Written by Mekele Agbonlahor
Being Pregnant is one thing, being pregnant during a pandemic is another thing. Being pregnant and testing positive for the novel coronavirus is not near something I had ever expected. Nobody prepares you for the experience of being pregnant and eventually delivering a baby.
The expectation is that you get married, have kids and all is good and dandy. People often sing the songs at weddings, and pray prayers like—in 9 months time, we will come visiting, in a bid to hint the newlyweds to get into action, right away.
Pictured Above: Meke
But, what about the mother who carries the baby for 10 months because pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks; nobody tells her about the changes that happens to a woman’s body all those months, or the crazy risks involved in a pregnancy. What you often see is, oh someone gets pregnant, and then they have their baby. No one takes into consideration the miracle which happens within 9-10 months that the baby is cooking.
Also, nobody or nothing preps you for having a baby during a pandemic, without your spouse! That was my story.
“Baby is coming out today,” my doctor said, one day when I went in for my ultrasound at 36 weeks and 2 days. All the blood literally drained off my face, I was in utter panic. I could not believe my ears.
I’m not ready for this baby to come ... Jesus help me. Were the words I muttered under my breath, at the sound of the news. Let me backtrack a little bit, being pregnant is a blessing, I agree, but from the moment you discover that you are pregnant, there is a level of anxiety which comes with it. The first couple of weeks are very important, you worry to make sure your baby is still there, 6 weeks, and then 12 weeks, etc., you keep checking to see all is well. Until I got to 20 weeks I was in a state of constant worry, often thinking to myself; I hope I don’t lose this baby.
Thankfully, my pregnancy was going smoothly—no morning sickness, no drama, no vomiting, I was just eating and putting on weight.
Then at 32 weeks, BAM!!! I tested positive for Covid19.
As if things were not already difficult enough—being pregnant when the world is in disarray. As a nurse, my risk for getting the virus was high, considering that I worked in the hospital and my unit was filled with COVID-19 patients. However, I was not afraid, I trusted GOD that I would be okay, the only medicine I would take was the blood of Jesus. Praying and pleading the blood over myself, at all times.
It began as a sneeze, “I just have allergies.” I kept telling myself, not knowing that I had been infected. My boss had tested positive a few days before I started sneezing, and I had been getting sinus pressure headaches. So I decided it was a wise thing to get tested, even if I believed the results would turn out to be negative, but I got the shocker of my life. Although with the positive results, I was not afraid, I was doing just fine. Mostly because I asymptomatic, and mainly, because my doctor told me at the time, that the virus did not pass through the placenta to the baby, so I knew my baby was safe.
The day after I tested positive, I began itching immensely. The itch had started slightly before I went in for my test, but intensified afterward. I considered it to be related to stretchy skin caused by pregnancy. I never for once, imagined that it was as a result of excess bile acids/ salt in my body. Every part of my body itched, I felt like clawing my insides, out. I could not even go see my doctor as this started on Good Friday, which was a public holiday. My doctor’s office was closed, and the Emergency room was not taking any OB (Obstetrics) patients, except they were coming to deliver a baby.
I had to endure three days of itching, with no sleep, and multiple cold baths. Then by Monday, it was confirmed that I had Cholestasis of pregnancy, a condition that happens when excess bile acid spills into the bloodstream due to pregnancy hormones. As a result, it causes intense itching. The itching became worse at night and was not being relieved by Benadryl or hot baths. Boy! I almost lost my mind; I could not sleep for three days, my spouse who is currently in Nigeria could not be with me in person, all he could offer were encouraging words and prayers.
Now, I had done my research before my OB doctor confirmed the diagnosis, in short, my brother who is a doctor, had reached out to his OBGYN friends and they stated the same thing. But, the scariest complication from this condition was the risk of having a stillbirth. When pregnant, the bile acid level is supposed to be less than 10; mine was a little over 150!
Then anxiety kicked in again—what will happen to my baby? She was someone I had prayed for, even before I got married, and here I was, with a condition that proved deadly to her.
I then wanted to hear her every second. I would push my belly hard to make sure that she was moving, I went from not drinking orange juice at all, to drinking it every morning because I wanted to stimulate the baby.
My parents were supposed to come from Nigeria to the US before the shutdown of airports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they had to cancel their trip as a result of what was happening. My husband also could not make it; we were still battling immigration setbacks, and my sister who lived in Canada was also unable to come to my aid. There had been a conversation as to who would help me when the baby came, however, nobody planned for COVID-19 or Cholestasis of Pregnancy.
At about 34 weeks my MD informed me that they would induce me at 36 weeks. I felt disappointed and alone. I wanted my mother; I wanted my spouse and my sister, but I was alone or so I thought. Then my very good friend Kate volunteered to help me, she was going to stay with me from the time I had my baby until I was comfortable enough to get hired help.
God has a way of working things out, like the song says, “it may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you.” God knew how my pregnancy journey was going to end before it started, and He also knew what I would be feeling. A few weeks before I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and Cholestasis of pregnancy, many people had reached out to me saying— “Meke, you have been on my heart, I’m praying for you.”
