Being Pregnant in the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic – First Trimester

It was interesting.

If I remember correctly, I found out I was pregnant and read about some new virus going around China that could be another epidemic like SARS about the same time. I also remember thinking while I was reading about it that it probably wouldn’t be a big deal for most people and if it is like SARS, then one or a few cities would have quarantines, but everyone else would be unaffected. I was super naive back then.

First Trimester

What I realized early on is that no matter how “good” your miscarriage was, there’s always some level of fear that remain with you. I was always grateful that if I had to have a miscarriage that it happened early. I know if it had happened later, like I was 16 weeks, I would have been absolutely devastated. I was really sad, but emotionally I was able to move on quickly.

The first week I found out I was pregnant was when the fear of another miscarriage was the strongest because I miscarried after a week. I had this subconscious belief that if I made it through that week, then things would probably be okay. Every morning I woke up panicked and thought to myself, “Please, please, please, don’t bleed.” The fear was strongest in the morning because I miscarried in the morning, so I had this irrational fear that the mornings would be when I would be most likely to miscarry again. I knew my fears were irrational and baseless, but I couldn’t control what I felt. There was a sense of relief when I made it past that week.

Then my next goal was to make it to the first ultrasound appointment at Week 7 (two weeks later). I knew if I made it to that appointment and we heard a strong heartbeat, then the risk of miscarriage dramatically went down. I didn’t cry at the appointment when I heard the heartbeat, but I did cry when I got home. I was so happy and relieved that we made it to another milestone.

By this point my fear went down quite a bit. I was still concerned about having another miscarriage until I made it through the first trimester, but I was no longer gripped with fear that this could come falling apart at any moment. One of the ways in which I managed the anxiety of having another miscarriage was that I would visit this site, Miscarriage Probability Chart, every morning. It’s a really great resource that calculates the probablilty of having a miscarriage based on your age, prior pregnancies, previous miscarriages, and BMI. There’s a link underneath that translates the risk of miscarriage into reassuring infomation that helps you to frame how unlikely it is that you will have a miscarriage. Every morning I would put in my info and then click the Reassurer. Every day I would tell myself that the risk of a miscarriage went down another bit and the probability of a healthy birth went up.

I used that site until I was about 15 weeks along. The first trimester is 12 weeks and usually people wait until they’re about 12 weeks along to announce that they’re pregnant. Because I was a high-risk pregnancy (mostly because of my age), I still had elevated risk of miscarriage until 15 weeks, so I chose 15 weeks to be when I would disclose that I was expecting. I mean, I did tell family and a few close friends before 15 weeks, but I was keeping it quiet til then. But by the time I was 15 weeks along, the COVID-19 pandemic was roaring and we were being told to stay home, so most people in my life didn’t know I was pregnant until much later because I wasn’t seeing people.

My experience with the first trimester

What I remember about the first trimester was the intense unending hunger. I was constantly hungry. The recommendation is for women to either not increase the number of calories or to only increase it by 100 calories per day because during the first trimester the embryo is quite small.

There was no way I could survive on what I used to eat. I was absolutely constantly famished the entire time. This is also the trimester where I gained the most weight. I gained about 45 pounds over the course of nine months (recommended is 25-35 lbs) and about 20 of it came from the first trimester. I wasn’t surprised considering how much I ate each day. I woke up and ate breakfast. Then I would drive an hour plus to work. I arrived starving so I would then eat second breakfast/early first lunch before I started work. After working for a couple of hours, I would have a (large) snack and then work again for another couple of hours. Then I would have a big lunch. After an hour of working, I would have a small snack. Finish work and have another small snack to tide me over for the commute home. When I arrive home, I would have a large dinner. If I was working late, then I would have a large dinner at work. If you told me to eat the same amount as I did before I got pregnant, I would have killed you and then eaten you. Since I was being weighed at each appointment, my doctors knew exactly how much weight I was gaining and they never said anything to me, so they didn’t have a problem with how much weight I gained.

Running went to shit pretty much right away. Before pregnancy I had these visions of how I was going to continue running and staying active for as long as I can. I knew several ladies who ran well into their pregnancy. One of my friends even set a PR while pregnant! Because of I had all of these wonderful strong women who were great shining examples of how pregnancy doesn’t need to hold you back, I really thought I was going to run a lot more.

In reality, running was tortuous and painful and not at all enjoyable for most of the running that I did manage to do while pregnant. The reason why I’m putting this out there is because while it’s okay to run while pregnant, it’s also okay to NOT run while pregnant. The other reason why I quit running is because I didn’t want to wear a mask while running. It just didn’t seem enjoyable and I was already experiencing shortness of breath from being pregnant, so contributing to the difficulty in breathing didn’t make much sense to me.

