Author’s note: This is not MY personal story, per se, (despite the “my pandemic pregnancy” headline), but a story told by our readers, week by week. Today’s is shared by Claire.
You might have heard that being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or delivering right about now is strange, in this age of COVID-19. But how? In what ways? We’re going to tell you. To contribute your own experience, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this article and tap the link.
It certainly wasn’t planned this way, but Claire Nackashi had to deal with almost every aspect of her pregnancy, pandemic-style.
The Duval County teacher, 30, went to the doctor to confirm her pregnancy right around the time schools were dismissing for spring break, which was essentially when lockdown, or stay-at-home orders, went into place. That meant that the final time Nackashi saw her fellow teachers last spring, before switching to virtual learning, they didn’t know she was expecting. Then when everyone came back together in the fall, “Everyone was like, ‘What happened to you?’” Nackashi said with a laugh.
“(It felt like my) entire pregnancy was in the pandemic,” she said. “It was its own little weird world.”
If you had asked Nackashi perhaps a year or two earlier, what she might imagine doing during this time, she probably would have said something along the lines of: attending prenatal yoga classes, meeting other moms-to-be, making friends with other women based on their babies’ similar due dates -- things like that.
But being pregnant in 2020 didn’t really allow for those experiences.
“That camaraderie was cut short,” Nackashi said. “There’s not the same socialization that happens. Birthing classes were virtual, we didn’t get to visit the hospital, and my husband didn’t get to come with me for any appointments, except for the first one confirming the pregnancy.”
The Jacksonville woman was glad to have her husband present for that first ultrasound -- “he got to see the little bean on the screen,” she said -- but otherwise, she did things on her own. She didn’t really have a choice.
Imagine having to receive bad news, if there had been a problem with the pregnancy.
Nackashi said she couldn’t imagine having to weather that storm at the doctor’s office alone. She acknowledged, of course there are women who attend appointments and have babies without a partner by their side. Still, for her, it felt strange.
“Even the happy news -- my husband didn’t get to hear the heartbeat with me,” Nackashi said. “We wanted to hear the gender together, so we took it home in an envelope. I understand why these things are all necessary. But the whole buildup to birth itself (was different). I’m home, trying to stay as isolated as possible, and the only things you can think about, are all the things that can go wrong -- you’re overthinking everything to death.”
Overthinking is probably a common problem for many mothers and moms-to-be.
What will giving birth feel like? How will the day unfold? Will it be crazy, getting thrown into parenthood?
Nackashi wondered what her own delivery day would look like, and joked that she suffers from “analysis paralysis.” There’s just SO much information, especially with something like childbirth, and if you’re Nackashi, you “read everything and freak out.”
“I asked everyone I knew, like, ‘Tell me your birth story. Tell me your experience!’” she said. “At first, I had fears over labor and giving birth, but the more people I talked to, you hear a different story for every child. It’s usually not what they expected, but everything worked out, and their babies were healthy. I started to internalize that message. ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I never thought I’d be an early-labor person. If anything, I was like, ‘What if I’m 40 weeks and the baby won’t come?’ I didn’t anticipate this at all.”
But there she was: An “early-labor person.”
Nackashi’s daughter, Adele Joyce, was born Sept. 12, 2020, almost five weeks early, at the Baptist Health location downtown Jacksonville.
Fortunately, Adele was born strong and healthy, and didn’t have to spend any time in the neonatal intensive care unit, more commonly known as the NICU. She weighed in at 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and scored well in the Apgar test, which is given to newborns and examines heart rate, muscle tone and other factors.
“It was scary, obviously, because you want your baby to be as healthy as possible and live inside you as long as possible,” Nackashi said.
But all things considered, she and her husband feel extremely lucky with the outcome. Adele is now a happy 4-month-old.
How it went down
Although early on in her pregnancy, Nackashi said she wouldn’t have predicted early labor, at some point, she learned it might be possible. Nackashi was diagnosed with gestational high blood pressure, meaning her doctors wanted to see her regularly for blood pressure checks.
Around the 35-week mark, she went to an appointment after school “and they never let me go home,” Nackashi said.
Doctors had hoped to get her closer to 37 weeks along, but they performed an ultrasound and found low fluid around the baby.
“At that point, they said it wasn’t worth keeping her in there any longer,” Nackashi recalled.
She was in the hospital for four days, and then induced.
Nackashi had packed some clothes -- for herself and Adele -- the weekend before, “just in case,” she said.
