Giving Birth During a Global Pandemic

Two posts ago, I was writing a piece on my hope and confidence on how my postpartum journey would go.

Then…a global pandemic happened.

Currently we’re on lockdown here in Belgium. This means that we can go out but only if we’re with family or one other person, 1,5 meters away. Only one person can go to the grocery store and I’ve seen some odd stories about single mothers being turned away from grocery stores because they have their child or children with them. Every day it seems, the Belgian government issues new restrictions because we aren’t respecting them. That said, the streets are empty, though you can still hear the laughter of children on the street as each family goes for their daily walk or bicycle ride.

But why worry about the police state outside when we’ve got the police state in our house in the form of a four year old? My son graciously informs my husband and I whenever we break any of the school rules or the family rules. Generally we can tell which ones are the school rules based on the smattering of French involved.

No coudes (elbows) on the table! No phones at the dinner table! Mommy, Daddy hasn’t made his bed yet! Daddy – you’re not done cleaning up – get back to work! That’s not MY job, Mommy!

The weather has been beautiful here, just simply breathtaking. Cool, sunny with not a cloud in the sky. For Brussels, it’s an unusually beautiful Spring, I hear. While some are sad and disappointed that it’s sunny and we can’t go out much, I’m truly thankful that the rays of sunshine fill our apartment and we can open our windows to let the cool springtime breeze in. Had this occurred in January or February, I think my spirit might have been broken.

A lot of people have been asking how I’m doing. My answer is usually, generally OK, though there are some days with low morale. When I was talking to my mom, I observed that the last 30 days were kind of like buying a house. You know, about 30 days of:

waiting – frenetic activity – waiting – getting news that might kill the entire deal – waiting -everything’s fine – frenetic activity – waiting – BOOM! You’re a house owner!

My last monthly prenatal appointment was 9 March. Everything seemed OK, we scheduled the c-section, lined up all my final appointments and my pre-operative appointments and kicked off the insurance paperwork to ensure that I would have adequate coverage.

Then the lockdowns started.

I started teleworking on 10 March due to the trajectory of the coronavirus cases. G’s school closed starting the following Monday. Our babysitter came on Monday, and then the stricter lockdown started Tuesday. So I went down to half-time at work to care for G. Later that week, my doctor’s appointments started getting cancelled.

While this was happening, borders started closing. My husband was supposed to pick up our car in Germany, but public transportation was starting to become less reliable and I was concerned about exposure on public transportation. Our car became an unknown.

My pre-operative appointment seemed to still be on, so I made arrangements to get a ride. When I emerged from my appointment, I was faced with getting in a taxi or the metro. It was a beautiful day and I was just uncomfortable with risking the exposure. So, I walked a hour and a half to get home. Since no one is allowed to stop and sit on the benches, I just kept moving my large, pregnant body. At the end of the walk, my back was shot. We rented a car the next day for two weeks to cover the rest of the appointments and hospitalization. The morning we picked up the rental car, I found out that our new car would be arriving via private transport about an hour away from us. I found out we needed an attestation from my work to travel around Belgium to pick up the car, and I now needed an insurance policy for the car.

In three hours of frenzied activity, I got our documents to travel around Belgium and locked in an insurance policy.

At my pre-operative appointment, I found out that my husband could attend the birth and stay during recovery, but if he left at any moment, he would not be allowed back in the hospital. I had lost my babysitter to the lockdown and my husband had been planning on being home for my son during the days. I quickly made arrangements for my sister to watch my son for 5 days (which is not small feat for anyone who hangs out with four year olds).

I went to my last prenatal appointment, then promptly went to the Boulangerie (bakery), kept my 1,5 meter distance, bought a cherry pie and a chocolate muffin and ate the muffin and half of the pie. It was emotional eating at its’ finest, and I regret nothing.

After that last appointment, I got all the paperwork signed to submit to insurance for them to preauthorize payment to the hospital. If I failed to get a Payment Guarantee from my health insurance, then I would have to pay upfront once I arrived at the hospital which would have run me about 8,000 euros. Fortunately the insurance company turned my paperwork super fast and sent me the Payment Guarantee the following business day.

Everything settled and so we waited.

Then on Sunday, a simple sore throat happened.

My husband woke up, feeling pretty good, but had a mild sore throat.

Tense, we watched and waited to see if it got worse. We quarantined from each other – my son and husband in the guest bedroom wing, myself in our bedroom. I lysoled everything he touched, I touched…every time we chased each other between different rooms.

Monday he woke up…and the sore throat was still there. Now really sure what to do, I emailed my doctor. She told me to report on his temperature and mine on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, he woke up…and the sore throat was still there. My doctor called and asked about any other symptoms. Thankfully there were none. My doctor said great, he can come but can’t be in the OR. Which frankly is probably a relief for my husband, given that he nearly passed out during G’s birth. But he could stay with me and the new baby. The only thing my doctor said was that we needed to find masks, buy them and bring them.

Right. I’ll just run to the pharmacy and grab some masks.

(I’m sure, since this is a global pandemic, everyone realizes how realistic that request is…)

After crowdsourcing some masks, I arranged for my coworkers to bring us two masks for the hospital, the night before.

My husband and sister picked up the new car the afternoon before delivery. On the way home, my husband informed me that the German temporary plates were too big, so they were setting off the crash sensor on the car. They quickly pulled them off and stuck them on the dash. Hopefully I can get special narrow plates to sort out the crash sensor – but who knows at this point? I have 22 days to get the car registered by a company that is closed, but possibly working online. Else…I don’t know. I don’t know what I do with the car or what happens.

If my husband gets a fever or any other symptoms (runny nose, muscle aches, dry cough) on 1 April, he won’t be allowed to go to the hospital at all. So, I quickly arranged for my sister to go with me for the stay in the event that my husband gets sicker.

All of this…to finally have us arrive at the hospital for our baby during a global pandemic in a foreign country where we don’t speak the language.

So that, my friends, is what runs through my mind when people ask me: so how are you doing with all of this?

Postpartum World_ICON_4C_Yellow Rattle

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