By Nevena Georgieva
My employer, Duke University, started requiring us to fill out a daily questionnaire about COVID symptoms. Since I didn’t want to lie, I started eating a lot of ginger. It’s supposed to quell nausea.
COVID-19 and pregnancy share a lot of symptoms, and despite the fact that I never contracted the virus, I couldn’t avoid feeling nauseated. But the pandemic came with some silver linings. If I felt too sick, I was able to easily work from home and rest. I work at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, where we produce vaccines on-site, among other things. Right now, we’re working with the same mRNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna. We’re determining how to rapidly produce vaccines for any new pandemics that may arise.
Being pregnant during a pandemic is scary, and I was very anxious during my first trimester. Catching COVID-19 at the time would have been particularly detrimental to my baby’s health, so I didn’t go anywhere for months. I had two pretty nontraditional baby showers — one took place in my driveway, and the other over Zoom, attended mainly by family from California. Giving birth in January brought new challenges, and the pandemic only made my life harder.
I just haven’t felt right for the past two months. I think I might be experiencing post-partum depression, and the fact that I can’t see anyone isn’t making things easier. I’m afraid that any visitors might give my baby COVID-19, and her immune system won’t be able to handle it.
This is one of the most awful things I’ve ever experienced. I love my baby so much, but she’s fussy, crying all the time and barely sleeping. My family and friends can’t come over to help me take care of her. I’ve seen a few people, but they’re only allowed to stand in my driveway. I’m on high alert during formerly harmless moments of affection. My husband works in the public sector, and though I always harp on him to wear his mask, he could be asymptomatic. This is what lingers in my mind when I see him hug our baby.
The newly approved vaccines and accelerated production won’t end my struggles just yet. Current evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread COVID-19 to babies, but I’m still worried. I want to see additional data about the virus’ impact on nursing mothers before I get vaccinated. But I plan to nurse my baby only for a year. If this pandemic is happening a year from now, I’ll get vaccinated.