Editor’s note: Wel­come to The Pan­dem­ic is Per­son­al, a week­ly series focus­ing on on how the nov­el coro­n­avirus (SARS-CoV­‑2) is affect­ing the every­day lives of peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west. We hope to enlight­en you and reflect on what you and oth­ers are address­ing as this pan­dem­ic runs its course. If you have a sto­ry to tell, please feel free to con­tact us.

In this install­ment, we’ll hear from NPI Doc­u­men­tary Advo­cate There­sa Cur­ry Almu­ti, who joined our staff in the sum­mer of 2017. There­sa is a vet­er­an hous­ing advo­cate and inter­im home­less­ness pre­ven­tion man­ag­er for Sol­id Ground. Dur­ing her time with NPI, she has cov­ered major events like the Seat­tle Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­vals and Net­roots Nation 2018 from New Orleans, Louisiana in addi­tion to writ­ing thought-pro­vok­ing reviews of doc­u­men­tary films. 

When I found out in late Octo­ber that I was preg­nant with my first child, a mil­lion thoughts raced through my head all at once, both excite­ment and worries.

But one thing that def­i­nite­ly did not cross my mind — that I nev­er would even have imag­ined — was that I would have to be nav­i­gat­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic for the sec­ond half of my preg­nan­cy, and plan­ning for labor and deliv­ery in a world entire­ly dif­fer­ent from the one in which my baby was conceived.

Liv­ing in Sno­homish Coun­ty, where the first case of COVID-19 was ini­tial­ly diag­nosed in the Unit­ed States, I was ini­tial­ly not too concerned.

I fig­ured, it was only one per­son, and the health depart­ment seemed to be on top of it and con­nect­ing with every­one he had been in con­tact with since he returned to coun­try, and that the virus would be eas­i­ly tracked and contained.

As we all now know, that’s not at all what happened.

As events tran­spired through­out Feb­ru­ary, I tried to main­tain a lev­el head, not suc­cumb­ing to fear, but not ignor­ing the news and assum­ing every­thing would be fine either. As Seat­tle-area tech com­pa­nies start­ed hav­ing employ­ees work from home, I con­tin­ued to com­mute into the office where I work every day.

As some­one with a pri­vate office, in which I spent the vast major­i­ty of the day just work­ing alone on the com­put­er (with the excep­tion of increas­ing restroom breaks, thanks to my grow­ing baby), I thought the risk was still pret­ty low.

I was start­ing to think about maybe doing some work from home, but had­n’t thought about work­ing com­plete­ly remote­ly. Then in the first week of March, for the first time, Seat­tle-King Coun­ty Pub­lic Health list­ed preg­nant peo­ple as being one of the “high risk” pop­u­la­tions for the virus. I real­ized I prob­a­bly did need to start work­ing from home, so March 9th was the last day I spent in the office.

At the time, I don’t know exact­ly how long I thought I would be work­ing from home, but it seemed like­ly that I would be back in the office for at least a few weeks before I went on mater­ni­ty leave. Many weeks lat­er, it now seems almost cer­tain that I will be work­ing only from home up until my mid-June due date.

Like mil­lions of oth­er peo­ple, I’ve been strug­gling and adapt­ing to the new nor­mal of work­ing from home, with all the chal­lenges it brings.

Being preg­nant has just added an addi­tion­al lay­er. It’s hard to make your­self get up in the morn­ing more than a few min­utes before you need to log on for the day, espe­cial­ly when preg­nan­cy insom­nia kept you awake until 3 AM.

How do you keep your exis­ten­tial dread at bay in rou­tine meet­ings, when your unborn baby is kick­ing and remind­ing you how much is tru­ly at stake?

In some ways, still work­ing full time is an impor­tant dis­trac­tion from that dread, pan­ic, and over­think­ing. When I do have time with my thoughts, I can get quick­ly over­whelmed. As a per­son who gen­er­al­ly plans for every­thing, well in advance when­ev­er pos­si­ble, the uncer­tain­ty and not being able to plan any­thing has left me feel­ing unmoored, adrift, with no abil­i­ty to con­trol my direction.

I think most women have strong feel­ings about their preg­nan­cies, and plans and expec­ta­tions in mind for how they would like their labor and deliv­ery to go. I’ve had to let go of all of that, despite being a plan­ner and a detail ori­ent­ed per­son. Even the sim­ple things like rou­tine med­ical appoint­ments are different.

For the last two months, my preg­nan­cy and par­ent­ing sup­port group has been doing con­fer­ence calls rather than meet­ing in per­son. In per­son check-ins with the mid­wife are kept as short as pos­si­ble. A masked nurse takes my weight and blood pres­sure, scrubs her hands and then leaves the room.

I speak to the mid­wife over the exam room phone with any ques­tions I have, min­i­miz­ing the time she will need actu­al­ly spend in the room with me.

She then comes in to do my bel­ly check, tells me all is good, and that’s it. Not the usu­al warm and friend­ly bed­side man­ner one gets as an expec­tant mother.

Attempt­ing to plan for labor and deliv­ery has been per­haps the hard­est thing.

We ini­tial­ly planned for my moth­er to come over from East­ern Wash­ing­ton a bit before the baby was due so she could be with me dur­ing labor and deliv­ery, along with my hus­band, and that she would stay for a few weeks after to help as we adjust­ed to our new role as parents.

Now, we are not cer­tain if she should come at all, because she is in mul­ti­ple high-risk cat­e­gories, being in her late six­ties with mul­ti­ple chron­ic health conditions.

If she does decide to risk her own health in order to come be with us, she may not be able to be with me in the deliv­ery room, as most hos­pi­tals are lim­it­ing peo­ple to hav­ing only one sup­port per­son with them at the hospital.

I am left with the impos­si­ble deci­sion of whether to have my hus­band or my moth­er with me for the most impor­tant event of my life, one where I will need all the moral sup­port I can get and for which in nor­mal times I could have mul­ti­ple peo­ple there with me to help through the chal­leng­ing moments and to cel­e­brate the hap­py moment of birth.

I haven’t even start­ed to think about after the deliv­ery, and the fact that unless con­di­tions have dras­ti­cal­ly improved by then, none of the rest of my fam­i­ly will be able to vis­it to see our baby or to pro­vide us support.

My broth­er and sis­ters, my nieces and nephews, my mom and dad, when will any of them get to see and hold their newest fam­i­ly member?

Will my hus­band and I be able to have any­one help us with dish­es, laun­dry, and food dur­ing those chal­leng­ing first few weeks when we’ll still be fig­ur­ing out feed­ings and dia­per­ing and swad­dling cor­rect­ly, while try­ing to squeeze in a few hours of sleep each night?

These are just some of the uncer­tain­ties that preg­nant peo­ple and their part­ners are hav­ing to deal with right now. Issues that just a few short months ago no one would have imag­ined. Like almost every part of life these days, we will have to just wait and see what hap­pens, and do the best we can to get through.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “The Pandemic is Personal: Theresa Curry Almuti of NPI on pregnancy during COVID-19”

  1. Great per­son­al reflec­tion, best wish­es for you and your new­born, when­ev­er the big day comes!

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