I’m not sure anyone is ever prepared for the moment they find out they’re pregnant. Whether it’s intentional or an accident, the first or the fifth time, the realization your life is never going to be the same—no matter what the future holds—is an experience unlike any other.
It certainly caught me off guard when I saw the plus sign appear on a home pregnancy test just days before Indy Maven made its debut. I’d been tired and experiencing brain fog but chalked it up to the long days and late nights required for launching a startup. And then one day a simple thought slipped into my brain. “Wow, I haven’t felt like this since….oh no…oh shit…the last time I was pregnant.”
Little did I know that launching a startup while expecting a baby would be the least of my worries in 2020.
When the stay-at-home order went into effect in March, I welcomed it with open arms. My husband had been traveling nonstop, there had been an unexpected change in leadership within Indy Maven, and I was about to enter the third trimester of pregnancy which meant another round of exhaustion, frazzled thoughts, and you know…giving birth to a human.
“Wait, you mean everyone just has to stay home, events are going to be put on hold, and then life will be back to normal in a few months? Doesn’t sound so bad! It will give me a chance to spend time with my family and regroup professionally! I had been wanting to cook more meals at home anyway, right?!”
How naive and privileged of me.
I hadn’t yet seen the devastating effect COVID-19 would have on the elderly, immunocompromised, and perfect healthy people. The protests and civil unrest surrounding racial injustices had not reached the (deserved) fever pitch they did later into the summer. My dear friend wasn’t dead.
As the COVID numbers grew, the reports of women having to deliver babies without their support people and partners came, and then quickly went. This was my second baby so there weren’t as many anxiety-inducing unknowns in general. I felt comfortable about the precautions surrounding delivering and staying at the hospital thanks to my amazing OB/GYN.
Now is a good time to remind you that I am a white, upper-middle class woman with access to healthcare and that not all women have this experience. We MUST do better by and for women who are Black, Indegineous and People of Color who are TWO TO THREE TIMES more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes. I encourage you to learn more about the disparities in pregnancy-related deaths among these women.
With that in mind, I have little room to complain. But this pandemic affects everyone in some way, shape or form, and we all have our experiences. Here’s mine in a nutshell.
The labor and delivery was the easy part. After a few false starts leading up to the day, Ethan was born at 6:36 pm on June 15, three hours after contractions began. He was 8 lbs. and 21 inches long. In his very first photo, he’s giving us (or maybe it was 2020?) the middle finger. I love him.
Due to some mixups with my COVID-19 test, we didn’t have results and were presumed positive (we weren’t). This meant that the medical professionals and hospital staff wore extra protection (everyone stays safe!). No one was allowed to visit us (I don’t have to make chit chat hours after birthing a human? Yay!). I didn’t have to wear a mask during delivery but I also wasn’t allowed to use the nitrous oxide for pain management as I’d planned (boo). All in all, I give it 4 out of 5 stars—would recommend, with reservations.
But there were sad parts, too.
It broke my heart to introduce Ethan to my grandma who has been isolated in her long-term care wing of her local hospital since March. We drove six hours to hold him up at her bedroom window. I’ve only heard her cry once like that and it was when my mom (her daughter) died. She’s 97 years old. I’m not sure if they’ll ever meet in person.
One of my closest friends, Chris Beaty, was killed the weekend protests turned violent in May. Thanks to the coronavirus and being a few weeks away from my due date, I was unable to attend any celebrations of his life. The last time I lost someone close to me, it was my mom and I was pregnant with my first son. I’ve yet to fully process this loss.
As I finish writing this on Election Day, no one knows what the future holds. My mind, perhaps like yours, is heavy and scattered. And because I make women my business, their experiences weigh heaviest on my heart.
I’m thinking about the women who don’t have access to healthcare. I’m thinking about the women who have to fight to be heard due to the color of their skin. I’m thinking about the women who can’t hug their loved ones right now. I’m thinking about the women trying to get their kids an education, and stay in the workforce and will GROUND YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE SHOULD YOU DO THAT NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR ONE MORE TIME SO HELP THEM GOD. I’m thinking about the people who make it their business to love and support and stand behind these women. I’m thinking about raising good boys to become great men like Chris.
If I’ve learned anything during these last eight months at home, it’s that whether you had a baby this year or not, we still have something major in common. Unlike my “surprise” pregnancy, no one could have seen this year coming. Not even dressed like Elton John in his Sunday best coming from 100 miles away.
We have been tested and tried and broken and crushed and loved and put back together again. We have lifted others up and supported our neighbors and asked for help and have been of service. No matter what tomorrow brings we will celebrate or mourn depending on our hopes for the outcome. And then we will start over again the next day.
Leslie Bailey is the co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Indy Maven. She smells a little—okay, a lot—like spit-up right now.