My husband’s uncle even called me randomly at odd hours of the night asking if I was okay, he also went ahead to he felt God placed me on his heart to pray for me. When people started checking on me intensely, I began to sense that something was wrong somewhere. I felt as though an attack from the enemy was brewing and God was watching out for me. He was also raising people to fight for me. Then Miss Tammy (my friend’s mother) who I would say is like a mum to me sent me a card in the mail. The words of the card read thus:
5 things God wants you to remember in this trying time
1. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
2. NOTHING TAKES HIM BY SURPRISE
3. WHEN YOU ARE WEAK, HE IS STRONG
4. HE IS THE GOD OF NEW BEGINNINGS
5. HIS LOVE NEVER GIVES UP ON US
Also, it had the scripture Isaiah 46:4 inscribed in the card—“I will be your God throughout your lifetime... I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”
Initially, when I got the card, I was thankful, I had been feeling lonely because my spouse was not here with me, and my pregnancy hormones were at its peak. But I didn’t realize how much those words meant until I was faced with the trials. Those words rang so true, that I read the card daily. And even multiple times a day depending on how my mind was racing.
I went from a once in two weeks checkup with my doctor, to twice a week, for ultrasounds and fetal monitoring. I remember one of the days I went for fetal monitoring, that I broke down. I had tears in my eyes. I had itched the night before, barely got any sleep and if things weren’t bad enough, I had to work after the appointment. I was frustrated, all I could do was cry! Every appointment went smoothly, baby girl was doing great, I continued to pray and lean on family and friends for their support.
God used people to bless me, coworkers and friends would drop groceries and food at my door; I always had everything I needed, I was not alone. By the week I was supposed to be induced, I had one more appointment for an ultrasound before the delivery day.
During the ultrasound, which usually took about 30 minutes, the tech kept asking me—when last did you feel baby? And I said, “just as I got here.”
But the baby didn’t move, she was breathing, she just would not wake up.
“Hmmm, she is just sleeping,” I thought to myself, I refused to freak out. Then the ultrasound tech decided to send the results to maternal-fetal medicine. I’m like “Okayyyyyy, what is happening?” Then she goes “we will place you on the fetal monitor.”
Let’s just say that never happened, after that statement, it was a whirlwind!
“Baby is coming today,” they said. I was already 4 cm dilated and didn’t feel a thing. I had to rush back home to carry my half-packed hospital bag then head to the hospital to deliver my baby!
The week before I got induced my brother called me to ask—“what is your birth plan?” I’m like “Ummm I don’t know…”
Due to COVID-19, I was unable to attend any birthing classes, the only class I signed up for online, I didn’t even remember the day it was scheduled.
Then I answered him saying, “well... I am not leaning towards an epidural.” And he said, “you are getting induced, you better get an epidural.”
I had been praying and believing God for supernatural labor, the thoughts of getting an epidural skipped my mind, so I asked that he educate me on getting one. After his long lecture, I decided that it was in my best interest I took it. So on that day, at about 3 pm, everyone was geared up with protective wears. I was given a mask, as well as Kate, who also had to have on a level of PPE, to be present in the room with me.
As soon as we got into the room, the first thing the medical practitioners did was to have me tested for COVID-19 again, as they wanted to know how to move forward with my delivery. Although I had little symptoms, when I tested positive, such as losing my sense of smell, this was a protocol that they had to follow.
I waited for about 30 minutes to get the results back, and it came back negative! I let out a huge sigh of relief, they could then go ahead to prep me for delivery. At this time I was still 4cm dilated, even though I was already in labor, I did not feel a lot of pain; my pain level was a 2 or a 3. This continued all night. However, my water had not broken at the time.
Then at 4:30 am the next day, my water was broken. As soon as that took place, my pain level escalated from a 2 to a 7. Immediately, I opted for the epidural. The epidural took the pain away but blessed me with some intense itching, again. I began to worry about my child, I hoped that the intense itching wasn’t indicative of something horrible taking place.
By 7 am, when the doctors came to check on me, I was already 5 cm dilated. Then at around 9:45 am, the doctors checked on me again, and at this time, I was 10 cm dilated. Then I began pushing. At this time, my friend Kate who was in the delivery room with me called my husband on Facetime, so he could witness the birth of our daughter.
Eleanor-Grace, our baby girl, made her debut after 25 minutes of pushing, at 36 weeks and 3 days! Perfect and healthy, without complications. All I can say is, God, kept me; He basically shined His face upon me and took care of the whole process, I was not alone! God was with me and He showed me His love through people, in a challenging time.
Image courtesy of @haylienoelphotography (Meke & Eleanor-Grace)
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About the author: Mekele Agbonlahor is a Registered Nurse—Supervisor/Operations Coordinator-Medical Telemetry Stepdown Nurse, with a reputable hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has a BSc. In Nursing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and also holds an MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Administration, from the same school. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, shopping, and is currently having the time of her life caring for her sweet daughter–Eleanor-Grace. You can find her on Instagram with @meke07.