“I knew my blood pressure was high, and I wanted to be ready at any point. I didn’t know it’d be the next day,” she said.
The couple’s house wasn’t ready. They hadn’t purchased or installed a car seat. In those days leading up to the birth, in which Nackashi was being observed at the hospital, her husband bought the car seat and was able to get their affairs in order. Nackashi said they’re lucky to have his family local, as her parents live in Atlanta.
“My mother-in-law cleaned our house from top to bottom, and she was ecstatic to do it,” Nackashi said. “Normally I’ll say NOT to do it, but … (we asked) and you could hear her scream for joy on the other end of the line. But there was dog hair everywhere. I’m not even sure we had toilet paper. It was like, ‘We can’t bring a baby home to this!’” she said with a laugh.
A little humor
But the house got clean, and delivery went well. Nackashi said she didn’t have much to compare it to, considering this is the couple’s first baby, but things were fine. They were relieved Adele was a good size, considering her early arrival into the world.
What came next, was not so pleasant.
After delivery, Nackashi was starving. Childbirth is hard work, and you’re often not permitted to eat -- especially if you’re on a magnesium drip, which Nackashi was, to prevent seizures. After enduring an all-liquid diet throughout labor, and going through some of the side effects of the magnesium, which included nausea and flu-like symptoms; being induced; getting her epidural and having the baby, soon after, she wanted some real food.
“I looked at the nurses and asked to eat,” Nackashi said.
And that’s when she learned she’d have to wait 24 hours after delivery for a solid meal.
“I just pushed a baby out and all I could eat was JELL-O. I’d seen these Pinterest women eating cheeseburgers -- and I was so jealous,” Nackashi said.
The couple didn’t have visitors at the hospital, due to the pandemic. Nackashi said they might have been able to have one person come, but they didn’t bother looking into the details. It just made more sense to wait until they were home.
Nackashi’s parents visited from Georgia, but that feels like so long ago, she said.
“(Adele) was so tiny,” Nackashi said. “It’s been a few months. She’s a completely different kid now. She’s chunky and smiling at people. She was a raisin last time she saw them. We’re trying to be really safe, and that means some of my family has only seen her in pictures or on video calls.”
The pandemic rages on
Nackashi is all too aware that none of this is normal. Her daughter arrived on the planet “at such a strange time.”
Nackashi has considered journaling, and writing down what this past year has been like for the couple. It’s like documenting history -- and she knows she could show Adele someday, which might be cool.
“(We have) so many things happening that are huge,” Nackashi said. “And we’re all experiencing them globally.”
So far, she hasn’t been able to bring pen to paper. It feels heavy, she said, like it’s “more than just journaling.”
“You feel like you have to be profound,” she said. “It’s not the same as writing about your feelings and saying how today was. (You think to yourself), ‘Is this something I’m going to read later, or my kids will read?’ It feels important. There’s pressure.”
She remembers, even as an 11-year-old, writing about another historical time: Sept. 11, 2001.
“I tried so hard to be serious,” she said, looking back on her words and half-groaning to herself.
Although Nackashi is still trying to determine if she wants to record a first-hand account of her pregnancy, we spoke about looking at this time period and wanting to remember it -- the good and the bad.
Nackashi is now in her ninth year of teaching. She loves it, and says as a teacher, you kind of have to be passionate about the work, if the field is really right for you.
You can hear the passion in her voice: She’s into it -- her school, the work, her students and the district.
She teaches high school math; this year, mostly geometry. Right now, she’s lucky enough to have all virtual classes.
“I was very fortunate,” Nackashi said. “I spoke to (school administrators) over the summer about being pregnant, about trying not to be exposed to COVID, and finding every avenue I could not to be around large groups. I knew I was at a higher risk as a pregnant woman, and then I didn’t want to bring anything home to a baby without a full immune system. When I first came back, I (thought) they were still expecting me back at school -- but the schedule, I realized, was teaching in an all-virtual classroom.”
What that means is, Nackashi shows up at school every day, but her students aren’t physically in a classroom with her. They’re at home.
Nackashi returned from maternity leave right between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It’s probably not what she would have chosen in terms of perfect timing, but if COVID, childbirth and life have taught her anything over the past year, it’s that you can’t plan for everything.
“There’s no way of knowing what will happen.”
Were you, or are you, pregnant during the pandemic? (Or TTC?) If you're open to sharing your story -- as a guest contributor or just in speaking with a journalist -- click or tap here to see what we're looking for and to fill out our form. Thank you for considering!