In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, life goes on and so too does the birth of new life in the Cariboo.
Being an expectant mother is stressful at the best of times for obvious reasons but in the midst of a pandemic that stress is only compounded. With social distancing and other restrictions in place, soon to be mothers like Dezarae Walters are having to navigate this new reality while their plans are upended.
Walters is a residential care aid at Fischer Place in 100 Mile House, though she is currently off due to COVID-19, and works primarily with senior residents. Born and raised in the community, Walters has always known she wanted to go into health care and took an opportunity to do so in her hometown in 2014 via her school Sprott Shaw College.
“There’s so many things I love about it, like making a difference in people’s lives is the biggest thing. You’re the first one they see when they wake up in the morning and the last ones they see before bed, they literally become like family to you,” Walters said.
Having been born in the community, Walters said it’s nice to get to work with families and community members she’s known her whole life. With an already developed repertoire, you’re able to much easier build or enhance your bonds with them, an aspect of small-town life she loves.
Walters stopped working at 30-weeks pregnant on March 20 and is now eight months pregnant, or 34 weeks, today. At the time, she said she wasn’t really panicking about the virus and overall felt pretty safe as her facility was taking the necessary precautions. While COVID-19 was a factor, it was more the fact her pregnancy was starting to limit the work she could do.
“Being pregnant right now during all of this, I almost felt safer at work then I do going out in the general community to the grocery store,” Walters said. “My greatest concern now is the general public. I feel like I do my part as a citizen out there to make sure I’m washing my hands, sanitizing, limiting trips to town, isolating at home… you can be accountable for yourself but you don’t know what everybody else is doing on their behalf to stop the spread.”
As she sees it, a pregnant woman like her getting the virus will be the same as two people getting the virus as, in addition to her, healthcare workers will have to care for her baby. What’s also worrying is that, currently, there’s no solid evidence on how the virus could affect pregnancies one way or the other. Walters said you also don’t want to have a premature baby at this time due to the obvious immuno-compromised nature of many premature infants.
All of this extra stress is on top of the fact that this will be her first child, Walters said. Her delivery and pre-natal appointments are scheduled in the Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. The clinic she goes to has arranged it so that there are ‘Mommy Only’ days where pregnant women attend appointments alone and they cover the basics to get them in and out as fast as they can.
“When it comes to delivery, at my last appointment I was told that I’m allowed one person in the room as long as everything goes fine. If something happens and they need to do a C-section, chances are good I’ll be delivering alone,” Walters said. “That opened up a whole new case of anxiety, especially being a first-time mom and going into this blind, alone, it’s definitely caused a lot more concern.”
Walters is due on May 28 and said she’d be lying if she said she was confident going into it. The virus has taken away a lot of what makes it exciting, as she’s unable to be around her family, who are missing out on baby kicks and other things that happen in the last trimester and are unable to assist her around the house and nursery. Pre-natal classes, baby showers and more have all been placed on indefinite hold or moved online.
What’s most difficult, however, is the fact Walters’ own mother will be unable to be present for the birth due to these restrictions. She’s doing her best to stay positive and hopes that this may change before she is due but she knows that chances are it’s more likely they will not be lifted.
“We’re having to mentally prepare that this whole situation that you’ve had in your head your whole life, the way it was all supposed to pan out, is completely changing in a matter of weeks,” Walters said.
Even when her child is born, the question is how long social distancing rules will be in place and how long until its grandparents get to meet their grandchild, the first one for both sides of Walters’ and her boyfriend’s families.
The best advice she can give to other expectant mothers is to keep up to date on the state of the crisis and rely on reliable sources such as Dr. Bonnie Henry. Otherwise, staying positive and using your at-home support systems is key, or join a Facebook group like Walters has, such as Mums on Lockdown.
“I want to thank everyone who is doing their part in staying home because they’re going to help flatten this curve faster,” Walters said emotionally. “Hopefully this will clear up so we can go back to the way this was supposed to be and our family and friends can be a part of it. It’s already scary enough bringing a baby into this world but this is definitely taking it to a whole other level.”