be isolated, we might be using telemedicine and the entire experience of pregnancy might be different than we had planned for, but we’re not in this alone. It’s even more critical right now that we recognize and act on that. Reach out to expecting and new parents, offer what help you can remotely. This is hard, we know that. The question is how we’re going to make it work together.