I am 34 weeks pregnant.
I know this not because I’ve been tracking the days, or because I’ve looked at the app that tells me which vegetable the baby is the size of…but because my OBGYN told me so.
With my first baby, I could have told you exactly how many days, which vegetable (or in the case of my app – “weird but cute animal”) and which physical developments were occurring to the day. But everything is different with the second baby—especially now.
Now, instead of asking about what my options are for heartburn management, I’m asking if I should expect to receive a COVID test upon check-in for labor and if both my husband and my doula can be present due to hospital restrictions. (The answers are respectively: It depends on which hospital I choose to deliver at and yes, thank goodness.)
Instead of asking my doctor’s thoughts about delayed cord clamping, I’m asking if the baby is going to come early because of breakdowns I’m having a result of trying to navigate running a business with a 2-year-old underfoot and the complications of step/co-parenting custody arrangements during a pandemic. I can feel my blood pressure rise before the Braxton-Hicks contractions set in.
“The good news is, there’s no brain-to-brain connection between you and your baby,” my OBGYN, Dr. Amy Moon of New Moon Women’s Health, assured me during our last visit. While it’s of course important to stay as healthy and as calm as possible, she assured me that I’m not going to —excuse my language here —but f*ck this kid up mentally before he’s even born.
And I trust her. Not only because she’s been my doctor for more than a decade and she knows her stuff, but because being pregnant during an extremely stressful time isn’t new to me.
I was only a few months into my pregnancy with my first son when my mom passed away from years of health complications in 2017. I’ll never forget trying to squeeze my baby bump into a little black dress and how my feet were so swollen after her funeral reception; I had to walk to the car barefoot.
That’s not to mention the panic attack I had at her bedside in the emergency room or trying to make funeral arrangements in the midst of first trimester emotions. It was awful.
But I don’t say this for sympathy. I say this to let the other expecting mothers out there know that you are allowed to think this is awful, because it is.
You are allowed to break down and curse the world and be bitter that you can’t have a traditional baby shower or bawl your eyes out because you might have to meet your new baby while wearing a mask.
You’re allowed to feel all of that and rest assured that those thoughts are not going to hurt your baby. I went through something terrible during my pregnancy and aside from the fact that my kid counts hand lotion among his favorite snacks, he turned out pretty great.
You will get through this.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve had my moments of panic, too. When I thought there was a chance that I couldn’t have my husband or doula with me during labor and delivery, I immediately considered a home birth. “The last thing we want patients to do is have an unassisted home birth,” Dr. Moon said. “Our culture doesn’t have the right systems in place for unassisted home deliveries—it could put mothers and babies in serious danger.”
She needn’t worry about me…the second I saw someone in a Facebook group ask which scissors on Amazon were best to cut an umbilical cord, I was OUT.
So as we look to the Mother’s Day holiday ahead, I want expecting moms (and those who already have their babies, even if they’re 15 now) to know that you can still have this day. To the “hopefully someday, maybe, it wasn’t in the cards for me” moms out there, you can take this day too, to mourn or curse or celebrate or whatever it is you need to do. And to those who have lost their moms, let’s honor those women who raised us.
I’ve only been a mom for two plus years now but here’s what I know: This journey is crazy difficult even during the best circumstances. There will be small wins and big losses but you have it in you to survive all of it—even if you have to ask for help along the way. I promise you, you’re stronger than you think.
We all are.
Leslie Bailey is the co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Indy Maven. Thanks to writing this, she looked at her app and now knows her baby is the size of a quokka.