One Woman’s Story of Being Pregnant and Working from Home During the Pandemic
Pregnant women fortunate to work during the pandemic face specific challenges. Ms. Ashley Souza Gerb is remotely working. This is Ashley’s first pregnancy and her due date is mid-June. Ashley openly shared that the situation with COVID-19 is scary and makes her nervous.
What makes you most anxious during this time of COVID-19?
Ashley: “I’m very concerned that my husband might get exposed to the virus because he’s doing all the shopping and is out of the house. I’m staying in so my exposure is very limited. We’re being very careful when he returns from his trips to the store to clean everything including wiping down the grocery bags. We also have decided not to order any take-out food because of the potential of viral exposure on surfaces.”
Can you describe one or two unanticipated challenges that you’ve encountered during these last few weeks?
Ashley: “We’re struggling to find and purchase basic baby items online such as diapers, wipes, a thermometer, bottles, etc. If we find the item we notice that the prices are higher than normal. This is a worry to us given that we are unsure of the ongoing financial strain and if these items eventually will be available and/or if the price will return to normal in the next few months. It’s hard to know.”
“My husband and I are also very concerned because we have very little support in this area. We planned on extended family coming to participate in the birth and to help after we come home but given the restrictions on travel this may not be possible. This is not what we planned.”
You’re now working remotely from home. What strategies do you find helpful that others may also find helpful?
Ashley: “I have a routine every day. My husband and I take frequent walks; we watch movies and play board games. We even put a 1000 piece puzzle together. I’m using Face Time to stay connected with my friends and family. I know others who aren’t first time moms and have children probably have different challenges. I stay positive and try to take all the precautions to minimalize my exposure.”
Here are six tips for taking care of yourself during the pandemic.
We’re living through a time of great uncertainty with COVID-19. Being pregnant at this time may make you feel alternately stressed, anxious, helpless, or hopeless. Stay in touch with your pregnancy care provider so they can answer questions and address your concerns. Some of your prenatal visits may be by videoconference or on the phone so you can avoid exposures at your provider’s office. Social distancing can be hard to follow but reduces your chance of exposure to the virus.
#1. Manage your expectations
Don’t underestimate the pandemic’s impact or emotional toll. Adapting to so many disruptions in our daily lives takes time. Go easy on yourself. Set realistic goals for yourself and your family as you settle into new rhythms of daily life and your pregnancy progresses. Look for alternatives when plans you’ve made aren’t workable options. For example, consider asking the friend who wants to throw you a baby shower to plan a virtual event.
#2. Proactively manage your stress
Prioritizing sleep can help you feel emotionally balanced. Set regular times to go to sleep and wake up. Keep healthy treats on hand for you and baby. Stress goes hand-in-hand with wanting to indulge. Stay active. Exercise is proven to lower stress levels, regulate emotions and improve sleep.
#3. Know your red flags
Manage stressful moments by identifying the key thoughts and physical sensations that contribute to a cycle of feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Frustration, worry, sadness, physical sensations (tension, upset stomach, jitters) and actions (such as compulsively checking the latest COVID statistics) each feed into and intensify these negative emotional spirals. If you start this cycle try relaxation breathing. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, then repeat. This can de-escalate the cycle and help you regain control and feel better. You also may want to listen to relaxing music and lay down, breathing deeply, and slowly tense up a set of muscles and then relax, working from toes to face.
#4. Set a routine
Setting a routine may help you manage anxiety and adapt more quickly to the current reality. Create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your head-space. Find something to do that isn’t work-related that brings you joy. If you’re working, and it’s possible, work in short bursts with scheduled breaks to keep your thoughts clear.
#5. Maintain connections
Reach out to those who can provide you support. Tell your partner, family and friends how you’re feeling. Even the most introverted among us need a sense of connection to others for our mental as well as our physical health. Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Many groups have created virtual forums where you can contribute or just sit back and enjoy the chatter. We may be socially isolated, but we need not feel alone.
#6. Manage uncertainty by staying in the present
Take each day as it comes and focus on the things you can control. Be positive. Meditation and mindfulness can help. Be intentional about looking after your emotional health and wellbeing.