Even before I knew I was pregnant, my speed was gone. I literally lost it overnight. I just stopped having the leg turnover that I once had. My legs felt like cement. Then about a month into the pregnancy, I developed round ligament pain. Usually round ligament pain doesn’t show up until the second trimester. It didn’t hurt when I was standing or walking, but it hurt when I ran, particularly if I tried to run fast. Excruciating pain caused tears to spring to my eyes. Whatever running I could do had to be slow. Occasionally I had good days and I could muster a 9-something miles, but those were rare and I could never tell when I was going to have a good day or a bad day.

One of the few good running days I had was the Atlanta Half Marathon on March 1, 2020. I did that race literally the last minute. I had a bunch of friends who were going down to Atlanta for the Olympic Trials. I told myself I should be responsible and not go frivously spend money, so I made the decision to stay home. Then at the last minute, I suffered from FOMO (fear of missing out) so I found cheap flights to Atlanta and Ben found a good hotel deal for me. I’m soooo glad I went. It was my last race and one of the the last things I did that was fun and normal because we all know what happened later in March.

March 2020

During this time news about the coronavirus was growing larger and larger. The virus was found in Seattle and I knew it was just time before the virus would be found elsewhere in the US. In early March I was still unaware of just how bad this was going to become. I was still thinking it would be like SARS and at worst, Seattle, Chicago, LA, and New York would experience some sort of quarantine for a month or so. At work people were also becoming more concerned and we were wondering if we were going to be sent home to work for a period of time.

Life was upended so quickly.

March 9th & 10th (Monday & Tuesday) were normal days at work. All non-essential in-person work was cancelled for the rest of the week starting on Wednesday. I still had to go in for the rest of the week for meetings and preparing things for work to happen remotely for the next couple of weeks (we still had naive thoughts that this was going to be short-lived).

Thursday I found out that my mom had pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Normally because my youngest sister also lives in California, she would be the one to take care of family matters like this. However, she was in Australia during this time. My other sister has little children and couldn’t leave. Since my work was going remote, there was no reason why I couldn’t go. My mother didn’t want me to go because she was concerned about the growing danger that was COVID-19. Remember during this time, we didn’t know much about it and we thought that we shouldn’t be wearing masks, but be socially distant and not touch stuff.

My sisters and I thought I should still go because my mother was quite ill. I flew out Saturday, March 14th. Ben had me fly out business class so that I would have more room and not be surrounded by people. I didn’t have to worry about crowds because even at this early stage, the number of people flying dropped drastically. JFK was eerily empty. Ben stopped going into work on March 16th and worked remotely. California went into early lockdown later that week (by the 21st).

The fortunate part of my mother’s illness is that she got pneumonia early when at least where we were, there were no active cases of COVID-19, so her hospital had a bed and resources for her. She stayed at the hospital for like 4 days and then we took her home. She was mostly fine by the end of the week, a little weak and needed to do breathing exercises, but 80-90% feeling like herself. By the end of two weeks, she felt 100% like herself.

Now in normal times, I would have flown home at this point. However, the number of cases in NY increased rapidly (the first wave) and CA had far fewer cases of COVID-19. My parents, Ben, and I talked and we all concluded that I would be safer in CA, so we made the decision I would stay. We weren’t sure when I would fly back home to NY. My dad actually suggested that I stay in CA and have my baby there. If my insurance had been accepted at a hospital in CA, I would have given this more consideration. My parents have a large house and Ben and I could have easily stayed there.

Belly Progression

By the end of the first trimester I very clearly looked pregnant. I know some women don’t show until later in the second trimester. Not me. I started showing early. Actually a few of my friends guessed I was pregnant when I wasn’t even three months pregnant because I was definitely developing a belly. I had to start hiding my belly by wearing loose tops and sweaters. One of my friends saw a photo of me from the Atlanta Half and emailed me to say I looked pregnant. By Week 15, I was clearly pregnant and I didn’t have to hide my belly because we were all fully remote, so I wasn’t seeing anybody who wasn’t my family.

I’ll end here – just past my first trimester, with a visible pregnant belly, living in CA, and a raging pandemic going on in the world.

2 thoughts on “Being Pregnant in the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic – First Trimester

  1. When I was pregnant, I was also starving all the time. It was like I couldn’t consume enough food and because I couldn’t eat that much at a time I was eating something like every 2 hours. I’m glad to hear your mom recovered completely so quickly and you were able to take care of her.

    • It was a relief bringing her back home because even though the hospital had procedures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus (very poor in retrospect, but they were operating off the best info we had available at the time), she was still at greater risk than being at home. We always talk about how fortunate she was to get sick when she did because the hospital wasn’t overrun with corona cases. I shudder when I hear stories about people who need to be admitted, but are turned away because they aren’t sick enough (i.e., dying) and there aren’t enough beds.

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