Well, our little Isla is just over 9 months old, which means it’s also been more than that long since I most recently published here. And, I don’t where to start.
The quick update: Isla is healthy and happy. She’s developed such a fun, happy and inquisitive personality over the course of the last few months. It’s been the joy of our lives to witness her daily changes and curiosities.
The longer update: when I started this blog 12 months ago, around the same time, I looked over at my husband and (half jokingly) asked, “Wouldn’t it be wild if we were still doing this (quarantine) until my due date?!”
I couldn’t have fathomed that we’d be doing “this” well past my maternity leave for work, and likely Isla’s first full year. I couldn’t have imagined, when I started a blog to simply capture my experience or the last trimester of pregnancy during a global pandemic, that entire pregnancies — from conception well through birth — would fit in that same pandemic.
Yet, here we are.
I’ll plan to share more updates on what the last several months of our lives and parenthood have been like. And also, the very happy news that Dan and I are now both fully vaccinated – a glimmer a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Well, here we are. I’ll start by saying that I’m disappointed in the direction the coronavirus pandemic is headed in the U.S. As a staunch “rule follower,” I can’t help but wonder if we would be in a better place today if we could have tolerated lockdown for even a handful of more weeks.
While there is still some uncertainty related to coronavirus and pregnancy, I wanted to share a few resources that have been published in the last few weeks. Now that our daughter is here, my husband and I are having real-time conversations with our parents, family and friends about if and how they’re safely able to meet her. Those articles (below) have helped us address some of our concerns, and I’m also happy to see that more research is being done on how the two conditions relate.
Before I dive into that, though, I thought it was worth sharing this article published a few months ago by For the Church, and the importance of extending grace — Navigating Different COVID-19 Recovery Convictions. In the past weeks, I’ve seen disagreements among friends and family alike about what is “safe”; who feels “comfortable”; who we “trust.” The only thing that has become clear is that there is no clear, one-size-fits-all answer. While this is not research or evidence-based, it’s human.
From For the Church’s editor, Charles Smith, who back in April wrote, “Prediction: one of the most challenging aspects of the #COVID19 recovery will be disagreements over acceptable post-COVID social norms between friends & family. Hurt feelings will abound if we’re not careful. Extend lots of grace. Everyone is different.”
Three months ago, I can’t imagine Smith knew how spot-on his prophecy would be. That said, principles from article still hold true when it comes to empathy and understanding approaches other than our own:
1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life. It keeps me hopeful about the future and enables me to embrace uncertainty as opportunity.
2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life. It keeps me sensitive to the needs and concerns of others and enables me to make prudent decisions.
3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective. Pride demands that everyone do things the way we demand. Read 1 Corinthians 12 and celebrate different gifts.
4. People matter more than my opinion. Being in healthy relationships with people is a privilege that requires me to love others above myself. When I am highly opinionated, I can needlessly hurt others.
In the end, these attitudes prepare our hearts and minds to do one thing above all else: choose love. Preserving valuable relationships and developing healthy teams, churches, and families is more important than winning arguments, or being (more) right.
Coronavirus and Pregnancy-Related Resources
Centers for Disease Control, If You Are Pregnant, Breastfeeding, or Caring for Young Children — the CDC updated its guidelines to include pregnant and nursing mothers in the “high risk” category for COVID-19. I was personally surprised this took so long; published the day our daughter was born, our county had categorized pregnant women as higher risk back in March. Better late than never, I suppose.
Mayo Clinic, COVID-19 in Babies and Children — the Mayo Clinic published its first report on the virus and newborns earlier this month. It is now statistically confirmed that not only can newborns contract the virus, but that they are also at higher risk of severe illness, if contracted.
The New York Times, When Can Grandparents Meet the Newborn? — by far one of the most comprehensive (and cautious) guides. We’ve been following this as closely as possible, including our two week quarantine immediately following our hospital dismissal. That said, some of the recommendations here, such as a two week quarantine for visiting grandparents upon arrival are just not logistically possible for our family. We’ll try to integrate best practices where possible, though, such as spending time outside, not dining indoors, etc.
