Positives of a Pandemic Pregnancy

I thought a lot about the content of this post, and initially really wanted to write the whole thing about how being pregnant in the current situation is great, and something to be celebrated because I am getting really fed up of seeing article after article circulating about how awful it is being pregnant or having a new baby in the pandemic. But, it then occurred to me that trying to preach the message that being pregnant at the moment is exclusively positive would be just as biased and one-sided as the articles which I’m trying to counteract. Plus, it really felt like it would be disloyal to the mothers who had their babies in early lockdown – you guys are such troopers. Going to scans alone, missing out on all the mum and baby classes, spending maternity leave in the house and even giving birth without a partner in some cases are all horrible things which I’m beyond thankful that I am largely unlikely to experience. However, in amongst all that doom and gloom, I really feel it’s important to say that there are some positives to being pregnant within the current situation, and they don’t seem to be getting mentioned anywhere. So, without further ado and in an attempt to counterbalance some of the doom and gloom articles, I’ve compiled a list of the things I’m really loving about being pregnant in these strange times.

No creepy tummy-touchers.
All of the articles and magazines I’m reading say that around this point in my pregnancy (bump just starting to become clearly ‘baby’ and not ‘carb-heavy lunch’), people will start doing the unwelcome tummy grabs. I don’t like being touched at the best of times; even before social distancing existed I was the furthest thing from the office ‘hugger’, so the non-consensual tummy grabs were something I was really dreading. But, nobody is able to come close enough to do it – crisis averted!

Less pressure to tell people
I’ve written previously about how there really shouldn’t be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time to announce your pregnancy; when you and your partner feel like it is the best time in my eyes. But, for those who perhaps do want to wait until a certain point for whatever reason, that must be a total minefield within normal life. I had a spa day booked for very early into my first trimester and did wonder how I was going to get around not having the bubbly, a massage or the hot tub – i.e. the only reasons for one going to a spa in the first place; but the second lockdown hit just before then so it was cancelled anyway! Having to pretend my lemonade had gin in it at social functions or trying to conceal the fact I was sweating constantly and didn’t want to eat any particularly strong-flavoured foods would have been really hard to navigate under ‘normal’ circumstances.

More time to relax at home
I’m in the extremely fortunate position of being able to work from home, which I know it not everyone’s situation and to those pregnant women still working on the front lines – you’re seriously all effing heroes. But, it’s no secret that generally, regardless of our personal circumstances, we’re all having more time at home. Trips out on our days off are a no-no, so we have no choice but to rest at home which, as any person who has experienced pregnancy will know, sometimes that’s the dream. Of course like everyone I have days where I want to be out for lunch with friends, at the cinema or whatever else I might fancy doing, but on the days when my hips are killing, my sciatica is playing up and I feel really tired, being able to laze at home and nap in the middle of the day if I need to is just the best; and we get to do that without feeling guilty about letting people down or not being productive.

Less unsolicited advice
None of us are immune to this, but with this being the first baby for both myself and my husband, I really was gearing up for more of the ‘you must buy this’ or ‘I hope you aren’t doing x, y and z’ and ‘why are you going to the gym? You should be sitting on a cushion and wrapped in bubble wrap for nine months’. Of course I’ve had some of that, no matter how well meaning your family and friends may be, unsolicited advice is an inevitability of pregnancy. However, it’s quite difficult to randomly text or message someone a piece of advice – almost as if it’s generally a rude thing to do (has the pandemic made these people self aware of their own rudeness? Praise be!), so the lack of face to face chit-chat over a coffee with friends or in the office at lunchtime has definitely filtered most of this out. And, the beauty of texts/messages are that you can just ignore them!

Less colds/flu
Obviously, the risk of infection of one particular illness is very much on everyone’s mind; especially pregnant women and new mums who are conscious of the weakened immune systems of themselves and their new babies, but there are countless articles coming out on how the transmission rates of cold and flu have dropped massively over the last year. I personally get a cold if someone sneezes within a three mile radius, so having pregnancy weaken my immune system even further definitely worried me. The idea of battling colds and flu when I can’t take anything much stronger than a Berocca was quite frightening. But, in a lot of ways, I weirdly feel safer now – most people are in masks and everything is massively clean and sterile which is paradoxically quite reassuring if you just ignore the big horrible scary reason why we’ve all suddenly upped our hand washing and anti-bacterial-ing of things.

