When I first saw the plus sign on my pregnancy test this March, I was not thinking about the coronavirus.
I was jumping up and down, shouting for my husband to wake up, disturbing our dog and taking pictures. We Googled a due date calendar and discovered our bundle of joy should be arriving in late November. That date felt like eons away, and perhaps, like the time things would be close to normal again. We were tired but persevering, a year into quarantining and mitigation measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I had recently become eligible for the vaccine and had an appointment scheduled for the following week. All signs pointed to availability to all adults in April. My husband and I started dreaming big. What if, we wondered, we could have a baby shower in person? What if I never had to introduce my child to the fear that had dominated my life since I first heard the words “social distancing”?
Months later, my pregnancy dreams have butted up against the harsh reality of America’s fourth COVID surge, of vaccine hesitancy and the delta variant. Whatever I dreamed this phase of my life would be like, it wasn’t this.
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For many pregnant people, the decision of whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine has been fraught. Clinical trials do not include pregnant people for ethical reasons, so there wasn’t initially any data about us in relation to the vaccines. But we were still eligible.
I decided to receive my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine while five weeks pregnant back in March (and my second four weeks later), and it was honestly an easy choice for me. I talked to my doctor, read what I could about the data available about pregnant health care workers who received vaccines in December and January and decided it was the right choice to move forward. The benefits vastly outweighed the risks.
I also decided to participate in the CDC’s V-Safe program, which checks in on those who have received their vaccines for weeks and months after, to track side effects and general healthI was overjoyed at the recent recommendation from the CDC that all pregnant people get vaccinated as soon as possible, after finding no increased risk of miscarriage. And considering the scarily bad outcomes many pregnant people who contract COVID have, that recommendation couldn’t come soon enough.
As has been the case for many vaccinated Americans, the joy I felt at rising vaccination rates and falling case counts at the end of spring and beginning of summer has come to a crashing halt. I find myself angry. Really angry, as I’m sure many of you are.
I have done everything asked of me, and then some, to keep myself and others safe during this crisis. I can and will do more if needed. But who will keep me and my baby safe?
As I go through the motions for preparing for the birth of our first child, every decision is harder. Why apply to day cares when I might not feel comfortable sending my baby out of the house after my maternity leave ends? How do I prepare for birth at my hospital when its ICU might be full by the time my water breaks?
Pregnancy is one of life’s biggest changes. My life will be forever altered after this little bundle of joy enters the world. I had hoped that in transitioning to motherhood, I would also transition out of the pandemic life I’ve become accustomed to in the last 17 months. Life isn’t that neat, and I will be right there with the rest of the world, figuring out how to live my daily life, just while taking care of a new human. And I’ll be desperately hoping that the outlook will be better than it is now. Because I want my baby to be able to look at the world with optimism.
I have three months to go. I can still hope.
Kelly Lawler is a TV critic for USA Today. Follow her on Twitter @klawls.