A few weeks ago, at a routine prenatal appointment, an ultrasound technician uttered those dreaded words: “your baby is breech.”
What?! Just a few weeks prior, the same technician had confirmed that baby was “head down and ready to go.”
I knew that a breech position wasn’t ideal, but I didn’t know that it would significantly impact my pregnancy and more so, labor and delivery. In fact, I had kind of skimmed the chapter on breech positioning in one of my favorite pregnancy books, Mama Natural. After the ultrasound, my midwife recommended I check out SpinningBabies.com, which has a bunch of exercises and stretches to encourage a baby to “flip.” Both she and the ultrasound technician also assured me that I had “plenty of time” for baby to move to a more optimal, head down position.
A week later, baby was still breech, and I discussed with my OB what options I might have for delivery. The short answer: no options. A breech baby means a scheduled cesarean section. No chance of spontaneous labor leading up to the c-section, either — in the event something was wrong with the umbilical cord, they would erase those risks altogether.
What ensued for the next several days is what I can only describe as an onset of a growing mother’s instinct and my desperate plea/determination to “encourage” baby to turn.
By my 37 week appointment, baby had turned! I let out an elated “woo!”
Despite friends and family who assured me that “I would just know” or that I would “definitely” feel baby “flipping,” the truth is I have no idea when he or she turned, nor which (if any) of the methods I tried worked. Maybe baby decided to turn on its own; maybe it was a combination of a little of each of the following methods. That’s perhaps besides the point, though, and I thought I’d share about my experience with the various methods I did try:
Acupuncture: this came recommended via our doula and perhaps one of the strangest techniques I tried. I’d been wanting to try acupuncture for some time, and while facilities were closed for coronavirus restrictions, offices reopened just as I had the perfect excuse (breech) to make my first appointment.
There’s a specific acupuncture point in the side of both pinky toes, which an acupuncturist will needle, then burn moxibustion incense around both needles. The mix of smoke, heat and acupuncture points stimulate the uterus, and sure enough, baby is moving in minutes! I later read that this is best for a baby that is 30-34 weeks (I was 35-36 weeks when I tried this), but nevertheless, I still felt tons of movement and found the overall process super relaxing.
I liked this so much, in fact, that I convinced Dan to let us burn moxibustion at home, between acupuncture appointments, and am continuing on with regular prenatal acupuncture appointments up until labor.
Chiropractor: like acupuncture, in B.C. (Before Coronavirus) times, I was hoping to start regular chiropractic appointments at the beginning of my third trimester. And, well, that didn’t happen because of restrictions. Fortunately, though, they reopened right in time.
While I received many recommendations from friends for local chiropractors, our doula strongly encouraged me to find someone who specializes in Webster technique. Webster technique and certification essentially means that the practitioner specializes in prenatal, pregnancy, postnatal and child care, including adjustments that prepare both mom and baby for labor — and, you guessed it — baby’s positioning. Luckily enough, I found Trailhead Chiropractors in nearby Glenwood Springs. I made regular appointments and have been enjoying better posture and overall improved spinal health in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Hypnosis: a toss up between this and acupuncture as my favorite “method.” Hypnobabies sells an downloadable MP3 hypnosis/meditation where in the mom-to-be relaxes and talks to her baby about turning, if it is the right thing to do for the baby. I listened to this 40-minute track for about two times a day over the course of a few days, including when Dan burned the moxibustion near the acupuncture point on my toes. I’d also listen to it at night, and it often put me to sleep. It helped me relax and connect with baby.
Spinning Babies Stretches: ask any friend or midwife if she has recommendations on “turning” a breech baby, and she will, without a doubt, mention this resourceful website. It’s centered around optimal positioning for mom and baby throughout pregnancy, but it also has some very specific techniques for a breech baby.
