NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

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

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.

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One Comment

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

    # by Rhonda Mueller :: June 12th, 2020 at 5:40 PM
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