Selina Schoeman
Selina Schoeman gave birth to her third child in Dubai in June during the pandemic Image Credit: Supplied

The hardest aspect of being pregnant during the pandemic, for me, was the fear of what might happen. As we scoured the news and monitored the rising numbers in the UAE, we didn’t know if a major outbreak would happen here, as it had in other countries.

The media was relentless - nothing else featured - so it really made you feel this was something major to be feared. Along with the rollercoaster hormones of pregnancy, as well as just being a mum wanting to keep her family safe, some days it felt a lot.

At one point I made a conscious effort to step back from reading the news and to try to remain informed, but in a healthy way that wouldn’t lead to anxiety.

I was most frightened by the possibility that I’d have to be separated from my baby after birth if I contracted COVID-19 or tested positive for the virus. Some countries were also not allowing partners into the birthing room. The rules were forever changing and we didn’t know what the situation would be by the time it came to our turn. It was the anxiety and the emotional toll that were the hardest.


As it turned out, though, I think we were very fortunate to be in Dubai, since the impact of the pandemic on my pregnancy itself was fairly minor. We were lucky that we had taken our other two kids (aged 5 and 7) to the 20-week scan, just before the rules changed - after that, they would not have been allowed to attend.

But my husband was always allowed to come to the scans and antenatal visits, we just both had to wear masks and have temperatures checked each time – something that is now just a part of the new normal. Only one of our appointments was during the full ‘lockdown’, for which we had to obtain a permit to travel.

There were some surprise positive sides to being pregnant in a pandemic
There were some surprise positive sides to being pregnant in a pandemic Image Credit: Supplied

Pregnancy plans changed due to the pandemic

The impact of the pandemic was more on our lifestyle as a family, which was the same for everyone. Schools closed and movement became particularly restricted for children under 12, so I was then with my other children 24/7: responsible for their schooling, entertainment, well-being - everything.

Without the pandemic, we may have gone on some birth hospital tours and investigated the new hospitals closer to home, but we decided against doing so while I was pregnant and thought it better to stick the hospital we knew and had already used for our previous two births in Dubai.

I'm a bit of a planner and love making lists, so COVID became another thing to be organized about while I was expecting. Whereas in my first pregnancy I researched antenatal classes and did hospital tours, and in my second pregnancy I read a Hypnobirthing book and listened to the CD every night, for my third pregnancy, I kept abreast of COVID info!

Selina's pregnancy plans had to change due to the pandemic
Selina's pregnancy plans had to change due to the pandemic Image Credit: Supplied

My husband also remained working from home as a precaution during my pregnancy, despite many other colleagues returning to the office, and we also cancelled a staycation.

Had this pregnancy been under normal circumstances, we would also probably have enjoyed more time socialising, maybe a last family holiday, some nice dinners out and I may have treated myself to some pregnancy massages. But we remained really cautious and low-key as we didn’t want to jeopardize the birth, even though things had opened up a bit in May and June.

Luckily it was my third pregnancy, so I didn’t feel I was missing out too much. I really feel for any first time mums who don’t get to experience those special parts of being pregnant though.

Selina and her new baby
Selina and her new baby Image Credit: Supplied

Surprise benefits

I had not expected to ‘share’ this pregnancy so much with my older children and husband! But it actually became a really positive focus for us all, with my kids and husband all working and schooling from home. They all got so into the growing belly and feeling the baby kicks!

There were many silver linings to the pandemic for our family; at some points we almost felt guilty that it was such a positive experience for us, when so many other people in the world were, and are still, suffering so badly.

I think we were very lucky that the boys were a good age as, at 5 and 7,  they still love family time. Had they been older, they would have wanted their friends more; younger, they would have been exhausting! So we really enjoyed spending so much quality time together before the new baby arrived.

I had feared I’d be quite tired this time around, being heavily pregnant in the early summer heat, rushing my kids around to school and activities. But, thanks to COVID, I actually enjoyed not having the early morning school runs and the very slow pace of life. It suited my pregnant lifestyle quite well!

Instead of feeling mum guilt, I actually felt I was able to be more present for my children when the restrictions were enforced. The kids were 100% my focus during the lockdown.

Selina in the hospital with her baby
Selina in the hospital with her baby Image Credit: Supplied

A birth without family

As my due date neared, my doctor said that all medical staff visiting hospital had to get frequent COVID tests, but luckily there was no need for me to have one. We were extremely grateful that the pandemic didn’t really impact the birth itself - we had not planned a water birth for instance, which have been stopped due to the pandemic. My husband could attend the birth and, most importantly, I did not have to wear a mask during labour!

The main difference this time was that no visitors were allowed. We would have loved to bring the children to the hospital to meet their baby sister for the first time. My parents live in Abu Dhabi and have always driven up to meet their new grandchild as soon as I go into labour. This time it took a month before they could travel due to restrictions on movement between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

My in-laws are in South Africa and ordinarily would have travelled to meet their new grandchild by now. Alas we don’t know when travel to or from South Africa will be open again, or, when Maaike will get her first passport, as the UK government says there are long delays.

Being expats, I do worry my kids won’t get to see their family as much as we’d like due to travel restrictions.

Bringing up babies in a masked world
Bringing up babies in a masked world Image Credit: Supplied

Missing out on smiling faces

While I know it’s for the greater good, I hate the idea of my baby growing up seeing faces covered in masks. Babies enjoy facial expressions so much and I’ve always loved the friendly nature of Dubai’s expat communities when it comes to babies. It’s such a shame this will be missed this time around. 

Looking to the future, I hope the virus doesn’t make people more closed off from one another. I hope it doesn’t segregate our lovely expat community. I have fond memories of a kind shop assistant holding my first baby while I tried on clothes when I’d first become a mum - I really hope that little moments like don’t get lost.

Although I also had a lovely lady just last month offer to hold my baby to help while we were getting her passport photo taken. She was the photographer and asked so nicely “Do you mind if I hold your baby?” Then she rubbed sanitizer all over her hands, arms and neck before holding her. It was so sweet and considerate. It’s moments like these that I hope we can hold on to.

 I also wonder how the related precautions will impact schooling over the coming year or so. Will school start-up, only to have to shut down later? How many lockdowns can kids handle before they lose it? I guess we’ll ask just have to wait and see.

Selina and her family
Selina and her family Image Credit: Supplied

Selina Schoeman. British, is a former environmental consultant and now mum of three (Lucas, 7, Ruben, 5 and Maaike, 2 months) living in Dubai. She shares stories of her home, life and travel on Instagram as @Selinas_sunshine.