The two exercises I practiced most were Forward Leaning Inversion and Breech Tilt. Inversion is somewhat similar to Downward Dog in yoga; I did this exercise anywhere from 7-14 times a day, holding the pose for about 30-45 seconds, for six days. Breech Tilt was more intense and difficult for me, personally — it’s essentially a supported Bridge pose from yoga, held for 10-15 minutes. I did this three times a day, also for six days, immediately after an Inversion stretch.
I tried to do both exercises when baby was awake or moving around more than normal. A baby in motion stays in motion!
Essential Oils: this was a random Internet find. Apparently, the combination of a few drops of Peppermint and Frankincense has a “cooling” effect (similar to the frozen peas below), and when placed on top of the belly (near baby’s head), baby shies away and yes — in some cases, will be moved to head down. I noticed baby moving around A LOT 4-5 minutes after I did this, and I sometimes combined this with Breech Tilt.
Frozen Peas: not rocket science, but the theory is that placing an ice pack (or in my case, a bag of frozen veggies) near the baby’s head, will encourage him or her to “move” away from the cold and move toward warmth. While tons of people swear by this, I can’t say I felt much movement when I did it, but I did try to combine it with the Breech Tilt a handful of times.
Pulsatilla: I came across this floral herb in Mama Natural, when I was reading about techniques to move along labor in case it stalls out. A dosage of this is supposed to relax and “get things moving along.”
In doing a bit more reading about Pulsatilla for pregnancy and labor, I also found research and studies that suggested taking one dose of Pulsatilla, waiting for the herb to dissolve and immediately following it with the Breech Tilt exercise. This isn’t supposed to be done for more than two consecutive days, which is exactly what I did. I can’t say for sure how successful this was, but I know I will be packing this in my hospital bag — baby was moving immediately.
I have a hunch this is what might have worked, more than anything else.
ECV: okay, so I actually didn’t experience this procedure but think it’s worth mentioning. An External Cephalic Version is a medical method wherein a doctor or midwife manually moves the baby by applying pressure to mom’s belly.
My OB scheduled an ECV at our hospital, in the event she would have to perform this, and while I was open to her recommendation, I’ll admit that I had no idea everything it entailed. In the coming days before the scheduled appointment, I received a few calls from the hospital — billing information for the procedure, screening questions regarding my health and a final, longer conversation regarding the nearly full-day visit we would have at the hospiitial, as well as the anesthesia they would administer. That final call, along with more details about an epidural, which helps relax mom, kind of freaked me out. Oh, and the success rate for ECVs hovers around 60 percent, so it’s far from guaranteeing a “flip.”
In the end, though, my OB happily canceled this appointment when we found out that baby flipped less than 24 hours before, at another ultrasound appointment. Her parting words were that while I would have been an “ideal candidate” for the procedure, it also “sucks.”
Late last week, I was planning to post about the most recent update to my pregnancy (baby is breech), but that feels a bit tone deaf with what’s going on right now. So while my personal “news” has been another unexpected twist and turn (literally and figuratively) in my pregnancy, compared to the strife faced by so many in the last week, it feels like such a small “problem.”
I’ll begin by saying that my heart is heavy for our country and our world. On one hand, it makes me wonder if we’re crazy for bringing yet another person into the world; on the other, I’m optimistic that we’ll raise a child who will be a beacon of light and one who will contribute to making the world a better place.
Though it doesn’t feel appropriate to bring comedy into this conversation, my current situation reminds me of a take away from comedian and writer Mike Birbiglia’s show, “The New One.” I was lucky enough to have scored tickets to the show’s opening night with a friend, on a whim, on Off Broadway about two years ago. A longtime fan, I was looking forward to his thoughts on parenthood and what he described as “reluctant fatherhood.” (An aside — “The New One” is available on Netflix, and Mike’s book, with contributions from his wife and poet J. Hope Stein, was recently released as well).
Though the show’s material was obviously written and performed prior to today’s context of having and raising a child in a global pandemic and mass protests, one of the main themes really resonates with me today.
Mike talked about different fears and worries about his journey to parenthood and bringing a child into a world of uncertainty. For him and that time, there were other issues — over pollution, what it means to be a “decent man” in the age of Me Too and climate change.
