We are grateful to Zoofa Talha, a Pakistani expat in Argentina, for allowing us to publish the experience of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic in a foreign country, which she had previously shared in a diplomatic spouses network (DSAW). Thank you so much Zoofa!
I am doctor Zoofa and I am from Pakistan. My husband is a diplomat, he was posted in Buenos Aires three years ago. Before coming to Buenos Aires I was teaching in a medical college in Pakistan. I was also practicing dentistry in a private clinic. Here in Buenos Aires I am a housewife and take care of my two kids, a son of 2.5 years and daughter of 1.5 months. This is my experience of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Motherood under a pandemic
Being mother of a toddler is already a nerve-racking experience and in a global pandemic, in a foreign land, alone, pregnancy can be even scarier.
They say, “It’s much easier the second time”. But whosoever has said that surely did not go through the experience during a pandemic.
I am Dr. Zoofa, currently living in Argentina with my husband and a 2.5 years old son. My husband is a diplomat and was posted in Buenos Aires three years ago. I am a dentist but not practicing here due to licensing issues and that is the only but immense imperfection in an otherwise perfect life here in Argentina.
It was an incredibly happy start in November 2019 when we had the news that we were going to have our second baby. My son was already going to a kindergarten and life was exceptionally smooth and pleasant. Then, two months later, I heard the news of Coronavirus expanding on a large scale in China. For me it was just another news I came across on a daily basis.
I had no idea that it was something that would reach my doorstep and change my life upside down.
The Coronavirus in Argentina
Coronavirus appeared in Argentina at the beginning of March 2020 and for me the world started changing at that time. Suddenly everything was on my shoulders. My son not going to kindergarten anymore, domestic assistance was no longer there, markets and shopping places getting closed and the fear of the known but unseen was covering the landscape very rapidly.
These were few of the many changes brought about by the arrival of this novel virus. Owing to its unprecedented entity, health care professionals did not know much about it. So, putting pregnant women in the risk group added further anxiety and stress to my mind.
Every day was a challenge for me now. My doctor forbade me to go to the hospital during the nationwide lockdown.
Being away from parents, family and entire support system was already upsetting, and not going for the prenatal tests just added further gloominess to the circumstances.
This whole episode was nothing like I had anticipated ever. I stayed at home for two months, hoping only for this this pandemic to end before my delivery. After two months of sheer uncertainty my doctor called me to the hospital in May 2020. Prenatal checkups could not be delayed any further.
Every time I went to the hospital, my son and husband used to stay outside waiting for me as they were not allowed to accompany me. On one such visits, I was told that I would not be allowed to be accompanied by my small family in Argentina during my labor, it was obviously icing on the cake. I had horrible nightmares for weeks because I was like “I am going to deliver my baby when I am all alone”.
Every evening I used to spend a great deal of time with my husband, trying to find out answers to questions like:
how to handle the upcoming situation? Will I be able to manage everything alone? How will my son get by without me? And every time we just got up without answers, hoping that God would take us through it.
Giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a foreign country
It was a cold freezing morning of July, before dawn, when I had to rush to the hospital leaving my son and husband behind. My son was sleeping when I said goodbye to both with a very heavy heart and tears in my eyes.
Driving alone through the silent roads of Buenos Aires, which was almost suffocating due to longest lockdown of the world (almost 4 months now), I felt waves of despair arising inside me in tune with the waves of desperation I could feel in air of the city.
Upon arrival at the hospital, when I needed support, someone on my side giving me courage, staff was sanitizing my hands, and asking me about temperature and shortness of breath. Yes, I had shortness of breath but not because of Corona – it was my emotions, and the contractions I was having.
The situation at the hospital was even more challenging. My Spanish was not good and hospital staff knew only Spanish. The arrival of my doctor was the only ray of hope as she was the only one able to communicate with me in English.
It was a baby girl. And I was happy to the core.
BUT I was alone, somewhere inside me as well.
No one was there to share my happiness. Or to rub the back of my hand. No one to take her from my arms with gratitude. And my lovely son was also away from me.
I spent two days at hospital feeling happy and sad at the same time. The experience of my first childbirth was wonderful. This second experience of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic was way more empowering and brought more resilience.
Empowered and resilient
A life learning phase of my life that taught me courage to face the hardest in life in a powerful and resilient way.
I hope to pass this resilience and power to my daughter one day when I will tell her stories of the day of her birth.
A practicing doctor and a medical demonstrator collapsed into a housewife on a foreign land, looking after a toddler without any domestic help and then giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic. All these are phases that marked my life, during this one posting.
This has all filled my soul with more energy, positivity and light. And yes, it has also reveled harsh aspects of life with a diplomat, which usually remain camouflaged and concealed.