When Guest Writer Emma Sartori saw those two little lines show up early this year, she could never have guessed just what a rollercoaster her journey to motherhood would become…
“Wow, that’s a big baby in there!” my nephew informed me the other day via video chat when he caught sight of my burgeoning belly. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? He’s right in a sense though: I’m pregnant during this pandemic and can confirm that, for me at least, it’s less than ideal in a lot of ways.
In just a few short weeks, life as I knew it came crumbling down around me and I was left standing in the rubble, scratching my head and wondering what on earth to do next. This is my first pregnancy so there’s a lot of new things that I was, and still am, feeling my way through. Things like the hunger pangs that wake you at 4am and have you rummaging around your kitchen for food by the light of your fridge (leaving a mess akin to that of a rabid possum); the tears that come out of nowhere for no reason at all (I used to think this was an exaggeration, or even a myth, but – spoiler alert – it’s not!); or the rush of rage that can come on so suddenly, transforming you into a female version of The Hulk. Again, this rage can be for no reason at all but, actually, for me it mostly stems from my fiancé opening the cheese wrong, cutting it wrong, and putting in back in the fridge wrong… What?!
So, yes, hormones, they run rampant and can be quite a handful when pregnant, but throw in all the changes and uncertainty that have come about lately, and this crazy thing called life has definitely got a whole lot bumpier. I’m talking about the uncertainty that COVID-19 poses and the pace at which it was originally spreading (both cases and panic in general), being put into lockdown (a move which I completely support, for the record), being cut off from my family indefinitely (they live in Australia), having maternity appointments whittled down to just a phone call and having to do any accompanying ones, such as scans, alone without the support of my fiancé, oh, AND unexpectedly losing my job in the space of just a few weeks. It’s quite a lot. As if losing my centre of gravity physically wasn’t enough, emotionally I went into freefall, I’ll admit it. Before any of that happened the hardest thing I had been struggling with was finding a decent pair of maternity pants that didn’t cost me my firstborn!
The beginning of the chaos…
When the borders closed here in New Zealand in March I thought, “It’ll be okay, it’s the right thing to do and they’re reviewing it regularly.” But when the word “indefinitely” was uttered by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in reference to Australia’s borders being closed, it pierced my heart. In the blink of an eye there was no salvaging my long overdue trip to Australia to see the fam, and with it the chance to meet and cuddle my (now not-so) new niece, get boisterous with my three nephews, sit down with my mum and sisters and talk all things pregnancy, as well as go shopping with them and melt at the sight of all the tiny little clothes (you know the sort that make your heart grow so big it feels like it will explode). There would be no chaotic family dinners, nor would there be the chance to sit with my dad in the early hours of the morning, me sipping coffee and him a tea, quietly waking up properly together before the rest of the house. All that and, of course, the big question, will they be able to be here in August, when our bundle is due? That’s still anyone’s guess at this stage.
In those early days there were many (many!) tears, but the consolation of much more frequent video calls. I turned my attention to my own little family and the unexpected amount of time we could all spend together (which has been magical at times, it truly has) with the fiancé off work and receiving the wage subsidy and me working from home. But what would become of my medical appointments?
Confusion reigned in that department at first too, with more questions than answers it seemed, until it was eventually decided no face-to-face appointments (for me at least, as I wasn’t past 28 weeks at the time). Now, you can talk over the phone until the cows come home about how you’re feeling and try to describe any symptoms you’ve been having to your midwife, yes, but you can’t take blood pressure or check weight or listen to a baby’s heartbeat that way. We have been nothing but excited about our little one, and had been living for those five minutes during our once-every-four-weeks (or so) appointments when we could hear that rapid little noise that proved life and which, quite simply, takes our breath away each time.
To lose those was a heavy blow, as was having to go to the big anatomy scan by myself. But okay, fine, this was how it was to be. I videoed bubs’ heartbeat at the scan and we got photos uploaded to a USB to look at together later. We bought a set of scales to monitor my weight ourselves and just tried to keep everything else as calm as possible. It was then that our little one decided to begin kicking with gusto, taking my breath away in a beautifully timed replacement of proof of life. Just what we needed!
At least things couldn’t get any worse, right?
Tears were still aplenty at this point, although whether they were pregnancy or situation-related was too hard to gauge. No matter, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I told myself.
But then came the ultimate chaos inducer – unexpectedly losing my job in early April. I mean, who needs a steady income in the middle of a pandemic while five months pregnant and living in a country that’s not yours or your fiancé’s homeland, right?
I hunkered down even further than the Alert Level 4 lockdown rules required. Officially overwhelmed by absolutely everything, I shunned most phone calls and text messages, opting to speak only to my family and fiancé, if anyone at all. In my mind I was surrounded by figures in bank accounts and all the cancelled plans and hopes I had for the year. Again, what on earth would I do now? I actually still don’t have an answer for this particular conundrum yet, but I’ve reached out to contacts and am hoping for the best. I mean, life could be much worse and I know that.
Finding a new normal – and some control…
To keep myself grounded through all this I’ve kept some semblance of a routine, so there’s no sleeping in (unless it’s the weekend), showers are still had, my pregnancy exercise is not negotiable – I front up on Zoom once a week for a class and walk most days too, I’ve opened communication lines back up with friends, I’ve limited time spent on news websites because it can be equally depressing and hopeful, and my emotions simply can’t take that right now, I’m reading, watching documentaries, looking for work, eating cookies and chocolate because I can’t have wine and, of course, my online shopping for the nursery – and the bottom half of my body – continues. Much like those currently-elusive maternity pants that fit (I’m sure they’re out there somewhere!) I guess, in a way, doing all this has helped me fit my circumstances to the current situation.
There’s a lot of things out of my control, something I’ve never been particularly good at dealing with, but I’m trying to lean into it all now and I’m learning all sorts of patience that will surely hold me in good stead when bubs arrives. A pandemic pregnancy is not what I had in mind for my first one, but it’s what I’m getting and with each kick from our (my fiancé hopes) future Manchester United football player, I’m finally starting to accept that. Bring on August!
Oh, and if I seem as though I’m handling this quite well or if you’re wondering how I can be so glib about everything, just know this: it’s taken six long weeks or so, all day today, and three drafts of this to get past any bitterness I’ve felt, to who I really am and how I really feel about this situation. Nothing like a bit of catharsis, eh!