Navigating Pregnancy and Pregnancy Loss During the Pandemic
"What're you doing here?” These were the first words I heard from the doctor when I went into their office and informed them I was pregnant. Not signs of celebration or reassurance - just a “go home and stay home.” I was handed a prescription for my prenatal bloodwork and U/S. There was no explanation of what to expect or what all these tests meant. I was directed out quickly as the next patient was waiting to be seen in the walk-in clinic.
We were 3 days into the first lockdown announcement when I missed my period. My husband and I were both excited and anxious to be expecting our first. I informed my mom right away, and having been experienced with five, she immediately told me I had to go get bloodwork done - and that's what I did, but according to that doctor I was left with more questions than answers. Navigating our first pregnancy during the pandemic was the most difficult thing we went through in addition to all the symptoms and the wretched morning sickness. What came during the next 4 months were a rollercoaster on its own. Back pain, nausea, anxiety, and the fear of unknown. Did I want a midwife or an Ob/Gyn? Was my pain normal? Am I allowed to have sex? I had so many questions and no one to answer them.
One evening, a bit over a month into the pregnancy, I noticed some light bleeding. I panicked and my husband rushed me to the Emergency Room. After a long four hour wait (I mean, who wants to be at the hospital during a pandemic?) I was reassured that both baby and I were healthy and were sent home. Despite being told everything was normal, I was still feeling anxious – what would I do if this happened again?
I remembered my close friend was a senior medical student at UofT. She’s always been approachable and resourceful when it came to life advice and talking about healthcare. I called her with a voice of panic and she instantly calmed me down. I could sense the gears shifting in her mind when she asked me important questions related to my pregnancy and re-directed me to hospital resources vetted by professionals. She told me she’d have a surprise ready for me at the end of the month. I knew she was up to something, and I had a hunch it was related to helping alleviate my pandemic-related anxieties.
But life had something else in mind for me. The cramping started and didn’t stop…
I was afraid. I felt alone. My husband tried reassuring me that everything will be fine and we'll have a better idea when we go for our anatomy scan between 16-18weeks. I didn't want to wait too long so I booked my scan for the day that I turned 16 weeks. I walked into the room, by myself because we weren't allowed to have our partner with us due to COVID, and the tech began the scan. She started asking questions that alarmed me " are you sure you're 16 weeks?, when was your last scan?". My heart sank and I could feel my blood pumping through my whole body. The tech asked me to go into the waiting room and to follow-up with my doctor. I didn't want to wait so she suggested I go to the emergency room.
Part 2: A missed miscarriage.
What did that even mean? How could have I known? What could have I done to prevent this? I didn't know what to even think. All I knew was that the fetus was not viable and was inside me for the last 4 weeks and there's nothing I could do now. Just the thought of that had me disturbed. The ER doctor told me I'd have to let it pass on its own and follow up with my OB. I remember clearly it was a Thursday, my OB was away and not available until Wednesday the following week. Another week with this inside me? My husband and I couldn't hold back our tears. It was the biggest loss we experienced as a new couple.
The following days were dreadful. Tears and emptiness. The cramps got worse and Sunday, June 7th 2020 at 11:20pm it happened. I held my 12 week old fetus in my hands - both horrified and amazed at the miracle of a potential life. I was not in the state of mind to go to the Emergency Room again only to be told there was nothing else that could be done. My cousin, a general practitioner, rushed over to ensure I was ok. She monitored me for the next 2 hours until the bleeding slowed down.
Navigating my very first pregnancy and my first loss during the pandemic with no resources or physical in person supports was one of the most challenging things one could go through. Messages of love and condolences poured in but not having that physical family support either was difficult as well. I couldn't emphasize enough how much of a gap there was in educating new-mothers-to-be especially during a pandemic.
Sharing the news with my friend, the senior medical student, was hard as well. She reassured me that miscarriages are very common, especially in the first trimester, and reassured me that it wasn’t my fault. She also shared the news of the new initiative that she and her colleagues were launching. I was thrilled to hear that, through a common platform, no other woman would have to go through what I did and they were working hard to bridge this horrifying gap in women's health.
Although I was grieving, I wanted to make sure I was more than ready the next time around. I watched all the videos, did some light reading on my own and also fell back into my regular routine. There were times where the emptiness would hit hard but my husband was the most supportive - holding me close random points in the night when I would start crying. I remained strong on the outside but he was honestly the one place where I let myself be vulnerable.
I connected back to my faith, connected back to nature and accepted whatever happened was for the best. The first period after my miscarriage was a loss as well, knowing that I wasn't pregnant and not knowing how long until I'd be pregnant again…
I didn't have to wait too long! I had missed my period in August. Nervously I asked my husband to get a pregnancy test. He asked if I was sure, if I waited long enough, maybe my hormones were just readjusting? The test came out positive and we couldn't hold back our tears of joy and fear of another loss - but we were better prepared this time.
One month went by, two months went by, three months went by… the anxiety was the highest at the 3rd month when the previous miscarriage was said to be a loss. I went for my scan and everything was healthy. My blood work: normal. My mind: anxious. I read online that by 12 weeks you were able to hear the heartbeat with an in-home fetal doppler so I spent the money and got one for myself.
I checked for the heartbeat regularly for the next 6 weeks until I felt my first flutter, what I learned was called quickening. The more I felt the quickening the less I began checking for the heartbeat. Soon I was feeling a lot more movements. At 19 weeks, my husband on a video call with me, I saw my baby boy on the 3D ultrasound screen and I knew at that point that everything was going to be ok.
Now at 34 weeks, all prepared for the hospital and for the baby to come home, we wait. Hoping and praying that all that we endured in this past year is in the past as we soon welcome this bundle of joy into our present. With all these rushing emotions, I sincerely pray for every woman who's endured a loss at any stage of their pregnancy and pass on my sincerest love.
Stay strong and do your research – but check your sources.
For more information on navigating pregnancy during a pandemic feel free to visit our "Pregnancy in a Pandemic" series, which you can find here: