Yasmin Al-najar explores the intersection between racial injustice and sexual (and reproductive) liberation
Pregnancy in a Pandemic
We’re all feeling anxious right now. But for Hattie Gladwell, pregnancy is adding an extra level of vulnerability during the coronavirus lockdown
When I first heard about COVID-19, I wasn’t worried.
I was seven months pregnant, but the number of cases in the UK was small, especially in my area. The government hadn’t sounded any alarms and everything was carrying on as usual, so I wasn’t too concerned. I had family members who were worried about me, but I would calm them down and tell them everything was going to be alright, that although it was worse than the flu, it couldn’t possibly be that bad. I’d be okay.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to feel anxious and uncertain of everything happening in the world. And I won’t lie to you. Right now, with everything changing around me, I am feeling scared. Workplaces are closing, supermarkets are being overrun by panic buyers and social media is filled with constant negative news – news that, while overwhelming and distressing, I simply can’t look away from.
It is starting to affect my pregnancy, especially now that the government has deemed people who are pregnant high-risk and advised us to stay home and self-isolate for twelve weeks. My partner works in a supermarket, one of the busiest places around right now, and people are depending on him to continue stocking the shelves. It makes me anxious that he is going to get sick and bring it home to me.
I’m starting to struggle to buy things for when my baby is here, which is putting me further on edge. Every time I have been into a supermarket, I’ve found no formula, nappies or baby wipes. People are panic-buying everything, with some even using baby formula for their coffee, and it’s leaving vulnerable people like me at a loss of what to do. In fact, I think this is part of the reason I am so anxious – because this whole situation is bringing out the worst in people. I worry that I won’t have enough for when my baby is here. I worry about the state of the world when he arrives in four weeks.
Unfortunately, due to the virus, restrictions on my pregnancy and first steps into motherhood have been put into place, which has been unbelievably hard to come to terms with. I have been told that only one birth partner will be able to join me at the hospital. Of course, this will be my partner. They have also said that once baby is here, there will be no visitors allowed at the hospital, and my partner’s visiting will be restricted. As someone who’s having a C-section, this worries me even more. It’s going to be a very lonely time, especially as I will be in the hospital for at least 48 hours. I’m also worried that even more restrictions will be put in place in the next month, and I’ll have to give birth on my own.
Alone and lonely
After the birth, I have been told that only my partner and I are to hold our baby, and that we need to restrict visitors to our house. We have been told visitors should not hold our baby or touch him, only view him while we hold, and I feel so bad for my parents, who are very much looking forward to meeting my son.
For my grandparents, who are self-isolating, it’s even worse. They won’t get to meet him when he’s born. Meanwhile, because my younger siblings are still in school, they are at a higher risk of passing the illness over to me. So while I know isolation is the right thing to do, it’s heartbreaking for us all. It feels like the end of my first pregnancy is slowly becoming lonelier and lonelier… and I wonder just how lonely it can actually get.
With all the hysteria, I have started to worry about my own and my baby’s health more, to the point that it’s now affecting my day-to-day life. I am no longer leaving the house except for two hospital appointments a week to monitor my baby – I suffer with reduced movements. Otherwise I am at home, bored, usually cleaning or writing or binge-watching something. These are my final weeks before becoming a parent, but I’m not seeing family or friends – they want to keep me safe and so won’t be coming to the house and, of course, I won’t be going to them. I’m struggling to sleep at night because I can’t stop thinking about what’s happening with the world, wondering how bad things are going to get. There’s a part of me that just wants to keep my baby inside of me forever to protect him.
Anxiety in overdrive
I was so ready to meet him and to show him off to the world, but now I’m scared for him. I’m scared for me. I’m scared for our family.
But all I can do is continue to follow the government’s guidelines and listen out for hospital updates in regards to my maternity care. Everything is out of my hands and I think that’s one of the scariest things. It’s all completely out of my control and I just have to keep watching and do what needs to be done to keep myself and my baby boy safe.
This wasn’t the pregnancy I’d hoped for. But I’ve just got to keep going, for me and my son. All I can do is do my best to protect him, even in a world that’s completely losing it right now.
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