Prenatal in a Pandemic

How to emotionally prepare for your newborn during COVID-19.

Posted Apr 08, 2020

wavebreakmedia/shutterstock
Source: wavebreakmedia/shutterstock

by Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, LCSW-R, HHC

The novel coronavirus has sent just about everyone into a new anxiety-ridden reality. Running support groups for pregnant people in their third trimester over Zoom has shown me that for them, this time is especially fraught. Their natural preoccupation with the arrival of their baby is dwarfed by panic and grief as the pandemic ravages the globe. Yet all is not lost, and there are steps that can be taken to emotionally prepare.

Normally, towards the end of a pregnancy, expectant parents tend to nest. They are primarily concerned with the arrival of their new baby: going to doctor’s visits, reading parenting blogs, and preparing the home to welcome their newborn.

During the pandemic, instead of setting up nurseries, many pregnant people are scrambling to relocate to less infected areas. Many describe feeling as though they have been placed on bed rest as they “shelter in place.” Terrified to leave their homes, they weigh the risks of exposure against the risks inherent in foregoing regular prenatal care visits. 

The financial burden of the epidemic also disproportionately affects pregnant people, as they likely feel more compelled to leave the financial security of their jobs as essential workers in order to ensure their baby’s health. On top of that, most are constrained to cancel baby showers, which were expected to provide necessities they may be unable to afford.

Grieving the Losses

Grieving the loss of the ability to nest is essential. Many pregnant people report feeling less connected to their bodies and their babies then they had just a few weeks ago. Processing this grief with spouses, birthing partner(s), family members, and/or therapists is a necessary step in being ready to nurture their infant. 

Some additional losses that they might acknowledge are: knowing their baby will not meet extended family members for an indeterminate period of time and being unable to have their full support systems present during the delivery.

Make a Plan 

Acknowledging grief creates space for the creativity necessary to conceive new plans that conform to the constraints of “shelter in place” orders. They may not be what was hoped for, but having a plan helps ease anxiety about the unknown by offering structure and a sense of personal agency. Here are some strategies to structure into daily routines.

  • Make time to be mindful of feelings and bodily sensations. 
  • Remember to talk to the baby, sing to them, and have partners do the same.
  • Remember that right now, all is being done to keep them safe. 
  • Connect with friends over FaceTime or Zoom. 
  • Connect with other pregnant people to share information, ideas, and fears.
  • Start a meditation practice to reduce anxiety. 
  • Do what brings joy, calm, and ease. 
  • Binge-watch Netflix to focus on something less stressful
  • Plan how to introduce the newborn to the world while “sheltering in place.”

Attunement

One of the ways we help our babies discover the world and create a sense of self is by being attuned to their feelings and needs. We can prepare now, while the baby is in utero, by being attuned to our own feelings and needs. The more we accept our feelings and tend to our needs now, the more prepared we will be to tend to theirs when they arrive. 

Stephanie Roth-Goldberg (she/her), LCSW-R, is a psychotherapist, candidate in the Division 1 program at the William Alanson White Institute, and an eating disorder specialist who specializes in treating eating disorders through an anti-diet, psychoanalytic lens. Online: Instagram Intuitive Psychotherapy NYC