But his point was this — what we look at, see and hope for in our children and in their futures is the faith that they are a symbol of change and will do good in the world they come into. They are the next generation, and while the world is changing rapidly around them, they are full of possibility and potential.
May we all be so lucky to see the world through their eyes.
To be honest, when I first realized that I would be pregnant over Mother’s Day, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. As much as I knew that I someday wanted to have a family of my own, I didn’t ever look at myself through the lens of actually being a mom.
Over the past week, my excitement and anticipation has grown right along with my ever protruding belly. I wanted to recognize that while Mother’s Day is a happy and joyous day for many, it can also be a difficult day for a lot of women; it looks different for everyone, and that’s okay.
So, I wrote an ode to reflect on the many ways in which it might look like to be a woman this Mother’s Day.
Here’s to the women . . .
To women bringing a baby into this world, in a pandemic
To the women balancing motherhood and careers while staying at home
To the women mothering without a support system they’re accustomed to
To the women fulfilling their professional duties as health care workers on the front lines of this battle
To the women navigating a new financial reality, unemployment
To the women postponing their dreams of growing their family
To to women mourning the loss of their mothers
To the women grieving the passing of their children
To the women yearning to be mothers some day
To the women choosing not to be mothers
To the women coping with strained mother-daughter relationships
To all women on this Mother’s Day, I see you. I send you love, light and strength. I am thinking of you. May you have peace on this Mother’s Day, whatever that means for you.
After publishing my most recent post, wherein I grieved for “the pregnancy I wish I had,” I thought I would use the beginning of a new month to acknowledge not what I lost in April, but rather what I had to be grateful for.
And so, while the coronavirus and the past seven or so weeks of its resulting variations of “stay at home” orders, days spent mired in depressing national news and frustrations from what many are losing during this experience undoubtedly “sucks,” I took inspiration and the title of this post from Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News, in his recent editorial, to also acknowledge that I am blessed, many times over. There will be more difficult days ahead, but here is a short list of what I am thankful for in the past month or so:
First and foremost, my health and that of my husband’s and baby-in-utero, as well as most of my extended family. This matters more than ever, and I pray that we will continue to stay as healthy as possible and as time allows, surround ourselves with others who will do the same.
As my friend Brian has reminded me since the early aughts of quarantine, I say a daily thanks for “the basics” — food, clothing and shelter.
The natural beauty that surrounds me. How happy I am to live where we do — a historic town inside a National Forest, where trails connect to our backyard and the melting snow runs to the river that weaves through our valley.
Spring and the return of birds chirping in the morning, voiding the need for an alarm clock.
A husband who cooks! Dan has continued to work up healthy, tasty and nutritious meals during quarantine.
Speaking of meals, we’re incredibly lucky to have ample food at our house and to order takeout from local restaurants about once a week.
Daily dog walks with our neighbors, which have become a staple of our “quarantine routine.”
My physical community — we’re looking over one another and are doing our part to run errands and deliver groceries for our elderly and at-risk neighbors. There seems to be a greater sense of “in this together,” and little rays of sunshine, with hand-crafted signs up and down our street.
My virtual community — whether it be friends or family, I have a greater sense of connection with this group. Some have sent letters, others have arranged FaceTime “happy hours,” and a lot of group texts. My favorite might be the “Sohna Corona” group text with Dan’s family — someone sends a daily prompt or question, and we are usually laughing at the various responses.
I would be remiss not to mention the virtual community I’ve felt surrounded and supported by since starting this blog about six weeks ago. I’ve heard from fellow moms-to-be, family and friends who are mothers themselves, and family and friends in general who have been so supportive. Sharing this experience has been therapeutic and provided a safe space to express myself.
My work community — I’m not only grateful to be employed during this time but am also thankful for an employer that is trying to navigate our new situation with as much flexibility and understanding as possible, putting a priority on our team’s health.
Friends and family who are thinking of our upcoming birth and baby. How sweet it has been to receive texts, cards and gifts, despite the cancellation of our baby showers. Highlight of this was, without a doubt, a surprise package of Jeni’s Ice Creams from a dear friend.
