THE PANDEMIC PREGNANCY: A FIRST TIME MOM’S PREGNANCY DIARY IN TIMES OF COVID-19
After being married for seven years, I managed to get myself pregnant just before the start of the biggest global pandemic in a century. Talk about timing! As the country slowly exits the fog of those first lockdown weeks, I am also emerging from the fog of the first trimester. Being pregnant is not easy at the best of times, being pregnant as an expat even harder, and lockdown has definitely added an extra layer of stress and uncertainty to the whole experience. Here, I break down some of my learnings in the past three months.
FINDING A DOCTOR
I am lucky that I have a great family and friends support network in Bangalore due to the fact that I am a South Indian daughter in law. However, the other side of that coin is an overload of well-meaning information. I switched my OBGYN after the pregnancy viability scan because Motherhood hospital stopped taking appointments for non-emergency procedures for the duration of the lockdown. Needless to say, that freaked me out. I would have been the happiest if I could have just moved into the hospital so I can see the fetus whenever I want to, so the idea of skipping on some milestones sent me on a downward spiral of imagining going nine months without doctors and giving birth on my bathroom floor. Dramatic, me? Never. After extensive research, I decided to fully move to Cloudnine on Old Airport Road. Every single one of their doctors has amazing reviews on Practo, they have a super convenient app that lets you book, pay and monitor your records and also book virtual sessions with your preferred doctor. Cloudnine is also where one of the superstar OBGYNs of Bangalore practices, Dr. Praveena Shenoi. I had a virtual consultation with her and LOVED her, but decided to go with Dr. Modhulika Bhattacharya after all because of how accessible and friendly she was. It really did feel like dating, finding the right chemistry with the right doctor! Cloudnine, Motherhood and other maternity hospitals also have great packages that take you from first checkup to delivery and include everything from tests, consultations, a birthing suite and vaccinations for the baby. Worth looking into once you zone in on the hospital you will be using!
CloudNine, 7 hospitals and 2 clinics throughout Bangalore, Opposite Kemp Fort (Total Mall), Old Airport Road, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560017
In India, you are legally not allowed to find out the sex of the fetus, which I completely understand, but still find myself being disappointed. In non-COVID times I would not have a problem with that at all because I would just fly home, but now we are preparing for the possibility of a surprise in about six months. One thing that is quite different here from how the checkups would be back home is that you are seeing one doctor for the ultrasound and then have to make an appointment to come back to see your doctor to go over the scan. I substituted two visits with virtual consultation because I had no intention of going to a hospital so often in the middle of Corona.
Everyone I have been in touch with from healthcare providers has been nothing short of amazing. Make sure to ask as many questions as you want to, regardless of how silly you think they are! A lot of expats feel like doctors here are not as forthcoming with information as they are in home countries, but I did not have that experience at all. For instance, the doctor doing the scan will not talk to you at all during the procedure but will explain everything after. I was a bit taken aback by being told to stop asking questions, but she explained afterward that the volume of patients is so high and she has to keep focused on the scan in order to not miss something. I also trust every single one of the doctors here implicitly because they deliver more babies in their careers than any doctor in Croatia. Strength in numbers!
MIDWIVES AND DOULAS
I will be supplementing my “official” healthcare with a midwife from the second trimester onwards. The Birth Home has amazing staff and resources from pregnancy classes to breastfeeding classes. They are the nicest, warmest group of ladies you could possibly hope to have in your corner. I am a huge fan of science and hospitals so will not be giving birth in a birth center, but definitely feel it will be great to have an advocate on my side to help me feel more empowered when it comes to making the best decisions for me and the baby. It is also nice to have someone you can check in with when you have “smaller” questions that you’d normally Google or ask your mom. My entire Google search history right now starts with “is it normal to xyz in x week of pregnancy”. Big maternity hospitals also offer virtual and face to face classes on a whole range of topics, so check that out as well. I was not feeling very Mother Earth-y these past three months so I am looking forward to less nausea and more fun things like classes and mommy to be circles.
The Birth Home, +91 89717 32677, [email protected]
HOME REMEDIES AND OLD WIVES’ TALES
I have been terribly sick since before I even took the pregnancy test. I am talking about 24h day nausea with vomiting at least once a day. I barely gained a kilo in the first three months because I couldn’t keep anything down. Cue a loooong list of good-natured advice from every single woman in my family. If one more person tells me to try ginger I might just puke on them. While almost nothing worked for me, doesn’t mean it won’t for you!
Ginger: ginger is actually medically proven to help with nausea so give it a go
Lemon: lemon water with mint or ginger in the morning should help settle your tummy
An egg a day: this is my mother in law’s cure for everything from a broken leg to cancer. Protein won’t hurt I guess, no idea how it is supposed to help with nausea!
Fennel seeds: chewing on them is supposed to alleviate morning sickness
Mint and peppermint tea: avoid if you also have heartburn
Milk with rosewater: boil milk with a bit of rosewater. Haven’t tried it, but sounds nice enough!
Coconut water: this has honestly been a lifesaver! Not because it helped with nausea but because it helped with dehydration and replenishing the electrolytes.
On that note, the embryo will get what it needs in the first weeks regardless of what you can and cannot eat so make sure you get something, anything you can keep down and don’t feel guilty. I lived off buttered toast for two weeks because I couldn’t even think about anything else. Not the green juice, whole 30, organic pregnancy diet I had envisioned but at least it kept us both alive.
Old wives’ tales are aplenty in India! There is also a general over caution among the older generation that extends to everything from walking too long to lifting anything. Some of my favorite ones are:
Don’t lift your hands up because the fetus will get chocked by the umbilical cord
If you look at someone’s picture a lot during pregnancy, your baby will look like them
Pregnant moms eat for two. That must be a large baby to eat its own Maharaja Mac
Exercising is harmful, especially lifting anything above your head. There is an obsession with lifting hands up, what can I say
Baths are bad for the baby. This is a common misconception around the world. Don’t go to a sauna or a hot tub but feel free to take as many baths as you want (until we go into summer and have to save water)
If your hair looks great, you are having a boy. If your hair goes to hell during pregnancy, it’s a girl. This ties in with other tales about girl babies stealing your beauty and boys making you more beautiful. My skin went bad but my hair has never looked better so I guess my baby is confused.
Eating foods that create “heath”, like papaya and pineapple. Unripe papaya can cause uterine contractions, but ripe papaya is totally safe. Also, outside of Ayurveda, there is no proof of “healthy” food.
Lockdown pregnancy had its challenges (whyyyy are there no Pringles in stock anywhere), but generally it has worked more in my favor than not. Since I have been so sick, it was great to have an excuse to just lie around all day looking like Shrek and not having to force myself to make an effort to function. I am hoping the next six months will be better for all of us and I don’t miss out on milestones like baby shower or even simple prenatal classes, but in the long run those won’t be the things I remember. Until next trimester, stay safe and take care!
Main photo from fotoduets, other photos courtesy The Birth Home