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My Pre-Pandemic Pregnancy Did Nothing to Prepare Me For My Current One

Pregnant women often get asked the same three questions in varying order: Do you know what you’re having? When are you due? Any crazy cravings?

Back in 2015, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was so relieved to get to the stage of pregnancy at which my belly announced to the world that I was expecting a baby rather than digesting a burrito. My days were spent cruising bookstore aisles buying every pregnancy and baby book I could get my swollen fingers on. At night I dog-eared important chapters to share with my husband and highlighted key facts that I figured I’d come back to when I needed them. Doesn’t every new parent look up swaddling and shushing techniques at two in the morning?

Prenatal yoga classes, birthing classes, and breastfeeding classes replaced my afternoon spin classes. Listening to birth meditations and searching natural birth videos on YouTube became my primary form of entertainment. My Pinterest was full of saved organic baby food recipes. I did more research on organic teething toys than I’d ever done buying my car or searching for an apartment.

All of these preparations convinced me that I was officially qualified to have a baby.

If you’re pregnant and having your first child, you might relate to some of this. If you have kids already, you’re probably laughing at me. Don’t worry; looking back, I’m laughing at myself as well. When the time came and the contractions began, I learned rather quickly that nothing can truly prepare you for labor. My birth plan soon went out the window, and a need for flexibility, that as a Type A planner I didn’t have, was demanded of me. Labor didn’t care that I’d wanted a natural birth in the goddess zen room of a birthing center surrounded by candles and the scent of lavender. I was transferred to a hospital and had to let go of what I thought my birth experience would look like. I had to adapt.

This would be my first lesson in parenting.

A few weeks later, I was reminded of this lesson when none of my baby book tips and tricks were helping to lull my baby back to sleep in the wee hours of the night. Because babies don’t care how many books you’ve read about sleep training. Sometimes, they just need the instinct of nurture.

Now, four years later, I’m pregnant with my second child — and you’d think I’d feel more prepared than before. But nope. My husband and I found ourselves hovering over a pregnancy test three weeks into our government-imposed quarantine due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pregnancy was planned. The pregnancy during a pandemic was not.

Over the next few weeks of my first trimester, we’d come to realize that the world was not going to magically get back to normal. That this time at home — baking banana bread and doing workouts in our living room — was not temporary. Entering my second trimester, a long and overdue reckoning with the systemic racism rooted in this country began to unfold following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. Soon after, social unrest and a nation divided warmed us up for a full-on threat to the democracy that this nation was founded on — right as my third trimester began.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so concerned with which bamboo onesie I would be bringing my baby home from the hospital in. Instead, I began to wonder, what world will I be birthing my baby into?

Where is the baby book that tells you how to navigate giving birth in a year like 2020? There isn’t one. This is uncharted territory. There is no guidebook on how to deal with going to doctor’s appointments alone. Nobody has the perfect answer on how to talk to friends and family about wearing a mask and staying six feet apart when said friends and family members are telling you you’re “just overreacting.” I haven’t found helpful literature that guides you to be able to balance watching the news in order to stay informed while also having to turn the news off so that you can monitor your own mental health.

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Forget my birth plan going out the window; this time, I threw out my whole pregnancy plan.

Reluctantly, I had to adapt. The conversations I once saved for my prenatal classes became smaller conversations I’d have with my belly and myself. Texting with other pregnant friends revolved around asking how we were all feeling rather than comparing what baby carrier we were registering for. Instead of researching wooden Montessori toys for my baby, I began researching how I would talk to my kids about race and building our children’s book collections to reflect the world that we live in.

In the quiet moments at home, I’m dreaming of how I teach our kids that while I always want them to be safe and take care of themselves, the most important thing we can do as a society is to show others that we care for everyone’s safety, health, and security. Whether it’s in the form of wearing a mask, voting for our rights, or simply insisting that Black lives matter.

Being in quarantine for the safety of my family and myself, I don’t get asked as many pregnancy questions from strangers this time around. Instead, I’m the one asking the questions. They’re usually the same, in varying order. Can you please put your mask on? Have you been tested this week? Are you registered to vote?

My first pregnancy did nothing to prepare me for being pregnant in 2020. But being pregnant in 2020 has undoubtedly prepared me to become a better mother.

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