Unprepared and confused we all entered the year 2020. This year is what Hollywood movies are made of - a never-seen-before pandemic that is wreaking havoc across the world.
I was in my second trimester when COVID-19 hit. After working for 8 years as a consultant, I resigned to enjoy what would have been one of the best phases of my adult life. Little did I know how dramatically everything was going to change.
By March 2020 I’d morphed from a glowing pregnant woman into someone who was classed as being in the “vulnerable category” for coronavirus. This meant that, although pregnant women like me were no more likely to catch the virus, if I did get infected then I was at a higher risk of suffering a more severe form of the disease. The prescription? To stay at home, all the time. The challenge? Trying to stay positive and motivated throughout.
Perfect pregnancy plans ruined by a pandemic
Pregnancy is a time when a woman’s body goes through a lot of changes; hormones cause mayhem and your internal organs are constantly having to adapt to make space for the new life. No first-time mum is prepared for this, and keeping oneself upbeat takes a lot of mental and physical strength. Thus, to share this special experience, I had always imagined I’d have my parents and in-laws by my side. However, COVID had other plans – restrictions due to the pandemic meant they could not travel, and since both sets of parents are 60+ we did not want them to risk their lives to come and meet us anyway. They were missed dearly.
Taking precautions, summoning patience
We knew from the beginning this was no ordinary situation and it needed to be dealt with a lot of patience and maturity. We as a couple decided to stay at home all the time, except visiting the hospital for our monthly prenatal check-ups. Anything that entered my house was washed and sanitized - from the clothes that we wore to the hospital, to groceries, new baby stuff, letters, documents, everything. We ate only home-cooked meals. I slept for 9-10 hours a day and meditated to keep myself mentally strong and positive.
The other major challenge I faced was keeping my body active. Walks were no longer possible, so I switched to doing prenatal yoga by watching videos on YouTube.
As the months passed, it became clearer that the restrictions and lockdown would continue and we would not be able to have anyone around to help with the baby, nor would we be able to employ anyone to help at home. To try to counteract this lack of support I committed myself to reading a lot of articles and watching a lot of videos on how to take care of a newborn – although I realise now that nothing can really prepare you for motherhood except the real experience!
Labour day and new challenges
On 27th May 2020, I went into labour and exactly 48 hours later, on 29th May, I delivered my baby boy – Ariin Mukherjee-Rajput.
Post-delivery, my challenges only increased - our baby had jaundice and was in NICU, while I was in pain due to my episiotomy, which had become infected.
I desperately needed support, and thankfully I received it from my friends here in Dubai and my family back home – albeit from a distance - who helped me throughout and made sure my mental and physical recovery happened fast. My friends sent food every day for the next 25 days and stayed connected through audio and video calls. Their support kept me sane and focused. My husband had to go back to work 15 days post-delivery and that meant I would have to be on my feet soon. My focus during this phase was to recover as soon as possible to take care of my baby and give some support to my husband, who was looking after both me and the baby singlehandedly.
I think what also really kept me going through this testing phase was down to Mother Nature: Oxytocine, also known as the happiness-inducing hormone, is secreted during labour and childbirth and by looking at your baby, and it kept my mood upbeat despite the challenges.
Cut to the current scenario, he is now 4 months and both of us are thriving.
“This too shall pass”
This is possibly the most difficult year that our generation and the generation before it has ever faced. And being a first-time mother in this uncertain time only makes things more complicated. It is not easy and there is a new challenge every day but what is life without its fair share of challenges?
Even in the darkest circumstances there are valuable lessons to be won. So, yes, it is true that I was robbed of all the usual pregnancy perks - like having a baby shower, getting pampered by family and friends, shopping for maternity clothes and so on. I remember how much we were looking forward to going shopping for baby items as a couple. These small things were missed. But what we gained was a beautiful bond with our unborn son. Due to the lockdown my husband was able to feel the pregnancy more intensely as he saw the baby growing with me and bore witness to my growth as a mother. Had things been as normal we both would be busy with work and would not have felt this special bond with our son. Even now that he is born, because it is just two of us doing everything, it has brought us extremely close as a family. Which probably would not have happened if we had our parents or a nanny looking after him. We know exactly what he wants, what he feels and can decipher every cry and movement of his.
Another important lesson we learnt due to the lockdown, which we probably would not have realized, is how ungrateful we children are to our parents at times. Now I do not take my parents for granted and my love and respect for them has increased a thousand times. They are still waiting with baited breath to see their only grandson - hopefully by the end of the year things will fall into place and they will be able to travel.
Prior planning, keeping an open mind, readiness to adapt, having a support system of friends and family, maintaining a positive attitude and laughing through it all is how we have survived.
The bad days, the good days, the newborn phase, the pandemic itself – they will all pass. Even now, on those exceptionally challenging days, I say to myself “This too shall pass”, and it is almost magical to see how instantly my brain transforms.