This is one woman’s story of pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Toni Davis is a writer, actor, dancer, and yoga instructor who lives in Virginia. She’s the mom of a nine-year-old son and five stepchildren, ages 13 to 24 years. She and her husband are expecting their first baby together in early August.
Her pregnancy experience pre-pandemic
Being 43 years old and pregnant was the first notable part of this pregnancy for Toni. She told her husband, “I’m 43 and the clock is ticking—let’s explore our options,” but she felt if it were meant to be [pregnancy] would happen—and it did!
When was COVID-19 on your radar?
Toni and her husband had a cruise planned for March 13 and everything was in place including babysitting, the kennel for the dog, and everything else. They’d also planned a family vacation for early April. They realized a few weeks before the trip that their plans might be delayed due to COVID travel restrictions. In early March, Toni‘s husband and her doula accompanied her to a prenatal visit. “We were met at the door and informed that the next time you come, you can’t bring a visitor”.
When did COVID-19 get real?
“COVID got real for me when they told me my husband couldn’t be with me at my birth,” says Toni. At that point, they canceled their cruise and family vacation and started watching the news.
Tell me more about how you felt when told you might not be able to have your husband at your birth?
Toni first thought, “Hopefully by August we’ll be done with this—hopefully, it will all clear up.” Toni’s husband is a first responder and very aware of the implications of the pandemic. Toni describes herself as a “truth seeker”. She looked at the data and decided that hospitals may continue to restrict visitors through the summer. When her obstetrician told her that due to her age an induction of labor might be recommended at 39 weeks (end of July for Toni) she felt even more concerned the COVID visitor restrictions would affect her labor and birth.
Have you discussed how to involve your husband virtually?
Toni realized that she didn’t want to be in the hospital by herself. She sees her baby as “the glue for her newly-blended family”. “This baby is a gift for the whole family”, said Toni, so she asked her doula to recommend a midwife who would attend a home birth. Toni says her first birth was uneventful. When she went to the hospital she had a plan, and was in charge, so she feels very comfortable with her decision to plan a home birth. Toni chose the obstetrician she’d been seeing because she respects how she practices. She plans to tell her doctor about her planned home birth and is not afraid to have the conversation. And she plans to continue prenatal visits with her doctor as well as establish care with the midwives because she doesn’t want to “burn any bridges”.
What worries do you have about your pregnancy and your baby?
Toni is worried about pregnant women’s risk during COVID-19. “We’re discovering, minute to minute, details about the virus” and this has made her focus on her health. Now she sends her husband to the grocery store. “I feel more vulnerable than I’ve felt for a while and now I have to slow down and think of myself. I’m not used to feeling this vulnerable.”
How are you decreasing anxiety and handling the stress of pregnancy during the pandemic?
Family support is huge for Toni as far as decreasing her stress. “My husband is supreme in helping me make it through all of this”, says Toni. “He’s as willing to protect me as he is to protect himself.”
Yoga, mantras, breathing techniques, and centering her mind are helping Toni. “When I find myself at my wit’s end I sit and stop, I take account of what’s important; I find my voice within myself.”
What advice do you have for other pregnant women?
“Go inside yourself; go inside your soul”, Toni advises. “Recognize simple things, look at what and who is important and pull the people [in your life] close to you, and really recognize who they are.” Toni feels that with COVID-19, “our universe is teaching us to stop and look at the bigger picture of our survival”.
“I’ve been blessed with a beautiful family and I’m going to sit down, be quiet and listen, and be careful.”
Planning for your labor, birth, and postpartum weeks can be challenging because of the changes COVID-19 has brought to health care and health care settings. Your pregnancy care provider is a great source of information about what to expect in the setting where you plan to give birth. Keep in mind that hospital birth units and birth centers will modify policies about birth companions and care practices as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. The goal is to promote health and safety of all, both those receiving and giving care.