by Kerry Mueller, who shares an open letter to expectant mothers on birthing during a pandemic.
Eight days past due with my first pregnancy, I was induced on 9/11/2001 as planes struck the World Trade Center. From my doctor’s office in Arlington, the building shook as a plane crashed into the Pentagon. Driving home felt like driving into a war zone. The drivers’ faces streaming past warned “turn back!” But we couldn’t turn back–our home was 10 blocks from the Pentagon. I watched a cloud of black smoke grow across the horizon and thought, “How can I bring a baby into this world?”
On birthing during a pandemic
While COVID-19 is a different kind of “attack” than the sudden attacks of 9/11, the impact on the estimated one million mothers due to give birth in the next few months may feel the same. The thought of birthing during a pandemic may bring anxiety and uncertainty of what the future holds. You don’t yet know the strength that comes with being a mother in a time of national crisis.
Your baby will change the way you manage your home.
On 9/11, while I sat on the porch swing, my husband was riveted to CNN. I overheard him speculating with Justice Department colleagues about the potential for more attacks. But as the sun set on 9/11, I insisted that we watch a “feel good movie” to bring positive vibes to our home. While sheltering in place, place boundaries around the media “spin cycle” allowed in your home. Know the essential facts, then create a home inspired by the same hopeful vibe that you already poured into your baby’s nursery.
Your baby will show you how well the world cares for newborns and their mothers.
When cell phones stopped working and the roads around our Arlington home were shut down, first responders at the Pentagon recovery effort assured me that they would get me to the hospital safely. Know that first responders and medical professionals will put the highest priority on you and your baby during the current pandemic. You are carrying the hope for the world and you will be treated as such.
Your baby will give you superhuman strength.
Approaching the hospital in the early morning hours of 9/12, a security guard shouted, “No stopping! We got 50 bodies coming in from the Pentagon!” With an unknown inner strength, I jumped out of the car mid-contraction. I stood my ground–from my hands and knees–until my husband returned. The same determination will power you through what COVID-19 could possibly throw your way: the symptoms of contracting the coronavirus, giving birth without your supporters, quarantine from your baby, even the pain of pumping breast milk will not stop you from meeting your baby’s needs. You are stronger than you know.
Your baby won’t remember life before COVID-19.
Just as my baby, now 18-years-old, doesn’t know that we once kept our shoes on at airport security and entered Caps games without metal detectors, your baby won’t know any different. Maybe we won’t shake hands or embrace others as freely. Maybe on-line schooling will become the norm. No matter what the changes look like, your baby will teach you the new normal.
Your baby will bring joy
The first post-9/11-show to air in my home was a heart-wrenching Christmas special featuring the babies born without fathers who had perished that day. The survivors’ guilt was overwhelming. While putting aside this guilt is not easy, know that sharing your joy will help others. Use on-line platforms to visit with others to share your baby’s smiles and other milestones. In a world that is mourning, you and your baby have the power to bring moments of peace and joy to us all. The world looks forward to what you will share.
Kerry Mueller, LCSW-C, is a Clinical Social Worker in the public school system while living in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and teenage sons. Her boys continue to bring strength and joy to her life every day — even through this pandemic. Luke, born 9/12/2001, completed his first January Whole30 with his parents when he was 15-years-old. Luke still credits this Whole30 for transforming his body into a more successful three-sport athlete. Kerry and Luke recently caught a Washington Capitals game in Colorado while touring colleges.