Pregnancy and Coronavirus
Well it would appear that I’ve been neglecting my blog a little bit, but that’s probably down to the fact that it’s one of the strangest times I’ve ever experienced in my life. It would be remiss of me not to at least write something at this time, for the record.
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the story, The Boy and I had a son, Pixie, in June last year. He was sadly stillborn at 41 weeks. You can read all about him here. Incredibly, after waiting years to fall pregnant with Pixie, I fell pregnant again after only about 2 months with a little girl that is currently called Bam Bam, but might get a proper human name one day. This has been a difficult pregnancy for me – there is the natural state of anxiety that a rainbow pregnancy brings, but also a number of health complaints that have limited my mobility, caused me more pain and then, more recently, the onset of gestational diabetes, which has meant my diet has needed to be strictly managed.
Now we are 32 weeks pregnant and my anxiety levels are creeping ever upwards. Sadly there is no ‘safe’ point in this pregnancy for us – as Pixie died at 41 weeks, we either get a healthy baby and breathe a sigh of relief or we don’t. There is no milestone where things get easier. And I am still relatively detached from it all, feeling that the chances are that we won’t end up with a baby. So this time I have made much more of my time with Bam Bam, and been much more conscious of her little life, such as it is at the moment.
Not going out
And of course, to add to the fun, we are now in lockdown. The world is in the grip of a global pandemic, which is only now starting to loosen its grip on China, the epicentre of the outbreak, which suggests we have about 3 months of so before we can start to reduce our caution here in the UK. You’ve probably noticed it all going on, unless you live under a rock. If you do live under a rock and never come out, then well done, that’s probably the most effective course of action that anyone can take in these times. Everything non-essential is closed – restaurants, clothes shops, cinemas, charities, churches, even outdoor gym equipment is out of bounds to try and stop the spread of the virus. Tomorrow should be my mother in law’s wedding – but of course that’s been postponed.
The Boy and I have been strictly self isolating since the evening of 16th March, when pregnant women were added to the list of high risk groups. I’ll be honest, I was already feeling pretty vulnerable because it has been so hard for me to get out and about already (I haven’t cycled for at least 2 months, for example – I was cycling the 3.5 miles into town and back right up to 39 weeks last time) and just because of the sheer exhaustion of being this on edge all the time. However, it is quite a new and very humbling experience to me to be actually labelled as vulnerable by society.
The guidelines for self isolation have not been difficult for us to follow, and as we both predominantly work from home anyway at first their was little change to our routines. However, work has gradually tailed off as our clients shut their doors. That doesn’t matter though, we’re happy enough in our little home together with the cats to keep us entertained. The real struggle has been the grocery shop!
As I said, being actually told I am high risk and vulnerable is quite jarring for me. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I’m pretty proud of our independence. As a couple we have literally built a life together – our home, our business – everything has been done together and without any leg up from anyone else. At a time where a global pandemic is sweeping the world, I would normally very much hope to be getting my sleeves rolled up to try and find a way to help those who are at risk.
I am doing what I can remotely – mainly by trying to find all the helpful advice I can to share with the Thirst Mixers, my free networking group for food & drink professionals, but to be honest I feel pretty redundant. It’s hardly volunteering for the NHS is it? People are also diversifying their content, putting out blog posts, starting podcasts, doing live broadcasts. But I can’t order in new beers to write about right now, I’ve got very little new to add to the discussion about wine, and I certainly don’t want to put my whale self live on the internet in my third trimester. And meanwhile, neither I nor The Boy can even go down to the shop for a pint of milk if we need it – we HAVE to rely on others.
And I absolutely hate it. It’s hard to put my finger on, but I think I just find it embarrassing having to say to people ‘we need milk, could you pick some up for us please’ when we have a giant supermarket 10 minutes walk away from us (well, more like 15 minutes of a pregnant waddle away, but that’s beside the point.) And we are very fortunate that we do have friends who are willing to help us out, which I am massively grateful for. But now I find an added stress is wondering when we are going to run out of an essential because I know I’ll have to get the guts up to ask someone for help all over again. It’s made me cry just even writing that paragraph, that’s how highly strung I am.
Panic buying and gestational diabetes
The second issue of living in lockdown is that there has been so much panic buying in this country that supermarket shelves have been emptied. Living with gestational diabetes this can present a real problem. Now I eat such small quantities of brown rice and pasta, for example, that the packets we had in from when I was first diagnosed are still keeping us going – but other mums-to-be aren’t so lucky – not least where they already have a family to feed the same meal to.
