Imagine having a baby and your husband is only allowed there for the delivery, after which you aren’t allowed any visitors. Imagine your family not being able to visit you and your newborn during the lockdown. Imagine the fear of being in a hospital in the time of a pandemic.
Being close to due date during the coronavirus is a terrifying concept for many of the late-term pregnant moms we chatted to. Many have had to change their birth plans and many are scared as their due dates come closer.
We spoke to several moms about their emotions and birth plans during the pandemic.
Anuchka James, 28, filmmaker from Johannesburg, 35 weeks
There are some moments I feel settled but more often than not I feel quite overwhelmed. Partly because this is my first pregnancy and everything is already daunting, with the added pressure of whether or not my hubby will be able to accompany me to our next scan never mind be there for the birth of our son. I try to avoid reading too many articles as these seem to be the source of all my nightmares, despite my gynae reassuring us that as things currently stand none of the above will occur.
I am aiming for a natural birth with an epidural as an option on hand; however, if possible, I’d like to avoid the needle…
My birth plan hasn’t changed – I’m more solidified in my mind as I’d like to be out of the hospital as soon as we can and back home where we can control our safety. I’m trying to keep an open mind to the fact that a caesarean may have to happen.
Working still keeps me quite busy which helps the wandering mind, but exercise has always been a great release, even pre-pregnancy. Although running is now on hold due to the lockdown, there are still strength exercises I can do and we thankfully have an indoor trainer I can cycle on to get some cardio in. And through it all my faith in God is essential. It’s a great comfort knowing that He is guiding us daily to make the right decisions and bringing peace to our home and minds.
Kata Mc Aslan, 38, wedding planner, Johannesburg, 32 weeks
This is my first pregnancy and I have no other children. So far, I’m not too stressed or worried about giving birth during this time with the coronavirus. I guess I will probably feel different if this is still very high risk and we’re on lockdown when it’s close to my due date.
Right now, I just want us to be able to finish our move to Cape Town, get the new house and baby room settled and sorted and prepare for baby. I’m just staying at home, trying to relax and keep myself and baba safe – there’s not much else I can do.
So far, my birth plan hasn’t changed. I’m still planning a natural birth, with the good drugs of course. I would prefer to not have a C-section, but if it’s an emergency, then I’ll do what’s best for baby.
To keep myself calm and relaxed, I’m enjoying sleeping in, spending time with my hubby and enjoying some time at the pool when the weather is good. My husband and I are also trying to keep fit by exercising at home.
Tshego Tshangela, 28, public relations account manager, Johannesburg, 31 weeks
This is my first baby, and I’m not feeling good about the prospect of giving birth during a pandemic. There are a few things about this time that have me on the edge: the “thinking of you” messages from friends and family have been both amazing and traumatic at the same time. I understand that the world is navigating tricky times and that we are nothing without our village. I guess I’m used to being there for everyone else and it gets uncomfortable when people “faff” over me.
There have also been mentions on Twitter and news reports (hence I’ve now chosen to limit both) that the government may extend the lockdown to 90 days. This raised red flags in my mind because my EDD falls within that timeframe, which means I need to reconsider my birth plan.
While I was planning on having a hospital birth, I’m reconsidering. For example, since a hospital is the last place I’d consider waking up in over the next month or two, the thought of home birth has certainly moved to the top of my list.
Khajal Naidoo, 30, personal assistant, Durban, 37 weeks
I am extremely scared for my newborn baby as this virus can be contracted so easily and with a newborn baby, I feel I need to do everything I can to protect my little one. I am trying my best to be optimistic about the situation as I don’t want to stress myself out at this critical time. I am open to birth options at the moment – I really want everything to go well and to ensure that my baby is fine. I know that sometimes plans don’t always work out when having a baby.
Rista-Mari Niemann, 29, teacher, Cape Town, 38 weeks
I’m nervous and anxious at the moment, but I believe things will work out in the end. I had a plan for natural birth in a hospital, but I’m now considering a home birth with a midwife. I’ve heard some conflicting messages about hospital births – one is that dads can be in the delivery room and another that they aren’t allowed. Luckily, I have a two-year-old who is keeping me busy and my mind off the worry of giving birth.
Belinda van Vuuren, 26, call centre agent, Johannesburg, 38 weeks
It’s scary right now as I don’t have medical aid so a government hospital will have to do. All the moms I’ve spoken to during my prenatal visits are unsure if our husbands and birth partners will be allowed to be in the delivery room with us. The thought of being alone during delivery is a scary one. I don’t have a strict birth plan at the moment – I want to have a normal birth if that’s what God has in store for me.
Katie Catchpool, 34, stay-at-home mom, 34 weeks, Northern Cape
I’m hoping the pandemic has calmed down by the time I have my C-section next month, but I’m not counting on it. It’s beyond scary because it’s all unknown, and seeing how this virus has affected other countries around the world makes one realise how serious it is.
