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Focusing on what they can control: Being pregnant during a pandemic

Diana Oviedo’s birthday is July 13. Her husband Jesse Reynolds’ is June 22. Locking in a pattern, their first baby is due July 8.

They are looking forward to summers of back-to-back celebrations, the Seattle couple says, and hope the next baby that comes along keeps up the trend.

“I like being pregnant,” Oviedo laughs. “I've mostly been really enjoying it. We are thinking having two kids close together will be easier in the long run.”

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded in Washington, both parents say they are staying aware of it but focusing more on staying positive and not giving in to the anxiety permeating the state and especially expectant families.

[Related: Online resources for expectant and new parents amid coronavirus]

“I'm a very flexible person, so when things started to escalate, I just thought, OK, we're being asked to stay home. We're being asked to wash our hands. We're being asked to be thoughtful about all these things, no problem,” says Oviedo.

Oviedo and Reynolds chose community midwives for their care well before the pandemic hit. Back then it was about the atmosphere they wanted their baby to be born into, but they now say they feel an added comfort having chosen community midwifery. Since only about 3 percent of women choose these settings, they will be exposed to fewer people. On top of that, their midwives have instituted numerous new procedures and precautions to keep themselves and families like theirs safe.

Still Oviedo says she can’t help sometimes pondering the what ifs.

“As time goes on I’m definitely thinking more about what happens if a pregnant woman gets sick? What are the things that you can do and can't do? How will it affect the baby, obviously. But there just isn’t much information available about those things so we are just being very vigilant.”

Reynolds says that the best thing they can do to protect themselves and their baby is control what they can — including being vigilant about hand-washing, staying isolated and staying positive.

“I generally try not to dwell on the things that are out of my control,” he says. “Doing that doesn’t change anything and I think it’s better to take action where you do have some control. As a father my goal is to just be a stable force. And if I'm freaking out about things that are out of my control, and then it doesn't help, you know?”

And he has taken action. Reynolds, who is a planner for the city of North Bend, was one of the first people in his office to choose to work from home. It was a smart move given that Oviedo’s parents live with the couple in their Eastlake home.

“I'm fortunate. I think we're both fortunate in that we have accepting workplaces,” he ads. “I told my boss, ‘Look, I'm perfectly healthy. But three of the four people in my household are on this list of vulnerable populations. And so I could easily be a vector.' And he respected that.”

To keep Oviedo’s exposure to other people as low as possible, Reynolds does the household shopping. They take daily walks but stay as far away from others as they can. Oviedo goes to in-person prenatal visits alone. The rest of her visits are now virtual.

“The midwives are trying to cut down contacts before the birth itself and I’m good with that,” she says. “This situation requires flexibility, right? Things are changing quickly and as long as decisions are being made to protect me and my baby, or to make sure that we're staying healthy, they make total sense to me.”

Although around 20 percent of home or birth-center births end up with mom or baby transferring to a hospital, Oviedo says she is not spending time worrying about that possibility.

“All I can do in this moment is stay healthy, taking care of myself.”

One thing she hopes will change by her due date is the midwives request that only two people be present to support a mother. They had planned on three.

“It’s really hard to know at this point what the situation will be like in July so worrying about it now doesn’t make sense. It could be better. It could be worse,” Oviedo explains. “For now, I'm just functioning on the assumption that I'll have my husband and my mother and my doula there. And if things start to shift and change, then we'll have to reassess at that point.”

“I just keep in mind that the folks who are making those decisions are in a tough spot and they're doing the best they can,” adds Reynolds. “Of course I want to be there for my child's birth, but if Diana has to go to a hospital and the policies won’t allow me there, we’ll get through it. I know it’s for the greater good.”

Oviedo says that scenario would be upsetting, but if she ruminates on it now she’ll actually be causing her baby more harm. Anxiety and rumination increase cortisol (the so-called "fight or flight" hormone) in mother and baby.

“Right now we want to keep the baby in a nice, tranquil, stable environment,” says Reynolds. “There's chaos all around us, regardless of COVID. Being able to embody stability for this young thing that's coming in is important.”

The couple say it hasn’t been hard to stay positive — the forced quarantine has had many benefits.

For example, “We discovered we work well together.” Andthey are slowing their lives down, cooking moreand appreciating what they have.

And, Oviedo says with a smile, “I am drinking a lot of water!”

In fact, she is using this time to remind herself and her mother, who she said chronically underhydrates, to get in their liquid ounces. The two have devised a daily goal and competition for water consumption and so far are doing well.

“There’s something really nice about taking things slow, taking it one day at a time,” she says.

Cheryl Murfin, CD, is a longtime writer, a certified doula and mother of two grownup humans,including a King County Public Health nurse. She ownsNesting Instincts Seattle.

More on the subject:

Pregnancy during a pandemic: Support for new and expectant parents from a perinatal psychologist

Focusing on what they can control: Being pregnant during a pandemic

Bellevue couple navigating coronavirus pandemic with newborn twins

‘This wasn’t my plan’: How coronavirus is affecting pregnancy, delivery and new parenthood

Resources for expectant and new parents during coronavirus