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Spirituality

Navigating Pregnancy Amidst COVID

As a young child, I often prayed to my older brother Timothy. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and didn’t survive his delivery. Although he never physically had a life outside of my mother’s womb, I always felt a spiritual connection to him. Now as an adult and first-time mom, I pray to my brother daily. 

My mom had normal pregnancies and carried five babies, including Timothy, to full term. All babies were over 9 pounds, including myself at 10.5 pounds and my sister Katelyn at a whopping 11 pounds, and she delivered all vaginally without any drugs. My parents raised four girls, and Timothy was the only boy born to our family. On the morning of my brother’s birth, my mom didn’t feel any movements from the baby but was beginning to feel contractions. She immediately knew something was wrong. My mom went to the hospital and the nurse used a Fetal Doppler to locate the heartbeat. The nurse called the doctor and said she could not find a heartbeat, all while not speaking or making eye contact with my parents. The doctor performed an examination and confirmed my parent’s greatest fear—Timothy was no longer alive. The doctor induced labor and my brother was born several hours later, an otherwise perfectly healthy baby boy who happened to get strangled by his umbilical cord while trying to make it out into the world. 

At 36 years old, I am pregnant with our first baby and all I can think about is losing this child. It is on my mind all the time. We are in the second trimester, and even though we have passed the high miscarriage phase of the first twelve weeks, I know everything and anything could still go wrong. My brother’s death was a freak accident that happened over 30 years ago, and technology has since evolved. Still, I wonder, will I actually be able to sustain this life? 

It is a terrifying time to be pregnant amidst the COVD pandemic. My partner Eric and I have been self-quarantining since mid-March and will continue to stay at home, even as restaurants and businesses begin to reopen. Data shows I am not in the high-risk category because I’m pregnant, but this disease is incredibly new. We don’t know the long term effects of this crisis, especially to babies born with the disease in the middle of the pandemic. COVID cases are beginning to decline, but there’s a chance there will be a resurgence in the fall when we expect to deliver. Will my doctor even be available, or will she be trying to save the lives of thousands of people dying from this disease? Will Eric be allowed in the room, or will I have to deliver our first child by myself? I feel selfish and scared of writing these words. I’m perfectly healthy, I am fine. But I am worried about this baby that I’m trying so hard to keep alive right now.

After my brother passed, my mom got pregnant with me a short nine months later. She wanted to immediately start trying to have another baby, to push the pain she was feeling away. This pregnancy was anxiety-ridden, as she was afraid of another loss. My mom drank several cups of orange juice daily because the sugar would make me move around in her uterus and the movement would bring reassurance. Besides being born high-risk due to the issues of my brother’s delivery, my younger sister and I were born without any complications. But my mom had changed as a parent. She became paranoid and worried that another one of her children would die. She was convinced there was a man driving around the neighborhood in a red Pinto looking for little girls to kidnap. To avoid this man when playing outside, my sisters and I were instructed to run inside immediately if we spotted any red cars. There was no man in a red Pinto kidnapping children, but my mom had convinced herself and her young daughters of his existence. When I asked my mom about this time of raising four children after losing a baby she said, “I wouldn’t be able to survive losing another child. I did everything I could to protect you.”

I never understood those words until I got pregnant. This small life is still inside of me and I’m so afraid of completely messing it up before it is even born, let alone once it’s out in the world. We recently found out that we will be having a baby boy. A boy. I’ve been around primarily women most of my life. I do not know how to raise a boy. I am not equipped. How do I raise a boy in this world?

I always had a special bond with Timothy. I loved to think that I was in line after him and that I held the next special spot in my mother’s womb. My parents openly discussed my brother’s passing and we visited his grave on his birthday every year. I knew from a young age that he was looking down at us and viewed him as my spiritual guide. Growing up with only sisters, I liked to imagine what life would be like had he survived—would I be a different person if my brother was around? We are only a year and a half apart, closer in age than any of my siblings, what would it be like to navigate high school with an older brother? Would my younger sister and I even be born if Timothy was alive? So many what-if’s.

I’m 23 weeks pregnant and am trying to replace all the worry, doubt, and what-ifs with love for my baby. I have begun feeling tiny pokes and prods, reassurances that he is in there and is alive. The analysis from my latest ultrasound read, “Very active fetus.” I don’t have to drink daily glasses of orange juice to feel him inside me kicking away. I talk to my son regularly as I touch my belly, reminding him how much my partner and I love and care for him and can’t wait for his arrival. I continue to think of my brother often and feel his presence watching over us.  I view him as a protector to his new nephew, and I pray to Timothy for guidance once again:

Help protect this small fragile life inside of me, help us have a safe hospital bed and medical care when our baby is born, help protect this world from crumbling apart before our very own eyes. Timothy, guide my partner and me to raise this boy to be kind, gentle, respectful, and full of life and love. Please help us keep this baby boy alive. 

 

If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/my-shocking-pregnancy-story-how-i-started-a-company-studied-travelled-10-countries-and-moved-three-times/

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by eblockinger

Betty Blockinger lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Eric, dog Zamboni and is expecting her first child in September. She loves to write, read, exercise and garden. She manages the Volunteer Program with Columbus Recreation and Parks and aspires to be more like Leslie Knope every single day.

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