It’s been over a year since the birth of Priya Jai, our ‘pandemic baby’ and somedays it feels like the longest year of my life, and other days I can’t believe she’s already fourteen months old. Over the last year I’ve been lucky to share our story of pregnancy during Covid-19 and giving birth on the brink of a world wide shut down. As strong mamas do, I tend to brush the experience off by praising how far we’ve come and how the pandemic is almost in the rear view. I think that’s the best we can do. But it wasn’t that easy and honestly it shouldn’t be brushed it off, because quite frankly, women don’t talk about post-partum as much as we should.
In a normal world, post-partum depression or baby blues exist, in a pandemic world its ten fold. During my last trimester with Priya, I was diagnosed with Cholestasis, a condition that made me uncontrollably itchy from head to toe with no cure other than delivery, and with that came the risk of a still birth. So after 31 weeks the fun stopped for me. I was worried every single day. I stopped sleeping to count kicks, I stopped celebrating in hopes that I wasn’t jinxing the birth, my world just stopped and became about the baby growing in my belly. Doctors appointments were every other day for hours which led me to stop working sooner than I had anticipated. The stress of the world was on my shoulders but I still had a two-year old that needed me 24-7.
The rumors of Covid-19 were becoming real. My induction date got pushed up to March 18th. (Mila’s birthday) and I begged to go in sooner in order to make it home for Mila’s 3rd birthday. So there we were on March 13th walking into the hospital. My husband and I separated to be screened by staff wearing masks. We were told no visitors, and no leaving the hospital once we were in. This was it. This was how we were going to welcome our last baby girl into this world.
The hallways were quiet. The room doors were shut. As we did our laps trying to induce labor it felt like a scene from the Walking Dead when Rick wakes up in the hospital. Eerie. Mario casually mentioned we should stock up on diapers and formula because the Covid situation. Little did we know that same day then Governor Raimondo would declare a state of emergency in Rhode Island. Newborn diapers and formula were WIPED off of shelves. We called our families sending them out to search for us while waited. A box of diapers here, a can of formula there, thankfully we were covered but it was something we never thought we’d be hunting for, never did we think we wouldn’t have access to essential baby items. And, unlike baby #1 where you are stocked up on everything, baby #2 comes with the relaxation that the pre-hoarding of baby items isn’t necessary.
We welcomed our daughter Priya Jai Zuluaga on March 14, 2020. A date that people will always associate with the beginning of the pandemic here in the US. We didn’t get the moment where Priya’s big sisters came to greet her, in fact it was a quiet and calm way to enter the world. We went home to a quiet home and weren’t ready to determine who in the family would get visiting rights and who wouldn’t. We kept the initial weeks to our very immediate family but by week #2 it was clear, no one should be visiting. By the end of March friends and family met our baby via facetime only. It was lonely. It was scary.
My dad had recently moved out a week before I went into labor, so now I was worried for him and his underlying health conditions while living in a community of seniors who seemed to be suffering the most from Covid-19. My sister was front-line as a pharmacist and I was worried for her and sad that as my only support system she was so exposed to the public. After about a month home, the news of losing our Uncle Suchendra Singh hit our home and our family hard. We couldn’t mourn together, and as much as I wanted to hug my aunts and cousins, I had a newborn that I was worried for. This was the first of many funerals we missed. Having to choose when it was okay to leave the house became impossible. So we just didn’t. Doctor visits only required one parent leaving one of us left out of important milestone visits. Groceries were delivered with so many items “unavailable.” Mario’s job was calling him back while my job was unsure if a furlough was expected or not. The tornado around us grew bigger each day as my only job became making sure my family survived this physically, emotionally and mentally. I was in survival mode.
We made it through that summer, with virtual therapy, family zoom nights, play dough and Barbie’s. Some days were good and some days were bad, but we were blessed to weather the storm together. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that ten months later our family did test positive for covid. The unimaginable happened and we survived.
Today we see the signs of what having a pandemic baby resulted in.
- Not having our babies ears pierced because it was elective, so instead of doing it at 4months like we normally would, we waited over a year. Not fun. (4months is just easier, they have no idea!)
- Shoes? Try putting shoes on a baby who hasn’t left the house in over a year. IMPOSSIBLE
- Stranger danger – no matter who you are, if you aren’t mom or dad, Priya doesn’t want anything to do with you.
- Homebody – Priya has her limit of the amount of time she can handle out of the house, she will cry and fuss but the minute we walk through the door, all is calm.
- Hair ties, bows and headbands – yep, those are laughable. She is like a baby in the wild.
- Parks and stores – we didn’t take her out in public for a very long time and still hesitate to do so as she is not vaccinated. We reference this to the movie Encino Man – if you know, you know
Some of these things are funny, for me it feels like torture. I remind myself that this is my last baby. So the days she’s glued to me and I’m tired, I just remind myself that after this she will never be this small and this cuddly again! Sometimes it works. lol.
Everyone has a story about the last year. Almost everyone we know has lost someone during this pandemic. Pandemic pregnancy and pandemic babies are a world only those of us that went through it, can truly understand.
I’m open about my post partum depression, I am open about the need for therapy and it’s all okay to talk about. 1 in 7 women suffer from ppd. Post partum depression is known to be the fourth trimester of pregnancy, but one day I woke up and the crying just stopped. Our bodies work in miraculous ways and I was lucky to feel better after a while. I still struggle with anxiety around my children’s play dates, I struggle with the PTSD from the last year, I struggle with the loss that I’ve never healed from. For now I’ll continue sharing my story in hopes to heal and help heal.
Rhode Island Monthyl Magazine featured a short blurb of our Pandemic Baby story which sparked the need for the longer post. Pick up your July issue today!