I’m writing this in the immediate aftermath of Boris’ announcement to the U.K. about our roadmap out of lockdown. I’m not going to comment on my personal views around the logistics of this plan, because I want my blog to be a happy place and at the moment, politics really has no legitimate place within that, but I must confess that I felt a slight disappointment to learnt that restrictions are (theoretically) going to be fully lifted right around my estimated due date. Does that make me a horrible person? I am planning on taking the golden advice of ‘a week in bed and a week on the sofa’ once baby comes so I can speed up recovery and really make the most of my husband’s short paternity leave so we can bond as a family of three, and covid restrictions really would have played nicely into that. Of course I do want my baby to get to know my family and friends, but for those initial weeks where I really just want to be a bit selfish and have privacy for us to recover and find our feet as a new family, I was so looking forward to not having to have the ‘no visitors, please’ conversation with everyone. Still, we complain when we’re in lockdown and we complain when we’re out of it – I suppose I could always get away with blaming hormones if people think I’m being an antisocial bitch when baby comes and I refuse to answer the door?

New Year, New Topics – To Tell or Not to Tell?

Ugh. I feel like I start every form of communication with other people with some variation of that noise now. I had planned to finish last year with some Christmas themed blogs and maybe some more book reviews, but between being a key worker and not being able to do anything remotely fun or enjoyable when I wasn’t at work (bloody Covid); I really found myself struggling to think of content which would be even remotely positive. Despite being a huge pessimist in my day-to-day life, I’ve always tried to make blog content positive, because who wants to read a load of negative waffle? We have the news for that. But then again, trying to find positivity in the current climate isn’t always the easiest, and so I let my blog fall into a state of neglect not dissimilar to Cair Paravel at the start of ‘Prince Caspian’ – forgotten for what feels like a thousand years. So, I’m going to try and breathe some new life into this site, and sometimes a change is as good as a rest, so I thought I’d give some new content a try. (Disclaimer, book reviews and all things literary will still continue as normal, I’m reading for another blog tour as we speak, so please don’t run away, little booklings – you can just skip past this crap if it’s not for you!)

Having said all of this, I now look like a total ungrateful so-and-so for saying I was struggling to think of positive things to talk about for three months, because whilst I was writing my last post I received the wonderful news that I’m pregnant! Not literally – I don’t generally blog on the loo. Not least of all because my laptop isn’t insured against water damage, but hopefully you get the point. The idea of a pregnancy blog seemed appealing initially, but then I became quite hesitant because, well, there are already so many of those out there that straying into more than one or two can feel like getting lost in a car dealership – so many technical terms that I don’t understand, everything looks basically the same and someone is always trying to sell me some inexplicable and confusing product which will allegedly change my life. And the further I looked into it, the more it seemed like you have to pick a side when it comes to pregnancy/mummy blogs. Essentially, you’re either a bit crap and proud of it (aka the ‘real’ mums), or you’re a Mary Poppins type who has a storage solution for everything, a perfectly tidy, middle-class home and can turn any household object into a wonderfully educational activity for the whole family (aka the ‘Instagram’ mums). What if we want to be a bit in the middle? Some days I eat in excess of my five a day and manage to save £70 on the must-have breast pump whilst out for a power walk (my proudest moment yet), and other days I eat cookie dough and Doritos instead of my evening meal. I swing between both ‘mummy’ camps, sometimes multiple times in one day, and if that’s not marketable, then that’s fine.

There are a lot of divisive topics in all things pregnancy and baby, so I’m going to try my very hardest not to fall into those controversial rabbit holes, and nor do I profess to be any kind of expert – I’m muddling through with remote midwife appointments and absolutely no face to face antenatal classes, so if anything the ‘class of 2021’ mums are going to be even less prepared than those who ventured before us. But, all I can offer is my own experience, and hopefully it doesn’t offend anyone.

The decision about who and when to tell about a pregnancy is something which I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to. I’m now comfortably into my second trimester and only made the first reference to it on social media yesterday. I thought about keeping my pregnancy off social media entirely, and absolutely see the benefits of that, but ultimately it just felt like the right moment for me to address it, and I didn’t want to be ducking out of photos in months to come when things get a bit harder to hide (we’re still very much in big-jumper weather and just had Christmas, so I don’t think anyone had really questioned my slightly thicker middle yet!). I certainly wasn’t in a hurry to do a big showy announcement; not that there is anything wrong with celebrating your news in that way, but having spent a year feeling horribly bitter and resentful every time I saw yet another beaming couple holding the standard ultrasound photo and thinking ‘for f-‘s sake, they probably weren’t even trying!’ I felt a strange sense of loyalty to my past self and everyone who might still be experiencing those feelings. As if, somehow, by finally getting pregnant after that monthly vicious circle of hoping, allowing myself to wonder and then feeling a crushing disappointment, I’d sold out and abandoned all my previous loyalties, which, is utterly ridiculous.