As in the editorial I linked to above, I also want to think about spending the coming weeks and months ahead as part of a “growth” phase. Here is where I will vow to focus my energy, as my headspace allows:
Finding a purpose
Using my skills to serve others
Showing more empathy
Emitting hope and gratitude
Finding ways to adapt to change
Seeking calm and patience
Living in the present
What are you thankful for? Where are you trying to focus your energy while staying at home?
So long, prenatal yoga classes. I will miss the Sunday restore class instructor who sized up my bump, week by week, the most.
I bid adieu to the cute maternity clothes I would have worn to the office, to dinner with friends, to the baby showers. Now, I seldom wear anything but leggings, as I dress for work-from-home Zoom calls and the occasional trip to the grocery store.
Farewell to the third trimester chiropractor and acupuncture appointments. I would have had proper posture and no stress, emulating those “glowing moms” I follow on Instagram and going into my final weeks feeling like a queen.
Good-bye to the physical touch I longed for during the “mommy spa day” my husband had booked. Instead, I dream of the massage and facial and of hands rubbing my aching feet. I would have told our future son or daughter how their dad pampered me.
After our disastrous attempt at a “babymoon” in Tulum several weeks ago — a towed rental car, heat stroke for him and food poisoning for me — I told myself we would make up for it. Maybe we’d take a weekend trip to Taos or Jackson Hole in the spring. No more.
I cried the day I realized we would not be traveling to Ohio to see our family and friends, who were throwing us a baby shower. Weeks ago, I had convinced myself that if we could not fly there, perhaps we would drive. Again, not happening.
My heart aches to not see our moms. For them not to see my growing belly or to feel the baby “kick.”
There was a short window of time when I clung to the baby shower with our “Colorado family” in Denver. It was going to be fun and light-hearted — there would even be booze for everyone except me (my request)! Okay, okay. You get the point.
I feel guilty to mourn the pregnancy I had imagined. I feel vain for having pined for such experiences in the first place — to stay fit in yoga class, to relax during massage, to squeeze in one more pre-baby trip to a favorite mountain town. Because I know those experiences weren’t necessarily for the baby or in the name of being pregnant, but because they were for me, too. For the woman I still am, before the baby comes.
Those desires I yearned for might have been superfluous, but I lust for them, nonetheless.
What is it like to be pregnant in a pandemic? It’s as though I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking into dense fog, searching for the pregnancy I wanted — the one I had hoped for and imagined since that crisp October day I knew I was pregnant, a lifetime ago. Now, I can’t help but wonder if I will want a second child if not for the pregnancy alone, to make up for the experiences I’ve lost in this one. I know that should not be the deciding factor for bringing another life into the world, and I admit that it is selfish of me.
In those moments, when I feel bad and in the dumps, I remind myself of other moms around the world. Those who live in war zones. Those who live in the pits of poverty. Those who are in refuge, looking for their next home. Because I know. I know this could be far worse.
But this is how I feel today, as I grieve for the pregnancy I wish I had.
I’ll keep this post short and sweet. I was honored to be included in this Refinery29 story, What It’s Like To Be Pregnant In The Coronavirus Pandemic. The author, Molly Longman, interviewed me and seven other women about our various experiences of coming to terms with our current situation.
There are wild and inspiring stories in here; I’m honored to have been included. I had tears reading one woman’s story of delivering her son while her husband watched via Zoom conference.
That said, and I’m hoping to write more about this later, I’m increasingly feeling this strong bond with other women who are pregnant and delivering during this pandemic. It’s not how any of us likely imagined our pregnancy, but it feels like we’re becoming a part of a special sisterhood. I’m clinging to that thought and the light it brings me.
In this post, I thought I would provide some context about my pregnancy specifically, and where I find myself today.