In the absence of carbs and processed food we also tend to need quite a lot of fresh food – which needs to be stocked up on regularly. This adds pressure to my anxiety about how we will keep my blood glucose levels in check, but on the GD Facebook group I am a part of, I have seen that it is literally leading to women having to either totally abandon a GD friendly diet or to stop eating practically entirely.
A gestational diabetes friendly diet
Not being able to get hold of plenty of milk and eggs, fresh fruit, fresh meat etc. really does mean your food choices are limited. Some mums are just eating what is in the house, or whatever they can find on the supermarket shelves, meaning they are getting big spikes in their blood sugar – exactly what we are trying to avoid and what is dangerous for our babies.
Others are eating so little that they are likely to end up with a spike themselves, as their liver ‘dumps’ a load of glucose into the body to overcome the perceived scarcity. Pregnant women shouldn’t be having a tablespoon of hummus with carrot sticks as the main meal of the day. They shouldn’t, in our present society, have to make do with a slice of processed white bread slathered with peanut butter, in the hope that the fat of the nut butter will pair the carbohydrate enough for them to ‘get away with it’.
There is enough food out there, if they can find someone to bring it to them! Empty shelves are really compounding the myriad of problems and anxieties that all gestational diabetes sufferers are having right now.
One big final issue
And there is a final problem looming on the horizon for me and many other third trimester ladies – the birth. I really don’t know where we are with this to be honest. My care comes from a huge diversity of (amazing) consultants and midwives. I have the homebirth team, Rainbow consultant, diabetes midwives and maternity physiotherapy. Which is why I was never out of the hospital up until two weeks ago…
The chance of a home birth is now so remote as to probably not be worth thinking about. I expect the only hope I have of that is that the virus gets so bad that it is safer for me to stay away from the hospital altogether and nature takes its course. However, I very much doubt that. The various health conditions and risk factors, that I can’t be bothered going into, mean I will probably be scheduled for a C-section as early as possible – usually 37 weeks.
Hospital policies on maternity wards are clearly varying around the country. Again I have my Facebook group only for reference. Women being told that elective sections are cancelled. Sometimes this appears to be in error, but occasionally I’m not so sure. I’m not really sure that this could happen for me as a natural birth is considered very high risk for me. But it’s another layer of uncertainty.
Assuming I do have a date for a section… How do we even get there, or to my scan appointment next week? Guess it’s face masks on and get the bus.. Then the next question is will The Boy be there? Most hospitals, mine included, seem to have a birthing partner only policy. Then visiting hours are strictly limited after the birth. So hopefully The Boy will be there for the birth even if he has to leave soon after. But what if the outbreak gets worse? Which it will… And puts more pressure on the hospitals. Will I have to give birth alone? It is already happening in some places. Especially where people already have children. Some partners have to stay home to look after them. The usual relatives/friends who would normally take them now cannot due to lockdown.
I have absolutely no answers for this, it looks like a total shitshow. And that’s not reassuring when you are already expecting things to go badly, badly wrong. And if, hope above hope, things don’t go wrong, I have no idea what happens next. I won’t be high risk anymore. Maybe The Boy will be able to go to the shop. Or maybe we still won’t want to risk it with a newborn in the house. I still can’t bear to open the boxes of baby stuff that we put away when Pixie died. I don’t know what we have in the house already. We probably have what we need, maybe?
And that’s not even to mention the worst of it. In theory we may have weeks, even months, where we still can’t have any close physical contact with our family and friends. I’m sure they all realise, and if they don’t no doubt they’re reading this so they do now. Our little girl might be weeks or months old before she gets to meet her family for the first time.
What do we want for her?
I don’t know if I would have wanted a baby shower for Bam Bam. It feels like a lot to ask from our friends who helped us to celebrate once and all for nothing. Now it isn’t an option, but I feel sad that this is another thing that she doesn’t get to have. I hope she can have both parents present for her birth, but she might not. We want to give her the best possible start by my controlling my gestational diabetes well. However, I don’t know whether I will be able to get the food I need to do that for the next 5 or 6 weeks. She should be sociable and know she is loved by so many people beyond me and The Boy. But she won’t get to meet all of those people for a long time.
All of this is totally out of my control. And I know that there are people a lot worse off under the current crisis. People are dying now, people are being plummeted into a financial black hole. The chances are very little will be quite the same when all this is finally over. But a problem shared is a problem halved.