I had suspected I might be pregnant for a few days before I got up the nerve to actually take a test. My period was three days late, but we had been trying for awhile, and I knew better than to let myself get excited. Periods could be late for all kinds of reasons, and I was well-aware, thanks to panicked googling and unsolicited advice, that, at thirty-eight, even the most methodic approach to conception (temperature taking, calendaring, peeing on ovulation test strips, etc.) might ultimately prove ineffective. I tried to put it out of my mind until a little more time had passed, but when day three turned into five, and my breasts began to vaguely ache, I decided to go for it. I put my two-year-old down for a nap, peed on yet another stick--this one a Clearblue digital test (this was the kind I used when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter nearly three years earlier, and I had developed a superstition that this brand might somehow be more likely to give me a positive result a second time--a theory which had, at least until this point, turned out to be wrong). I paced around my bathroom for five minutes as the test counted down, held my breath, and checked. Sure enough, the word PREGNANT flashed in all-caps on the test's tiny screen.
I waited for my husband to finish teaching his afternoon distance-learning class on Zoom, caught him in the kitchen and told him the news. Unsurprisingly, he was thrilled--we had been wanting a second child for a long time, and had begun to worry that it might not be as easy as it had been previously. And then, for the first time since I realized my period was late, I took a deep breath and let our new reality sink in: We had done it, and if all went well, God-willing, we were going to become parents for the second time...and we were going to do it in the throes of a worldwide pandemic.
In many ways, being pregnant during a pandemic is much like being pregnant any other time (that is, if you have good, safe shelter, plenty of food, and quality medical care, all of which I am privileged to have, and have never been so grateful for). Just as with my first pregnancy, during the first four months, I was sick from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night ("morning sickness" is a hilarious misnomer). I couldn't keep any food down that wasn't a flavorless carbohydrate, and even the faintest of faraway bad smells could trigger my gag reflex. This phase of pregnancy lends itself well to the stay-at-home lifestyle of a world infected by COVID-19.
Now well into my second trimester, I've stopped throwing up and have begun spending a bit more time out in the world: walks and hikes, masked grocery store trips, the occasional takeout run. I only recently crossed the threshold from simply looking a little bit wider and rounder in the midsection to having a pronounced and visible baby bump, and have been surprised to find that masks and social distance do not necessarily prevent strangers from asking the usual questions ("do you know what you're having?" "when are you due?" "<insert unprompted, often terrifying story about his/her experience with pregnancy/childbirth>"). There is much kindness: those who offer to let me go ahead of them in line, the cashier at my local grocery store who never forgets to ask how I am feeling. And then, there are the "quarantine-baby" jokes: the implication being that one's pregnancy is the result of having nothing else to do during the pandemic but procreate. Hilarious.
I have also learned a secret that most men were already privy to: if you can find a tree, two open car doors, or even just a secluded corner, have confidence, and are quick, you can pee in nearly any outdoor public space without anyone noticing. Many public bathrooms are now closed (or don't feel COVID-safe enough), but pregnancy makes the need to urinate frequent and urgent, so I have had to adapt. Recently, at a nearly-empty park with my daughter, I explained that mommy needed to go potty very badly and I couldn't wait until we got home, and she watched (and erupted into giggles) as I quickly squatted and did my business behind a bush. "Mommy is a doggy!" she repeated the entire walk home.
It's nice to have a happy thing to focus on as the world both literally and figuratively burns, but I won't deny that I'm terrified about bringing a new human into the world in the state it's currently in. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that there is always something to be anxious about in pregnancy: new test results to anticipate, sonograms to worry about, the potential that birth might not go according to plan (or worse, that it might go completely off the rails). There is so much that is out of my hands, which has forced me to focus on what I can control: I can take my prenatal vitamin, exercise, try to eat well. I can try to get enough rest.
I can also vote. I can fight like hell for my rights and the rights of those more vulnerable than I am. I can give money and time to organizations that are pushing for the kind of change I want to see in the world. I may not be able to single-handedly control the outcome, but I can do everything in my power to try to move the needle. I'll admit, my faith is a little shaky right now, but my resolve has never been stronger.