First off, I’m grateful to be pregnant in the first place, pandemic or not, and I’m lucky to have had a pretty smooth pregnancy in the months B.C. (Before Coronavirus). There has been no morning sickness, no insomnia keeping me up into the wee hours of the night and no weird cravings sending my husband to the store in search of out-of-season watermelon (an unexpected perk during a pandemic, given the bare shelves). Although I’m pregnant in a pandemic, I am also healthily pregnant in a pandemic, and for that I’m continually grateful.
Even as little as a few weeks ago, I didn’t think much about my pregnancy in the context of the pandemic, though I was trying my best to pay attention and follow the news. I had already been taking extra precautions at the onset of cold and flu season and to be more healthy, in general — exercising regularly, eating an all organic diet, brewing batches of fire cider, swapping out the store brand version of my prenatal vitamins for the more expensive, “made with whole foods” vitamins, drinking my red raspberry leaf tea daily and reading a library’s worth of pregnancy and parenting books (you could say that my Type A personality has joined me in this new chapter).
That all changed on March 5, 2020. I was traveling back from a work trip in NYC, to home — Pitkin County, Colorado. A coworker texted me that someone in Summit County, home to an abundance of ski areas and not far from where we lived, had tested positive for the coronavirus.
For weeks, my husband joked that we were in the ideal place for an impending national health crisis. He had deduced that with the combination of our small and remote town (surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness), cold weather (psst . . . viruses thrive in the cold), and elevation (a complete last-ditch effort on his part), not only could the virus not live here, but it also wouldn’t be able to find its way here in the first place. “Pandemic paradise,” he said.
Counter that rationale with the county seat — Aspen, which hosts thousands of international tourists a year, has a housing market chalk full of second homeowners coming and going and has a robust airport for a town of its size (up to 40 daily flights during peak season, in a town of about 6,500 people).
Only a few days after the case in Summit County, a group of 13 visiting Australians sparked the first outbreak in Aspen. Suddenly, Aspen had the highest number of cases for the virus in the state of Colorado. I heard at one point, in those early days, that Aspen had the highest number of confirmed, positive cases for the virus per capita, based on population (haven’t been able to find a source for this, but it also wouldn’t surprise me).
Colorado mountain towns were quickly hit by the virus, like a maze of falling dominos with too many entry points to count. Seemingly overnight, tourists were told to leave, and chair lifts were dismounted and the once crowded bars, home to many an après happy hour, emptied and shuttered their doors. A “stay at home” order went into effect for Pitkin County today — March 24, 2020.
While much of that had to do with the hordes of visitors, outdoor towns across the West weighed in, reminding those seeking solace and social distancing in our beautiful landscapes that our healthcare systems are simply not fit to accommodate out-of-town patients. Aspen Valley Hospital, where I will deliver our baby in a few months, is small and its resources limited.
What will I do, come this summer, if it’s overrun with patients sick with the virus?
At my OB appointment a few weeks ago, my doctor simply didn’t have many answers when I brought up the virus for the first time. She provided assurance, telling me that Pitkin County had moved pregnant women to the “high risk”/immunocompromised category (worth noting that this is not common at a state or national level) but, she immediately followed that with “we do know that there are no tests available at this time.”
My next appointment is later this week, and I’m hopeful my doctor might have more answers for me then. I’m also prepared for some disappointing news — for example, I know she’ll tell me not to travel to Ohio in a few weeks to see our family, who were supposed to host a baby shower for us. I don’t know what she’ll tell me about my plans to have a doula in the labor and delivery room (many hospitals are now limiting the number of people allowed to accompany the mom in labor, understandably so, but also frustrating).
Part of me wishes my doctor were OB, part psychic. I want to be able to look into her crystal ball to know what the world will look like in 13+ weeks, all while she continues to fulfill her medical duties.
So, I wait. I will know more soon, and in the meantime, I will do as much as I can to take care of myself and to provide shelter to the little one growing inside me. He or she (we don’t know the gender) does not know that there is a global pandemic on the outside nor that his or her arrival will likely coincide with an international economic collapse.
He or she will be loved beyond measure, and that’s all that really matters at this point.
I’ll share more resources in my next post in the way of scientific information and research available, as well as a handful of media stories that have been written on this topic.