Mom-to-Be Shares What Third Trimester Feels Like During COVID-19

One mom-to-be opens up about the emotional roller coaster of being in the home stretch of pregnancy during a pandemic.
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ByBeth Cunningham Murray
Updated
May 2020
writer who is pregnant during covid-19
Photo: Beth Cunningham Murray

After a nauseating first trimester and a “hey, this isn’t so bad” second trimester, I was ready to kick off my third trimester at a Cher concert in Las Vegas with a friend. But what seemed like a brilliant idea quickly became regrettable, as everything in Sin City seemed to be an affront to my pregnant body. The kicker? As we approached the theater after an exhausting trek down the smoky Vegas Strip, in the rain, in HEELS, I saw that the concert was cancelled. All I could do was cry—and it seems like those tears haven’t stopped. Because less than three weeks after that trainwreck of a trip, life as I knew it crumbled as the spread of COVID-19 crescendoed to a crisis.

For weeks, I had been watching the coronavirus headlines spread around the world like a slow-moving tsunami. And then suddenly, the virus was here, in my state, in my county. How I wish my biggest stress right now was a cancelled Cher show during an epic fail of a Vegas weekend.

As any pregnant woman will tell you, hormones are raging in the third trimester, and everything is felt more deeply. For that reason, I wanted to keep my emotions in check when COVID-19 hit Orange County, California, with just a couple identified cases. “That’s a very small number.” “That’s basically no risk.” “There’s no way it’ll spread like it has in Italy.” These were the things I would say to myself and were echoed by rational loved ones.

And then the tides turned, and everyone seemed to view the virus for what it was—an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. It began with the CDC issuing a recommendation for elderly and anyone with preexisting health conditions to not fly. My dad was planning on coming out from Boston for my baby shower at the end of the month. As disappointing as it would be to not have him there, it seemed like a no-brainer to play it safe and cancel his flights. And then a few days later… the NBA shut down? Broadway shut down? No St. Patty’s Day parades? What is happening?

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Soon I was wondering if I should even be having a baby shower. The thought seemed dramatic and irrational, so I called close friends for advice. The consensus was unanimous: “It’s not necessary to cancel,” they said. “Just put some hand sanitizer out on the tables.” I exhaled relief at hearing the voices of sanity.

Photo: Beth Cunningham Murray

And then two days later, on March 13, everything changed again. School districts across California, including my own, declared shutdowns and sent students home with backpacks full of materials and minds full of uncertainty, and teachers (such as myself) weren’t given any clarity about what was happening. Nobody knew. Did it really make sense to go forward with this shower? I called my best friend who had been organizing my baby shower, and without missing a beat she said, “I think we should postpone.”

That weekend, everything seemed to escalate quickly. My husband and I emailed guests a sad message, telling them that there would be no baby shower at the end of the month and that we hoped everyone remained safe and healthy. The following day, the CDC issued the recommendation of no gatherings of 50 or more people, and the day after that, the federal government said to avoid groups of 10 or more. We had made the right decision, calling off the shower, but it was hard; I couldn’t stop crying.

I realized the baby shower meant so much more to me than just a party. It was a chance to celebrate this momentous milestone with all our loved ones. Friends and family were planning on traveling from all over the state and country to surround us with love and support. And now, it wouldn’t happen. Neither would our babymoon trip to Palm Springs, or all the childbirth and infant care classes I eagerly awaited as a first-time mom. Everything would be indefinitely on hold.

Beyond those initial disappointments, deeper fears and sadness have begun to feel oppressive. I have logistical fears about having basic necessities for the baby, as empty grocery store shelves and “out of stock” Amazon inventory have become the new normal. I have safety fears that going to the hospital for recommended nonstress tests will potentially increase my exposure to COVID-19. And I have an overwhelming fear of what the world will be like five weeks from now, when my baby is due to arrive. What will the hospital be like when it’s time for me to deliver my baby boy? The “what ifs” and the fears can be suffocating.

But I know I’m not alone in this. There are thousands of women navigating COVID-19 fears on top of normal pregnancy discomforts, raging hormones and anxiety. In a way, this pandemic is a lesson in trust—trusting in the medical professionals, trusting in the support from loved ones and trusting the strength within ourselves. Life is always going to throw curveballs, and I know this isn’t the only time I’m going to need to dig deep and be brave for my child. I can’t wait to tell my son about how strong we both were on the day he made his world debut.

Beth Cunningham Murray earned her MS in elementary instruction from California State University, Fullerton, and has been working as a teacher for the past 10 years. She and her husband, Jake, live in Orange County, California. They are expecting their first child in May 2020.

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