I’ll start off with a bit of background: My wife and I started trying to get pregnant at the beginning of 2019, and like many couples, things didn’t happen right away. After about seven or eight months, we decided to go to a fertility specialist, just to make sure things were okay. They usually tell you to wait a year, but my wife had been told she had a polycystic ovary prior to us trying so we knew it could be a factor and the doc agreed to seeing us.
We did all of the diagnostic tests and while nothing came back “wrong”, there were a few things on my wife’s end they still wanted to explore, mainly to figure out if she had polycystic ovary syndrome or just a few symptoms. Instead of stressing out about getting pregnant while the doctor figured stuff out, we decided to put things on hold and booked a trip to Europe to see some family, ring in the new year and relax.
Surprise! Three weeks before our trip, we found out my wife was pregnant.
Once we got past our trip — which by the way, I would NOT recommend during peak first-trimester nausea — we started to plan out 2020 and our journey to becoming parents. My wife is very organized and wanted to make sure we were both involved in the pregnancy as much as possible, so she signed us up for Centering at MU Health Care. I had no idea what that actually meant, and to be honest, it sounded a bit hippie-ish, but she assured me it was research-driven, group prenatal care where the partners were allowed to participate, so we went for it.
Once the classes started, I realized it was a nice way for us to connect with a group of people going through the same situations. She had other pregnant women to relate to, and I got to bond with other dads from the support standpoint. We really had a nice learning routine going as first-time parents and felt like we were heading into the second trimester strong.
But surprise! After our second Centering session, COVID hit and the world shut down.
I’m not going to lie, once the dust somewhat settled on our rearranged lives, one of the first things I missed was Centering. It was a way to reassure we were doing this pregnancy thing right and that all the changes, feelings and worries we were going through were all normal. We were even able to “steal” some ideas from other couples who had done it before. Now, we felt like we were going into everything blind.
Doctor appointments became the hardest. Pre-COVID, I was able to go to my wife’s 13-week ultrasound where we got to see our baby kick and wiggle for the first time. Prior to that, the baby was just a little lump, so our minds were completely blown when we realized she was actually growing a living, moving thing. (I know that’s how it’s supposed to work, but neither of us were prepared to actually see it.) We also were able to unofficially find out the baby’s sex, which I’m told doesn’t always happen that early, but luckily my son wanted to put on a little show — because by the 20-week ultrasound, I was no longer allowed to accompany my wife to appointments.
The day before our 20-week ultrasound, our hospital announced they could no longer allow visitors. It’s hard to think of yourself as a visitor when holding the title of “dad”, but I was determined to make it a positive experience for my wife. I drove her to the hospital, gave her a kiss and told her to FaceTime me as soon as she was in. Surely a video call would be just as good.
But surprise again! For liability reasons, they couldn’t allow video calls during an ultrasound. I understood the need to put the patient’s best interests first, but man, I was devastated.
As I sat in the parking lot for what felt like hours, I started to play the fun game of “what if something’s wrong and I’m not there?” After all, this was “the big one” where they measure if everything is normal, so why not play a game of worst-case scenarios, right? Now, I can’t explain this next part if you’re thinking like a reasonable person, so instead, imagine being a stressed out, first-time dad who has no clue how long 20-week ultrasounds last or what they actually involve.
In the matter of 30 minutes (according to my wife, since I was sure it was at least two hours), I convinced myself our baby didn’t have arms and that they were forcing my wife to make decisions on the spot without me. Mind you, I already saw my son’s arms in the 13-week ultrasound, but again, logic wasn’t really the star of this show. Instead, it was me, pacing frantically in the parking lot until my wife came out and convinced me our baby was healthy. Oh, and apparently also “looked really cute with his hands crossed in front of his face.”
As a first-time parent you don’t know anything, and COVID made that so much harder. It took weeks to get a clear answer on whether pregnant women were considered high-risk, and once it was confirmed, it added so much pressure. I ended up doing all of the groceries and store runs we needed, and despite me using hand sanitizer and keeping my distance, I still had a mini panic attack every time I left the house. I felt like I was potentially bringing the virus home and putting my wife and baby in danger.
Thankfully, my wife and I were both able to work from home, so we could minimize outings and to our surprise, actually get some solid time together before the baby arrived. We were even able to be more productive on preparations since a lot of our work breaks were spent giving opinions on registry items or planning out one of the 1,000 to-dos we had to knock out on our house before the nursery was even an option.
I should also note, despite our initial panic, we didn’t actually end up having to do our pregnancy blind. My wife’s doctor stayed in close contact as appointments got rearranged and policies were updated to account for COVID. Centering sessions were even able to start back up, though due to social distancing guidelines, only the women were allowed to attend. Every two weeks, my wife and I would look forward to another session where she could record the baby’s heartbeat for me and report back on everything they covered in class, like car seat safety and recognizing postpartum depression.
The biggest challenge was, and still is, the unknown and constantly changing plans. As we’re heading into the last few weeks of the pregnancy, we’re still unsure of how delivery will go. Will I still be allowed in? Will we need to wear masks? What happens if one of us tests positive? Our doctor keeps us posted with every new update and recommendation, but we can’t help but feel a bit anxious that anything can change in an instant.
That being said, it’s been quite a year to take on pregnancy and it doesn’t look like things will change anytime soon. I’ve always been told parenthood keeps you on your toes, but a pandemic? That was a curveball I don’t think anyone saw coming.