I’m trying not to think too hard about the situation, and distancing myself from social media. As good as it is at times, it brings more fear in times like these. I think the worst is knowing I might be having my baby by myself, with no visitors. Even if it is for our own good, it’s still heart-breaking.
Chantelle Raper, 33, finance administrator, Boksburg, 38 weeks
I am absolutely, truly terrified. For the whole of my pregnancy, I’ve made sure my baby is healthy and has everything she could need, and this pandemic has smashed all my careful planning.
I’m terrified that even though I’ve isolated myself since my 34th week to make sure she’s born healthy, she will end up picking up the virus in hospital. Friends and family won’t be allowed to visit and at this point, I don’t even know if her dad will be there to help her into the world. I can only hope and pray that she will remain healthy and protected.
I’m trying to keep calm by reading, having long baths, playing with my son and nesting. While nesting aggravates my anxiety, if I can accomplish something, it generally makes me feel better.
Ann Naicker, 26, sales consultant, Durban, 37 weeks
I’m feeling extremely nervous, especially as this affects newborns too. I’m not too comfortable about staying in a hospital during this time. I’m nervous that my husband won’t be allowed to be with me during labour, and with this being my first baby, I want to experience this with him. I’m trying to stay positive by reminding myself that I’m strong enough to be able to carry this miracle!
Delnay Terblanche, 24, Plettenberg Bay, 35 weeks
I’ve been living off articles about the anxiety pregnant women are going through during their last few weeks of pregnancy. It’s how I cope with my anxiety – it makes me feel less alone and a lot less crazy.
Some of the most ridiculous things cross my mind during this time. Hospital bags, washing her little clothes a million times, where she will be changed and washed, her routines, her crib, her safety, if she will latch and if she will be healthy, her name, how to swaddle, do we have enough wipes, do we have enough bottles, how will we handle the cats around her, etc. Oh, the list goes on, and the questions spinning around in my head get more and more ridiculous!
Now try and mix that with this scary virus going around. A whole new list of questions and concerns come up. Trying to stay healthy for myself and for the baby is nerve-wracking, to say the least, especially when my health during this pregnancy has already been a very challenging road to say the least (I don’t have a spleen and being pregnant raised my chances of contracting any illness).
It’s horrible to know that after packing her first little outfits in her hospital bag with so much thought, no one will be able to appreciate them as they won’t be able to visit due to the virus. My mom won’t be there by my side when we leave the theatre and there is even a chance that my husband might not be able to spend more time with his baby daughter other than their very first meeting.
But I guess everything happens for a reason. Things will work out. Things will go back to normal and whatever happens, will happen. I will just be here, self-isolating and praying. Unfortunately, this is the whole world’s reality, but my heart especially goes out to all the first-time mammas who need to brave all these new and very scary emotions in an added stressful situation.
Rouxné Smal, 30, teacher, Johannesburg, 34 weeks
The last few weeks of pregnancy have been quite a rollercoaster ride. I experience five emotions in five minutes; I’m hungry all the time but don’t want to eat (I swear, the heartburn feels like it’s up to my ears sometimes). I’m tired…but there’s always just so much to do and I think I can do it all, just to realise that it is very awkward getting up from a crouching position with a watermelon-stomach in the way.
I wake up randomly thinking about something I still have to buy, or I wake up with a jerk because I’ve had a nightmare about the birthing process. I worry about literally every single aspect of my body and this life growing inside of it, along with the stress of COVID-19, my already-weakened immune system, and lockdown.
A good friend of mine (currently 28 weeks with her second child) told me about the importance of “the village” – not only once the child is born, but during pregnancy, because, let’s face it, even though we desperately want it to be true, we cannot do everything by ourselves.
This virus has taken my village from me. There’s a big difference between a “thinking of you in this time” WhatsApp message and a real hug on those overwhelming days. Before this, I would have told you how I hated it when people just randomly touched me, or touched my belly during pregnancy, but now I think I will cry the first time there’s someone other than my husband and my dogs (they’re not really into it) to hug.
I have also become overly paranoid about my own health. When I sneeze, or cough, or feel slightly warmer than usual, I go into panic mode – am I sick? Is it the virus? Will I infect my child?
The hospital where I will be delivering has strict rules – no visitors except the dad. They will make sure that the maternity ward stays clear of COVID-19, but that doesn’t diminish the fear of taking baby outside into the world and keeping him safe until it has completely gone away.
Sometimes the weight of this new reality hits so hard, out of absolutely nowhere, and I really can’t help but cry (I’ll blame it on the hormones), but I try to stay positive by constantly praying, for not only me and baby and our little family, but for my community, our town, and this world.