Probably one of the things that I struggle with the most is dealing with all of the pregnancy rules…and there’s a lot.
No alcohol. Only 200mg of caffeine. No ibuprofen. No high mercury fish. No deli meat. No raw sushi. No cooked sushi – because it could have been prepared where raw sushi was made. No hibiscus. No runny eggs. No hollandaise. No salad bars. No benzoyl peroxide.
If you look at each of those items and really study the data behind it, most of it is probably low risk in moderation, or there’s some type of workaround. Example: you can microwave your deli meat and it’s fine…runny eggs are probably OK as long as they’ve been pasteurized…the list goes on and on.
And then there is the stuff you simply can’t account for. You don’t eat any deli meat because of listeria. But the latest outbreaks of listeria have occurred in melons, ice cream, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs,etc. So you see, the risk really follows you everywhere.
I’ve struck a good balance with what I eat and drink during pregnancy and I’m generally good with my own rules because I believe they’re well-researched and the risk is nearly imperceptible. I also recommend the book Expecting Better by Emily Oster to discuss the data behind those choices. But despite all of this research, one of the most common things I’ve heard from other pregnant women who make different choices than I do is: why take the risk?
It’s the most common phrase I hear when it comes to the pregnancy rules. I hear people use it for everything: working out, drinking coffee, having a glass of beer while you’re breastfeeding, etc.
My thoughts on this expression is that there are so many rules and so many non-rules that could be bad. You can’t really live in that type of fear, perpetually. You generally find things that you’re OK with and things that you aren’t and you go with what’s comfortable and doesn’t stress you out. And then you just don’t worry about it.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase ‘why take the risk‘ lately. Mostly because of how much of the world has shut down because of coronavirus.
I’m supposed to give birth soon. I’m technically immuno-compromised. That could mean I’m more vulnerable. But maybe not – some very small data sets suggest not. It could mean my baby is more vulnerable, it could not. Newborns are typically very vulnerable, but this virus is different. So really this is all a wild card for us.
The ACOG recently recommended that if mothers test positive to the coronavirus, their newborns should be separated from them for two weeks. Might not seem like much to some, but to me that idea is terrifying. As anyone who read any of my blog knows, during my postpartum depression, I suffered severe detachment in the first 18 months of my son’s life. So as my recovery plan for Baby No. 2, I had planned to do skin-on-skin, exclusive breastfeeding, spend a week bonding with the baby while my husband takes care of our other son and then only baby wear. This stuff is a important for me so that I can be proactive about doing the best I can to avoid detachment. I know that the detachment goes away with proper treatment and as my baby ages. But I also want to do anything that I can to avoid it.
So that is why the phrase ‘why take the risk‘ has come to the forefront of my mind. I don’t want to take the risk of exposing myself to coronavirus. I’m sure I’ll be fine and I’m confident my baby will be fine, based on what I’ve read thus far. But I don’t want to take the risk of another bout of detachment. Because detachment for me is equal to postpartum depression. When there is no bond with a baby, it certainly makes it hard to get out of bed and take care of that baby, every day. And as I’ve said before – not everyone survives postpartum depression.
So you see, the stakes are actually a bit higher for me. Likely for reasons that you might be thinking are overblown or overly cautious. But these are the things that I’m thinking about.
Coronavirus has already impacted us deeply. Out of love for our parents, we’ve asked them NOT to come to help with the newborn. We understand that they, like me, are more vulnerable to the virus and we don’t want to risk their health. Why take the risk? It breaks all of our hearts that we will have to wait weeks or months for them to meet their new grandchild. We bought a car too, but it’s sitting in Germany and we’re not sure if we’ll be able to get it or not on Friday with all the border closures. The car was to help us with the hospital and doctor appointments. As I type this, I’m trying to figure out what the risk profile is to send my husband on a train to Germany for the car if the borders don’t close. I am wondering if our hospital will be overrun in the next two weeks, as was the case in Italy and China. I really don’t know.
Of course, with all of this, I give thanks daily for the the wonderful things in our life. My boss offering to drive us to the hospital, our friends for offering to stay overnight with G since his grandparents no longer can, our babysitter for helping us out while the schools are closed and for when we go to the hospital, my work’s generous maternity and sick leave policy that gives me flexibility to manage my health and deal with G being out of school for 5 weeks, and lastly having things like WhatsApp and Google Hangouts so that we can stay in touch with our parents while we work through all of this.
We have many things to be thankful for. But we are also deeply affected by this virus. For us, the hype is real. For us, it’s not just the flu. For us, the mortality rate among older people has impacted our family’s ability to joyously congregate around a new birth. We’re not out there hoarding toilet paper or freaking out. I’m sure we’ll all probably be fine and none of these concerns will materialize but…
why take the risk?