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Mom Talk: Pregnant During A Pandemic

Written by Eirinie Carson

Photography by Photos Courtesy of Eirinie Carson

The grind of newborn motherhood can often feel like an isolating experience. Add in the pandemic and it’s a whole new level of alone, not to mention anxiety. In today’s Mom Talk essay, Bay Area-based Eirinie Carson discusses her COVID-era pregnancy, while stretching out a (digital) hand to other women in the same boat. Already mother to a 4-year-old daughter, the British/Jamaican writer and model is currently working on her first book, which examines the loss of her best friend and what love looks like after death. You can read more of her writing on her blog

I am pregnant.

During a pandemic.

Apparently, I am not the only one. Apparently, we were all bored as shit and thought, you know what will pair well with this boredom? The intense, lonely, emotional experience of being pregnant and having a newborn! I should know better, I have an almost 4-year-old and being her mum in the past 12 months has been a job of such a magnitude I really am unsure as to how me, my husband, and the house are still standing.

In February of 2020 my husband Adam and I had a lovely, optimistic little conversation about having another child. We both decided it was time, I came off of my birth control, and then…the world came to a grinding halt. At the time, we assumed that it would be a short stint, 2 months max of quarantine for the world to get this under control, and so we held off trying to get pregnant and concentrated on endlessly washing our hands.

In hindsight I am not sure what it was about July/August 2020 that made me think the worst was over. Was it summertime? Endless days at the beach, Aperol Spritzes in the backyard sun whilst my child talked to her toys? I am not sure, but something made us think now was the time. Something gave us cause to see a light at the end of the tunnel, a thought that now makes me cackle the laughter of the forcibly insane. My doctor prescribed me Letrozole for my ovulation cycle (I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which makes it difficult for me to track said cycle) and we tried the no-pull-out-method ONE TIME. Boom, pregnant. It was not that easy for me the first time, so I naively thought that the second time would be the exact same.

And then, whilst we were still in that dazed, sort-of thrilled haze that all second parents fall into, the entire state of California caught fire. The devastation and loss was everywhere, compounding the palpable sense of grief already lingering in the air from COVID-19. My family and I were lucky, out of the danger zone, but every morning we opened our shades to an apocalyptic sky, ash coated our car, our daughter asked why the air smelt like it was burning. It was a long fire season and the refugees from the zones hit the hardest could be seen in the car parks and fairgrounds in our little Northern California town and there was a crushing sense of finality. This was the end, surely.

The Black Lives Matter movement regained some speed in the summer with the murder of George Floyd. Adam and I took our daughter to protests, it felt right to go out into a pandemic for this. They were killing us anyway, what was a little more risk? The news was dire, the scenes at protests in many major cities felt like snapshots from some unrecognizable warzone until you looked back into America’s history and realized, no, I do recognize these scenes. We had been here before; we would be here again.

Between the state of the world, the country, the state of the state, I had never been more disheartened. My emotions were in that yo-yo stage of early pregnancy, I touched my belly and wondered who the fuck I thought I was, bringing a child into this wasteland, this devastation we had brought upon ourselves. I felt full of guilt and, although it pains me to say this now at almost 8 months pregnant, regret. It was bad enough our daughter had to wear a face mask every day and we had to run an air purifier throughout the night in her little purple bedroom, but now I had actively made a choice to bring someone else into this world of suffering. I felt like I was choking on despair.

I let my beloved OBGYN Dr. Lester know that I wasn’t doing well. I broke down in her office (COVID restrictions meant that all of my visits and sonograms were done solo, just a little more isolation for my pain). She made a referral to a therapist and told me how many pregnant people had come to see her and expressed the exact same feeling of a deep despair, guilt, and disappointment. Something about realizing I was in a depressing little club of hundreds made me feel less alone. When I got home, I reached out to another mum I knew who was also pregnant and just the act of stretching out my (cyber) hand to touch someone else, to remind myself that there was someone else there, someone I could talk to who would know better than anyone just how I was feeling was enough.

This pregnancy has been a tough one. Physically difficult, I mean. Morning sickness lasted 3 months and involved daily vomiting and an aversion to every single food. I lost 15lbs (don’t worry, I gained it back in abundance with these sweet milk boobs) and I still have some food that triggers my nausea even in my third trimester. At about 5 months, I developed Symphysis Pubis and if you don’t know what this is then god bless you, may you never know. It feels as if your pelvis and pubic bone are made from peanut brittle, it feels as if you may snap in two. Remember Barbie? Imagine pulling her legs apart into a sideways split. That’s how it feels, like your legs will pop out of your sockets if you move too much. I have been hobbling about like my 90-year-old grandfather was post hip surgery.

And, as a lovely relative recently pointed out, I am bigger than I was before. Second pregnancy, second belly. This time round however, I feel some sense of beauty in this unreal stomach. I am a little in awe and every time I moisturize it (every day, the only parenting advice I ever retained from my father was to moisturize my body EVERY DAMN DAY) I marvel over its symmetry, the veins close to the surface, the way even my belly button has inverted itself to make space for this creature we are growing. The occasional bump, an elbow or limb from a child I have yet to know but whom I already have a feeling for—she is content, she knows herself, she is determined.

It has felt like a long road to acceptance for this pregnancy. Only now, as I near the end of this journey, I am truly feeling connected with this child. I didn’t have the privilege of time and energy that I had with my first baby, I haven’t had the time to play songs to my bump, to daydream about names, to lazily prepare a room for them. We have been so deep in survival mode, so deep in getting through the day that I have often forgotten who I am carrying, and what will be the inevitable consequence of our no-pull-out-method. I feel as if I have only just lifted my head up from the road I am traveling on, and can finally see a destination, an oasis in this year of absolute desert. Nothing has really changed in terms of the world, we are still fighting a pandemic, we are still fighting for our basic civil rights, we are still lonely and disconnected and depressed, but in my little world connections are forming. My baby is growing. And, hopefully, if she’s anything like her sister, she will bring much needed joy and laughter and hope to this planet.

And so, fellow pregnant people, moisturize your bodies. Eat the food you can stomach. Move your limbs the best you can. Know that you’re not alone, you are not an island, and here is my hand, reaching out for yours across an abyss of unknowing.

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  1. Charlotte Ripley says...

    Thank you so much for this article! You captured everything I’m feeling and have tried to express (including barbie joints) to non-pregnant / non-parent people since becoming pregnant last summer (when we were stuck inside for 9 days with an 18 month old because this coast was on fire). So glad I’m not alone!

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