Pregnant woman

An expecting physician whose husband is an ER doctor shares how they live together, but separate, due to the coronavirus.

On the day of your “white coat ceremony” for medical school, a sort of initiation ceremony, you take the Hippocratic Oath for the first time. You vow to help people; you promise a lifetime of sacrifices for your work, knowingly or unknowingly. I don’t know of a single person I went through medical school with, however, that signed up to make the sacrifices we’ve all made during this pandemic. My husband and I are both physicians in central Illinois, and I know neither of us ever planned on this impacting our lives or jobs the way it has. To complicate matters more, I’m currently pregnant with our first child. 

In terms of work life, we’re very lucky right now. We don’t live in an epicenter for this virus. We absolutely have cases of COVID-19 in our area and in our hospital; people have died around us from complications of this virus. However, we are not living in the chaotic environment flooded on our Facebook feeds from New York, Chicago or metro Detroit. My husband is an emergency medicine physician; he’s on the “front lines.” However, our ER has been slow. They’re actually cutting the hours of the physicians working due to lack of inflow. I’m not sure where all of the heart attacks or cases of appendicitis are, but they’re not coming into the hospital like they used to. I still worry every time he goes into work and remind him to wear whatever PPE we have available that day, especially when he is working in the “suspected COVID pod,” but it’s not New York, Chicago, or metro Detroit. 

My job has been incredibly flexible. Since I’m pregnant and there isn’t enough information about COVID and pregnancy, they have reassigned me to only telemedicine appointments and administrative work. I feel fairly guilty every day in my safe haven, but I’m also obviously grateful.  I’m so happy my baby is being taken care of and loved already, but I do miss normal work, as I’m sure the rest of the country does. I miss practicing medicine. I love being in the hospital and working with my co-residents to diagnose and treat patients. I am happy to be helping take some of the burden from those who are in the hospital by managing the clinic patients, but I also wish I was with them. 

Obviously, keeping me out of the hospital does not eliminate my exposure to COVID from my husband. Because of this, we’ve taken extreme measures at home to try to eliminate my exposure to anything he might be bringing back. After a shift, he comes home and strips naked immediately upon entering. His clothes go directly into the washing machine in front of him, that I have left open so he won’t touch it. Without touching anything, he goes immediately upstairs to shower. I spray the entrance way, washing machine and anywhere he has walked with Lysol spray before entering the area. I have moved into the guest bedroom, and I only use the guest bathroom and shower to avoid touching anything he comes into contact with on his way. In the kitchen, he opens cabinets or the refrigerator using the handles, while I use the sides of the cabinets so we don’t touch the same surfaces. We sit on different couches, use different blankets. We share space, but we are so distanced it somehow feels we live separately. I haven’t kissed my husband in over a month, and we actually like each other. 

When I envisioned being pregnant and starting a family, I’ve always had my husband by my side. We’ve been together since high school, so this has been a long time coming. We’re both ecstatic, nervous, etc. All the feelings first time parents are supposed to feel. But COVID has added such an anxiety-provoking twist. My husband is not allowed to come to any of my prenatal appointments, including our ultrasounds. Our hospital where we work and plan on delivering does not allow any visitors for patients. They made an exception that laboring mothers can have one “support person.” Naturally, I figure my husband will be that person for me. However, if the support person has had any exposure to people with confirmed COVID, they’re not allowed to be included. Remember, my husband is an ER physician; he absolutely has exposure to confirmed COVID. I have some time until my due-date, so we’re hopeful that things change. But I’d never in a million years thought that he wouldn’t be by my side to see his first child come into the world. 

This current pandemic has affected all of us in multiple ways. Anyone who says they haven’t been physically or mentally impacted is likely holding back some truth. It is magical to see people helping others, to see the bands of brilliant minds working together to conquer this. However, like everyone else, I’m anxiously awaiting some return to normalcy so we can bring this baby into a safe and happy world. Please, stay home, wash your hands, and hold out for a few more weeks so we can stop focusing on death counts and start focusing on springtime. 

The author grew up in the Jewish community in Metro Detroit and wished to remain anonymous for privacy and job reasons.

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