So conflicted I was by this, that I really didn’t know how or when to tell my friends and family. Of course I told my husband straight away, possibly too soon actually, as he was just parking his van up at work and noticed a barrage of calls from me. He has since admitted that he spent the rest of that day unable to concentrate on anything at all! I actually saw two separate friends that same day and was so worried that I would end up blurting it out by accident; I was convinced that they could tell straight away, but I’ve since been assured that my poker face is better than I previously thought. There is a dominant school of thought that you should wait until after 12 weeks to tell people about a pregnancy, because of risks around miscarriage, which I was quite aware of but wasn’t sure if I could hold out quite that long. But, my husband and I agreed that there was some merit to waiting at least a few weeks “just in case”. I still don’t know what our “just in case” logic was really about, because I now know that there’s no way to really confirm an unborn baby’s health until you have a scan (usually at 12 weeks), but it seemed the sensible thing to do. Unfortunately, as 1 in 4 women sadly know, sometimes not telling people inadvertently makes things harder later down the line, for the exact same reason why many people choose not to tell anyone.

I have absolutely no desire to turn this into a cry for sympathy because, as horrible as that feeling was, I am fortunate enough to now be in my second trimester and in possession of several photos of a blurry, yet very active little baby. I have a lovely group of friends, but one in particular is my ‘in sickness and in health’ or, more accurately, ‘in my worst, most reckless decisions and in my sensible and proud ones’ go-to person. So, having woken up a few days after seeing that little blue + sign (and four other versions of it – we wanted to be properly sure), to what looked like a nose bleed but from an entirely different orifice, I knew there was only one person who could realistically calm me down and say something helpful. Of course I told my husband straight away, but it’s quite difficult for the person who is in that situation with you to really provide reassurance; because they’re just as clueless and panicked as you are. This particular friend is no longer phased by my ‘call me right now, something has happened’ messages, nor is she surprised by their totally random subject matter any more (that’s what eleven years of speaking daily does for a friendship), but having the ‘I think I’m losing the baby you had no idea I was having’ conversation frankly just added a totally unnecessary level of complexity and confusion to an already awful situation. Backtracking to explain when I had found out, and how far along I now was, although this was necessary to provide context, was an aspect of that conversation which anyone would naturally prefer to leave out.

Again, the last thing I want is to make this into a sob-story, because despite an agonising few days, an emergency scan with some absolutely wonderful and supportive NHS staff the following week all but erased this awful chapter from our story. But, I certainly would not have made it through those few days without having another person who was entirely separate to the situation to speak to. I spent the last evening before I was allowed to re-test at her house drinking tea in total silence, but I will never be able to thank her enough for that. My husband made the decision not to tell anyone in his circles about it until after our minds were put at rest, which I completely respect and understand – everyone is different after all and there is no right or wrong way to deal with such an awful situation. However, it would be a lie to say that his decision didn’t take a toll whilst he was in the midst of it.

I’ll never know what my next step would have been if things hadn’t had a happy ending for us; maybe I would never have discussed it with anyone, and my husband, friend and I may have taken it to our graves. Or, I might have told my nearest and dearest when the time was right. As of right now, I’m incredibly lucky that I didn’t have to make that decision this time, but all I would say to anyone in those early ‘to tell or not to tell’ weeks, is that having even just one person who was separate to the situation to share the load and distract me at the necessary moments, was probably the only thing which allowed me to put one foot in front of the other when I needed to walk into that emergency scan.

As a footnote, having just proof-read this post, it definitely reads more negative and doom and gloom than I had intended. I feel the need to again add that I am now well into my second trimester and experiencing a wonderful, healthy pregnancy. My first trimester was, despite this obvious setback, on the whole pretty straightforward and nowhere near as horrible as some people’s are. So I do feel very fortunate for all of this; and to those 1 in 4 women, you all deserve a medal at the very least. As awful as it was to have a scare and those few days of uncertainty, I still had hope in the back of my mind that nothing was certain. For those who aren’t so lucky, you all deserve the world and more, seriously.


Tommys’ ‘Tell Me Why’ campaign has a great deal of support and advice available for anyone affected by pregnancy and baby loss.