Toughing It Out: Being a Mother in a Pandemic

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Rashmi Prakash, resident doctor

Here’s some stories on how some mothers who also worked in healthcare navigate an ongoing pandemic

Rashmi Prakash, a resident doctor, found out last July that she was pregnant. Prakash’s first pregnancy, it was marked by excitement, but also some concern.

“There was a lot of fear about bringing a baby into a world where a pandemic is going on,” she says.

Being a mother and a frontline healthcare worker during a global pandemic is a challenge many women have now faced. With Mother’s Day around the corner, SEEMA spoke to them, including Prakash, to learn about how they negotiated this difficult but rewarding phase.

Prakash, who went to medical school at the American University of Antigua, is in the third year of a family medicine residency at Humboldt Park Health in Chicago.

She says she has been extremely careful, always wearing two masks over her personal protective gear. As her pregnancy advanced, even simple things like climbing the stairs became difficult.

“Trying to climb stairs with the mask on while being pregnant was hard,” she says. Along with the physical difficulties, it was also an emotionally tough time for her. “Because you’re pregnant, you’re scared about the pregnancy,” she says. “Then, on top of that, I was scared about getting COVID when pregnant.”

Despite her fears, what kept her going was the expectation of a better tomorrow – and the family support she had.

“I think it was just the hope that there would be a vaccine, that things would get better as we learned how to better treat the virus,” she says. “My husband and I in the same field. We kind of talked about it all the time. And we helped each other kind of get through it together.”

As a new mother, she feels the pandemic has amplified her need to provide a safe environment for her baby. 

“I am sure any new mother is scared and anxious,” Prakash says. “Even without a pandemic, your whole world now revolves around this newborn. I guess your goal is just to protect them as much as you can. And now, in a world with a pandemic, it’s even more amplified.”

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Ramandeep Mudgal, physical therapist

Ramandeep Mudgal’s wish for a second child came true when she found she was pregnant last July. Mudgal, who works as a physical therapist in Michigan, immediately knew that this would be far more difficult pregnancy than her first.

Throughout her pregnancy, she continued working at Ingham County Medical Care Facility and Rehab Center in Okemos, Michigan. Mudgal said that during the first trimester she had to wear two face-masks, face-shield, and a protective gown that all made her nausea worse. She always felt hot, and her mouth dried out in the heat.

“I would drink water all day long,” Mudgal says. “I would walk around with water in my hand. In my first trimester, my nausea was so bad because of the mask, I could not breathe, it’s just so dry. But I survived through this.”

Her husband, also a physical therapist, was not able to be with her at all of her doctor’s appointment because of Covid-19 protocols. Mudgal said it was taxing dealing with a lot of these issues on her own.

“I was so emotionally drained/ I would think, oh my gosh, I wish my husband was there to listen to this. And we could have handled it properly,” she says.

Mudgal stopped work on April 10 and delivered a baby girl on April 14. Despite the fear and the low points, Mudgal kept her spirits high through the pregnancy even while the world around her was being ravaged by a pandemic. 

She had a mantra that kept her going.

“I kept telling myself and everyone else that strong women raise strong girls,” she says.

Swathi Krishna, child psychiatrist

For Swathi Krishna, a child psychiatrist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the problem came how when the pandemic shut down the daycare to which both her children went. Krishna and her husband suddenly found themselves making arrangements to take care of the children, aged three and five, at home.

“Luckily, my husband had a corporate job and they got him to work from home,” Krishna says. “So he kept the kids at home while I had to go to the hospital.”

Still, the children felt socially isolated because they could not meet their friends. They continually asked her why they could not go out to play with their friends or meet their grandparents. Krishna said it took some time for them, but they finally adapted well to the new rules of the pandemic.

“Luckily we have a large yard and we have a neighborhood friend who was also quarantining,” she says. “So we all kind of decided with our next door neighbor to do it together. So, they [the children] have one friend that they can play with.”

Krishna believes that children are pretty resilient. 

“Especially as a psychiatrist, we’ve seen the older kids have really struggled more, because they remember a whole life that they have lost,” she says. “Whereas the little kids they don’t really remember that life; their memory span is shorter. So they’re kind of go with the flow.”