By Lindsay Becker Hernandez
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I felt like a lot of pregnant mamas in the world. Fearful of the unknown. Wanting to protect my baby any way that I could. I was always wondering what my own birth experience would look like in a few short months. I was also reading the tragic stories of women giving birth in the hospital alone and praying that wouldn’t be my story.
So we did the best we could with the little information we had. I sheltered at home with my husband and toddler and kept my exposure to others to a minimum. I have a great group of girlfriends and some of them were pregnant too. We shared our fears together through late night group chats so I never felt very alone. In some ways, those months of lockdown and quarantine were wonderful. My husband, a teacher, was home with us everyday. His schedule was more relaxed than it had ever been. My son, already a nature lover, became even more adventurous and we became little outdoor explorers together. There were some scary moments too, though. We made plans in case one of us got sick. We lined up our childcare months in advance for when I went into labor. We tried to think out the worst case scenarios and how to work through them.
As my belly grew and the weather got warmer, my fears and anxieties started to lift. I was feeling strong and ready to bring this baby boy into the world. I had a traumatic birth experience with my first son and was trying for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) for my second. I felt informed, I loved my new doctor, and had hired a faith-filled doula to walk hand-in-hand with me. Honestly, by then, the pandemic barely phased me. I was so excited and ready to meet my son.
My birth experience in June 2020 was everything I had prayed for. After a long day of labor, I gave birth to my (9lb 6 oz!) angel, Gabriel Felipe, right before midnight. I get choked up even writing that sentence because it felt like there was magic in the air on the night he was born. (Or maybe that was just my Beyonce playlist? Hard to say.) My mom even got to visit us in the hospital and hold her grandson for the first time. My husband and I soaked up every ounce of newborn joy. The hospital felt calm. We didn't miss the visitors. We loved the quiet. Without our toddler running around and the room service, we even told people it felt like we were on vacation. I felt so blessed to have this experience in the middle of the pandemic, when a lot of mothers around the world gave birth under very different circumstances. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate every moment of it.
The summer of 2020 went by in a blur of newborn snuggles, late night feedings, potty training our toddler, and even moving into a new home. As we transitioned to a family of four, life outside our newborn bubble even seemed to return to normal. We visited with friends outdoors. I finally felt comfortable going inside a Target for the first time in months. We took our little family on a beach vacation to Michigan. My husband and I even got to go on a couple dates! (But more on those date nights below…)
Then, in October, I was having a glass of wine with my mom and sister. I said “Ugh, I think this wine has gone bad.” They both looked at me puzzled. I love red wine and it was a very nice bottle that most definitely hadn’t gone bad. That should’ve been my first clue. Then I felt carsick on the shortest of car rides. I couldn’t stand the smell of coffee brewing and I started having bizarre dreams about every ex-boyfriend from the past. All the signs were there. I’ll never forget the moment as I held my 4-month-old son, with spit-up on my shirt, and I peeked at the pregnancy test I had just taken. It was positive.
I ran downstairs and shouted to my husband “I took a test and it was positive!” with so much fear and shock in my voice. His immediate response was, ”You have COVID?!” I started laughing and without him even knowing it, he took so much anxiety off my heavy chest. I explained the actual positive test I got. We were both stunned and laughing nervously together, thinking about those ever-so-rare date nights weeks ago. Early in our marriage, we experienced a loss, and so even when a pregnancy test shows us those two little lines, our hearts are still a little guarded. As it turns out, our healthy baby (girl!) has the same due date as Gabriel. Irish Twins were only something I had heard jokes about. But within a year, I was going to become a mom to two babies. We knew we were incredibly blessed, but we also felt a lot of apprehension of what three children under age three and a half would look like for our family.
At first, everything about this pregnancy felt easier. I knew how to protect myself and my family. We had found our “quarantine routine” and set boundaries in our house that felt safe. I knew the drill at the OB and actually enjoyed the alone time. Because my husband was a teacher, he was one of the first people to get vaccinated. We watched the number of cases in our county fall and felt relief and excitement for the arrival of our baby girl.
But, in this third trimester, this pregnancy has felt harder, too. My body is worn down and it’s starting to show. I’ve carried three babies in less than four years. My contractions have kicked in early, and it’s forcing me to slow down and give my body the rest it so desperately needs. One of the hardest parts for me, however, was the news of the COVID vaccine becoming available to pregnant women. I had to make this hard decision, with limited scientific research, which I found agonizing. I wanted to protect my baby and knew that my low milk supply after pregnancy might not be able to do that. So, I spent nights hunched over my computer, researching the vaccine as best I could. I spoke to every doctor I could think of. And on the morning of my vaccine appointment, I finally felt at peace with my decision to receive my first dose. It’s not a decision every person would agree with, but I felt it was the best decision for me and my baby, and that’s all that really matters.
As the weather is starting to warm again, and my belly is growing bigger by the day, I am finding such joy in her feeling her little kicks. I know this is my last pregnancy, and I am trying to treasure every little moment. My sweet group of girlfriends are throwing me the baby shower that was cancelled last year. My husband and I finally got to have a mini babymoon. I find myself in her room constantly with the instinct of nesting feeling stronger than ever.
I’ve always liked the saying "Same, same, but different”. Two pregnancies are never the same, and even two during the same pandemic, are certainly a good reminder of that.
For more information on the COVID vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women, please refer to the CDC’s latest guidelines.