Everyday Christian: Being pregnant has given me a whole new perspective on COVID

‘Underlying health conditions’ make the pandemic much harder.

Until a few months ago, I had no idea what it meant to be ‘vulnerable’ in the face of the pandemic.

I was a healthy 20-something with very few medical issues in my past. So while I was a bit afraid of getting COVID – this new, scary disease that had changed daily life for everyone – I also knew that I would almost certainly be completely fine if I did contract the virus. After all, most of the people ending up in hospital or dying were old, or had ‘underlying health conditions’.

But when I got pregnant in October, everything changed. Suddenly, I had one of those ‘underlying health conditions’.

Even though I’m vaccinated, as a pregnant woman I am in an at-risk category in regard to COVID-19. When the new Omicron variant emerged, with zero understanding of its severity or potential to harm pregnant women or unborn babies, my risk shot up again.

And I was shocked by how dramatically my experience of the pandemic changed.

‘Everyone’s going to get it’

Many experts noted the growing fear in the population as Omicron took hold and case numbers grew exponentially, apparently evading the protection of the vaccines we’d been promised were our way out. So, the politicians began to attempt to calm the anxiety. How did they choose to do this? With statements like “Everyone’s going to get it”.

I know the intention behind such statements is to normalise what has now become largely impossible to prevent. It’s an attempt to calm the fear by moving COVID into a more familiar category.

But for the vulnerable, it is not comforting to hear, “Everyone’s going to get it.” That just sounds like giving up.

Even with my three vaccinations, I know my unborn child and I are at greater risk of complications if I get COVID, and I refuse to just throw my hands up and accept infection when that could mean harming my baby.

It’s certainly not comforting to people undergoing cancer treatment, or those with compromised immune systems, or those who are elderly or disabled, either.

‘Personal responsibility’

But with such a mentality, the government is unlikely to take actions such as lockdowns or even introducing lighter-touch restrictions; instead, it urges people to ‘push through’ and calls for people to take ‘personal responsibility’.

For those of us who are more vulnerable – and I fully acknowledge I am still at the lower end of that spectrum! – what does personal responsibility mean?

We are forced to essentially enter something close to self-imposed lockdown, and watch on as vaccinated friends and family without underlying conditions go about their lives. They are cautious, certainly, but they don’t have the deep fear that an action as simple as having lunch with a friend could lead to the worst possible outcome.

I have to weigh up the risks and rewards of every outing outside the house, from heading to the shops, to seeing even my closest family. I need to go to the dentist and the optometrist for check-ups, and I’d really love a back massage at the moment, but all of those things just don’t feel urgent enough to risk contact with people right now.

And I’ve only lived like this for a few months! I can barely imagine what it must be like to be approaching two full years of this type of fear.

A new perspective

Those of us who are young and healthy can be so blind to the experiences of others. I wish I’d had a better appreciation of how hard the pandemic has been for so many with underlying conditions, disabilities and health emergencies before now. Perhaps more of my prayers would have centred on their needs, rather than on my own frustrations.

So I am thankful that through this pregnancy God has removed my blinkers and helped me to see these people more clearly. From the tiny baby wiggling in my womb to the oldest of nursing home residents, all people have value and worth to Him, and all deserve to be protected, included and appreciated.

An underlying health condition takes nothing away from the worth of a person whatsoever, and we should think hard about why we would ever find it at all comforting or reassuring to hear in a press conference that the “only the most vulnerable” are seriously ill or dying.

We should think hard about why we would ever find it at all comforting or reassuring to hear in a press conference that the “only the most vulnerable” are seriously ill or dying.

Giving thanks

There are a few other things I am exceedingly thankful for during this challenging season.

I am thankful for my church, which has decided to meet on Zoom again at least through January, to better assess the risks of this wave and allow those who are vulnerable or worried to participate more fully, rather than simply watching a livestream. As someone previously very involved in ministry during services, I am glad I have still been able to volunteer and contribute to these online services instead of sadly watching my church family gather from my couch at home.

I am thankful for my family, who have been so understanding of our desire to take every possible precaution to stay safe. They have shown sacrificial love, time and time again, from planning outdoor, socially-distanced family dinners, to requiring testing and paying for everyone’s rapid antigen tests so that we could go to Christmas lunch with an extra level of confidence.

I am thankful for vaccination, which provides me with a level of protection from the virus that, although somewhat uncertain due to the new variant, should hopefully keep my baby safe if I do contract COVID. I used to be absolutely terrified of needles but I practically skipped into Qudos Bank Arena last September for my first dose!

And I am thankful that even when earthly leaders fail or disappoint us, God sees the vulnerable and loves us. His care extends to all, regardless of underlying conditions, age or immunisation status, and it is unendingly comforting to know that no matter what happens over the next few months, I can draw on his strength in my weakness.

An encouragement

If you are young like me, and haven’t ever experienced what it’s like to be vulnerable to COVID, I urge you to take a moment to pray for those who are. Better still, speak to someone you know who is at higher risk, and offer them your support, encouragement and prayers. When it seems the government has abandoned them, you can show them that you – and God – still care.

Unlike me, you don’t need to wait until you become vulnerable to walk in their shoes.