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Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: How it feels to give birth during the pandemic

When there is news of death everywhere, a new life brings happiness and hope

Update : 09 May 2021, 12:55 AM

On January 1, 2020, a new morning, two red lines changed my life. I was pregnant and happy. It was an amazing start to a new year. It was the most remarkable year of my life. All of a sudden, everything changed. 

My daughter Roshomon Tara was born at the end of the first lockdown in Dhaka, Bangladesh; she is now nine months old. She is the reason I became a mother in the middle of a global crisis. 

It was not only her who was born, but it was also a “new” me, mother of Tara, who spent an entire pregnancy in lockdown at home and gave birth in an emergency condition within the “emergency.” 

Tara has seen the world with masks and isolation. Her grandmothers were also afraid of holding her or coming closer to her without wearing a mask. 

If there were no pandemic, my journey into motherhood would be completely different. This Mother’s Day is very special as my daughter is now in front of me, smiling and staring at me. Last Mother’s Day, she was growing inside me. The only thing that didn’t change, meanwhile, is the pandemic.

I was 16 weeks pregnant when the pandemic struck, and the planet went into lockdown. I was struggling to survive the pandemic with my hormonal and physical changes. Those 22 weeks were no less than a war. 

My husband Sina Hasan is a musician, and all his concerts were cancelled at that time. I am a freelance journalist since January 1, 2020. So, we were depending on what I had saved over the years, and spent all my savings. Our parents and two journalists’ associations came forward to help for the time being. 

I was afraid of everything. Most of the time, it was like death was knocking at the door. I was adapting to a “new” online life where we clicked and got our things home-delivered. I had to wait for a week to get groceries delivered this way. I was even afraid to send the only family member living with me -- my husband -- to go outside and buy food for storage. Thus, I was eating less. 

Besides, I could not go for my scheduled antenatal check-ups. And I was not sure if my baby was growing healthy or all development was taking place timely. I was sorry for my unborn child, that I was bringing her into a more different world than ever. Tele-medication helped me to pass some hard times during the last trimister. I forgot my gynaecologist’s face. I cannot remember how she looked without the PPE. 

I needed information about risks, precautions, and how I could get emergency medical help. Lots of information was floating around. Within this chaos of information, experienced mothers, my mother, and mother-in-law could only help me by supporting me and not meeting me in person when I was pregnant. Traditionally, experienced mothers and mostly older women in the family help new mothers with their experience and observation.

I have had several panic attacks due to a lack of information and understanding. So, I dug for the experience of new mothers who gave birth during this time. I found social media as a lifeline. I read many exciting experiences on social media -- while following a group of more than 100,000 pregnant and lactating mothers who supported each other to survive the pandemic.

Different media groups on this platform have helped more than 100,000 pregnant and lactating mothers by sharing their experience and information during the lockdown. One of these groups helped me find a health care facility to do an emergency ultrasound after heavy bleeding during the lockdown. Another group helped me curb my anxiety during pregnancy and post-partum depression. "Pregnancy, Birth & Motherhood" with 110k active members, and "Mommy Talk Bangladesh" with 22k active members - both Facebook groups remained a power-house in this journey.

I was upset that I couldn’t meet my parents, relatives, or friends to share the joy of welcoming a new member in the family. My daughter was born on August 25, 2020, at the same hospital, Azimpur Maternity, where I was born decades ago. And she met another child in person when she was four months old on December 31, 2020, when Tara and her father went to the rooftop with me to see the fireworks. 

Another family with two babies, apparently my next-door neighbour whom I met the first time, also went there to say goodbye to 2020. 

Every day was, and is, a gift, considering the recent statistics of increased Covid-19 cases. When there was news of death everywhere, the new life brought happiness and let hope thrive.

For mothers, it’s no less than winning a war by giving birth to a child during a pandemic and taking care of the infant all alone, confirming the highest safety for their child. Socially, emotionally, and physically, this time can be challenging. Thanks to the light in the shining eyes of the babies. Thanks to my baby, my daughter, for whom I am a mother and a successful fighter who survived this pandemic.

Dil Afrose Jahan was a recipient of the National Geographic Society’s Emergency Fund for Journalists. This work was supported by the National Geographic Society.

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