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Expecting a daughter in the time of COVID-19

/ 08:45 AM September 25, 2020
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The author holding her tummy. Image: courtesy of Maria Solita Zaldivar-Guzman

When the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented in the Philippines on March 16, I thought, and even mentioned in some conversations with family and friends, “This is definitely not the best time to be pregnant.”

Our initial reaction two weeks prior, before the ECQ was announced, was pure bliss, out of anticipation. We have waited months to get pregnant and were overjoyed with the news of an addition to our family of four. When we found out that we were expecting another bundle of joy on leap day of the year, we knew that the entire universe, with God’s favor, conspired to grant us this incomparable blessing. She was another manifestation that God granted the desire of our hearts, because we truly deserve her, and she will make life more purposeful than it already is with her brother and sister.

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However, I found out later that it was not easy being pregnant amid a pandemic, living in a third world country where the nation’s readiness in battling the virus is not as advanced and not as consistent. Living in a modern-yet-laidback province gave me a sense of comfort since positive cases were low, mostly asymptomatic, and all recovered eventually. Nonetheless, the anxiety-stirring unknown made some days draining for me.

Most days, my husband and I contemplated on how we will handle a COVID-19 diagnosis. We conversed about the necessary precautions of giving birth through caesarean section while wearing a mask and personal protective equipment, albeit we have already tended to a newborn, just the two of us, twice. Not to mention the relatively more expensive hospital bill than before. We constantly feared, not much for our safety, but for that of our children and unborn child.

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It felt rather unfair that our daughter will be born in a world far different from the one that we, her parents, her brother and sister, have lived in for the most part of our lives. She will be living under what we all call the “new normal.” Unfortunately, because of the negligence of some and the apathy of others, we are all suffering COVID-19’s terrifying effects all together.

It saddens me to think that she will be restricted to many things and that she will be forced to follow protocols for her safety, notwithstanding the already long list of new societal norms she has to adhere to. She will be deprived of the liberty to be touched, hugged and kissed by loved ones who are most eager of her arrival. Her smiles and giggles, the sparkle of her innocent eyes, her angelic beauty will be hidden in the comfort of our home and away from the public — a consequence she does not deserve. But she is not alone in the ordeal; there are a lot of infants who share the same bittersweet fate.

It was during the peak of my second trimester that I realized being pregnant during COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise. While there were those individuals who succumbed into depression and self-pity, I was adamant to entertain and nurture only happy thoughts and good vibrations. The life inside of me kept me grounded and inspired while I strived to keep her protected and safe. Her presence made me divert my focus and emotions into her slightest movements, her instant kicks and her heartbeat. Every moment that I feel her presence gives me happiness I cannot sum up in words. I just know that I have to stay healthy, strong and optimistic for her and her siblings.

In this challenging phase where it is quite difficult to get by even one day at a time, I am overwhelmed by the love that I receive non-stop from people around me. Although there are many do’s and don’ts that I need to follow because I am pregnant and prone to being infected, I take comfort in the faith that God will not forsake me, and of course, our child. I am thankful that He chose me to carry life despite a pandemic and for giving me a reason to see goodness beyond the crisis.

To our beloved daughter, we will be seeing you very soon. I still have my fears because as much as I can, I want to make you immune to all the unrest that our world is facing now. I want to spare you from absorbing any of the stress and apprehension around you, more so spare you from the trauma that the pandemic has caused everybody. I want you to experience life as it is, not the new normal but the new better normal in every sense possible. You deserve all the good things this world has to offer. May you delight in the kindness that is still evident in life and in the unconditional love that we have for you.

Know that whatever I do alongside your father is all because of our desire to provide a better future for you and your siblings. I hope that whatever little positive change we do in the lives of those we touch will ripple into more acts of kindness, and with divine providence, reach you. You are special in every way, our darling. You may be born in the time of COVID-19 but your birth will create an imprint that you are a guiding light in the midst of darkness — that you are hope, trust, joy, strength, peace, courage and love.

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Maria Solita Zaldivar-Guzman serves as technical adviser on Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Promotions, and Development (LGU Kalibo) in Aklan. She is now in her third trimester of pregnancy and is set to give birth on the first week of October. She hopes that babies born in the time of COVID-19 will someday find inspiration in stories of how mankind survived and moved forward from the pandemic.

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