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Delivery in a time of coronavirus: One mother's story

Priyanka Chaudhury Raina is the founder of the Gracia Raina Foundation in India, focusing on sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, safe pregnancy and childbirth for some of the most disadvantaged women. She recounts her own challenge in expecting a baby and delivering at a time amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in this blog shared with UNFPA Asia-Pacific. Views expressed in the piece are purely personal.

Image courtesy: Priyanka Chaudhury Raina

Nine months of 'voluntary fat enhancement', lots of stress-eating, a series of morning sickness, a series of sleepless nights. This doesn’t end with the arrival of the baby. If pregnancy prepares you for sleepless nights, the actual baby prepares you for sleepless days or even weeks and even best, shower-less days!

Life’s one extraordinary pile of shocks and overwhelming moments and what not. But did any of this prepare me for what was destined to happen with the arrival of my second child?

I say NOT!

A few weeks ago I gave birth to a baby boy. And this little Mr. Sweet Face we just welcomed, let me mention, has made every second more of wonder and less of worry.

He did not come easy though, oh no, no!! He decided to come in the middle of a pandemic.

While my little one is now hale and hearty and basking in the glory of endless love by those surrounding him, especially my elder one, I would also like to mention that it was one hell of a ride.

More of a planner, for the better part of my second pregnancy I thought this one would be smooth sailing, considering that it was happening for the second time. Not a single atom of my entire body would’ve contemplated that Raina Junior is going to be a fighter.

Like every mother, every once in a while, amid my maddening schedule, I would make time to think about where I will deliver, how many days prior to the due date do I want to be at the hospital and every and any detail, you name it and I planned it.

What I never planned is that the world would go into a lockdown and something as simple as reaching the hospital would become such an uphill struggle.

The months before I became pregnant weren’t that easy either, but those challenges were still regular ones. My daughter starting with her new school, my cricketer husband Suresh Raina's knee injury, my foundation demanding a majority of my time, the launch of my brand Maaté keeping me on my toes, and the icing on the cake being my pregnancy.

We treat these sorts of things as 'struggle' only until something much bigger comes along and life decides to throw us off balance.

My motivation has always been to have a well-balanced professional and private life. For that I did everything I could. I would always make time for little activities with my daughter, drop and pick her up from school, and sit with her for homework and D.I.Y’s she would enjoy. At the same time, I focused as well on the needs of my team and how my presence really mattered when it came to business. I love working and I never disregarded my need to be there for people who help us grow. As they say, team work makes the dream work!

The big day arrives

On the due date, amid the COVID-19 lockdown that had shaken the entire nation, I am not concealing my emotions here, I was literally pushing the panic button. All I was thinking about was to get to the hospital by any which way and have a safe delivery.

I am very fortunate it happened so! The baby was delivered safely, the after-care happened smoothly and my husband and I were bewildered as to how what happened, happened without any stumbling blocks. The medical staff was whipsmart, putting our safety before theirs.

However, that was not the end of my fears. When something as quintessential as shaking hands had become dangerous with the ongoing outbreak, I was hesitant about the baby getting exposed to numerous people both at the hospital and even on the way home.

COVID-19 fears

How does one expect a mother to silence her jitters and her inner voices? What made it worse though is that amidst the fear of exposing the baby to those around, I suddenly developed a fever that went beyond a whopping 104 degrees. How do you think of anything other than the ongoing pandemic when one of the many symptoms of the very disease happens to be high fever?

I took uncompromising precautions as instructed by the health professionals. Wore a mask, covered my hands with gloves and went nowhere near the baby for a considerable period of time. I didn’t even let my first-born anywhere near me until the fear subsided. Upon learning that it was nothing but a regular after-pregnancy fever, I took a sigh of relief and almost in tears, enfolded the little one in my arms, making up for all the time I had to be away from him.

After a long haul of an endless outburst of emotions, all happy and worrisome packed into one, there erupted another challenge. The baby got infected with jaundice and we were again at the hospital for a good three days.

However, the little one and I are now home and healthy and getting the love and care of everyone around. Especially, my husband who was the biggest support through all the trials and did not give up easily no matter how overwhelming it was for the most part.

Many others are not so lucky

But I am not complaining, I am among the lucky ones - millions of women the world over have truly formidable challenges with their pregnancies and childbirth, and all the more so at this time of COVID-19. But life can change in a moment for any of us, no matter what our circumstances are.

I would like to thank the confident and caring doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who collectively made my pregnancy and childbirth experience in the middle of a lockdown a rather smooth one. Let us not forget the healthcare workers everywhere who are putting their lives on the line to support patients - both those with COVID-19 and others who need urgent care at this challenging time.

The takeaway in this situation was that planning only works for some parts of your life. You can sometimes take it easy and concentrate on things you can first-handedly control, putting stress management on top at all times. Level headedness doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the worst, but does help in some way in combatting the situation and thinking straight when nothing seems to be going as planned.

At the end, this is to all the mummas who need to know this. The most significant learning skill at the onset of becoming a mother, is managing yourself first the best you can. A mother’s joy is unexplainable when a new life is planted inside of her and so it’s understandable that fear will also take root every once in a while, but it needn’t stay.

Everything that you go through during your pregnancy will be worth remembering the rest of your life, so live in the moment and embrace the time when your baby is still a baby. Hardships are all a part and parcel of our being no matter what our background is, and if nothing, they teach us and mould us into the humans we are meant to be for the sake of our kids.

Love and light to all those delivering at this time of crisis! Let not the fear of the present bankrupt you of the love and laughter you need to share with your family upon welcoming a new life! Let us choose and embrace life – with all its challenges and joys.

Image courtesy: Priyanka Chaudhury Raina and Suresh Raina