Two years. That’s how long my husband and I have been trying to have a baby. Two years of taking miracle pills, of putting pillows under my hips, of running to fertility doctors — and finally, I got pregnant. When news first broke that Zika had made its way into Brazil, I was two weeks pregnant. The reporter on the TV said that it was the “worst time to get pregnant” and that “anyone seeking to conceive should do so in the next five to 10 years,” and I looked at my growing baby, the little life inside of me, with fear. I am 15 weeks pregnant, and Zika is in Florida. For me, pregnancy isn't magical right now. Instead, I am terrified.
I remembered going in to see my OB-GYN before I was pregnant and being so incredibly distracted by all the beautiful, glowing pregnant women in the office. I wanted so much to be like them that I didn’t even see the sign at the registration desk that said, “Beware of Zika,” which explained the symptoms and effects of Zika if you contracted it. But after the news broke, I definitely saw the sign at my first prenatal appointment. I paid attention. And I was so angry that I didn’t see it before. I went through a period of guilt and worry that I hadn’t paid enough attention. All I'd thought about for the past two years was getting pregnant. I didn't care about Zika or the effects it could potentially have on my child. Now I wonder if I should've waited.
I felt relieved knowing that Zika was mostly in Brazil and that you would've had to travel to Brazil to get it. Since I hadn’t traveled there, I thought I was safe. For the first time since I found I was pregnant, I actually let myself relax and enjoy what was happening to me and my body.
I first found out at 12 weeks pregnant that a few women in Miami had the Zika virus without ever traveling to Brazil. I live in Orlando, and Miami is a good four or five hours away. Up until that point, my pregnancy had been surrounded by such bliss. And when news broke that Zika was now transmitted locally in Miami, I blanketed myself in lies. There’s no way I can catch something that is four or five hours away, I thought. I’m safe here; Orlando is landlocked. But nothing could prepare me for what I’d hear at my next OB appointment.
I had to stop telling myself that it couldn’t happen to me and that I was safe here. I had to face the truth: I wasn’t safe, and it could happen here.
It feels like every single one of our options for a Zika-free pregnancy are slowly slipping away from us.
My new OB-GYN told me that she’d recently seen a patient of hers, another expecting woman, come in with two of the symptoms associated with Zika: conjunctivitis and fever. She said she sent the woman to go get blood tested for Zika, but that the techs had “sent her back because she was only showing two symptoms” and “had never traveled outside of the U.S.” My doctor, however, was sure the woman had contracted Zika. And that was it for me. I had to stop lying to myself and changing the channel whenever news about the spread of Zika came on. I had to stop telling myself that it couldn’t happen to me and that I was safe here. I had to face the truth: I wasn’t safe, and it could happen here — it already had. I needed to take precaution.
I stay in the house 90 percent of the day. It’s a miserable way to live, but I’d do anything for my unborn child.
My husband bought me OFF bug spray, one for my purse and one for the house. Now, if I leave the house, I wear long-sleeved clothing, even in this hot August weather, even in Florida. I also try not to take my dogs out at night because that’s when the mosquitos love to come out. I try to stay away from wet areas like lakes and ponds, which is close to impossible since I live in Florida. I stay in the house 90 percent of the day. It’s a miserable way to live, but I’d do anything for my unborn child. Despite my precautions, however, came more bad news: reports on the news claimed that individuals can transmit Zika by having sex with someone who has it. That broadcast left me feeling defeated. My husband works for a cable company putting up satellites and spends 90 percent of his time outside. He has to go underneath houses and climb into attics where all the wonderful little bugs live. He comes home with a new spider bite every other day. And I’m allergic to condoms. It feels like every single one of our options for a Zika-free pregnancy are slowly slipping away from us.
I'm a singer at Disney World in Orlando, and anyone who works for there knows that the walk from the parking lot to work is very far. Although my show is inside, I spend a lot of time outside. I make sure to coat myself in bug spray before I go to work and before I leave, but I hate smelling like bug spray all the time. I can't stand it, so I use essential oils like Lavender and peppermint to calm down the smell. To top it off, I have to reapply the OFF spray every two hours because it wears off. And to make matters worse, the last time I went to my OB's office for a check up, I found out my doctor quit. I've since been set up with a midwife, a woman I'm not sure will even be my care provider when the day comes. Much like Zika, I know these things are out of my hands. I'm doing my best not to worry, to stay calm and to stay healthy.
A lot of times in life we don’t worry about things that don’t affect us until they do. We block out things in order to cope so we don't have to carry the weight of it on our shoulders. That’s exactly what I was doing before I got pregnant. But now, Zika affects me. When asked if she would be attending the Olympics in Brazil amidst the Zika concern, U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas answered,
Mosquitoes? Like, whatever. I'm going. This is my shot. I don't care about no stupid bugs.
The only thing I can do is solve the problems in front of me. I don't know what's going to happen. I can't predict the future.
Although Douglas isn’t pregnant and not planning on being pregnant (as far as I understand), she was right. I can’t let “stupid bugs” keep me buried in worry and apprehension. This is my shot! I’ve been waiting to be pregnant for two whole agonizing years and right now, I should be enjoying it. And truthfully, the only thing I can do is solve the problems in front of me. I don't know what's going to happen. I can't predict the future. I can take every precaution, coat myself in bug spray, and do everything I can to ensure I give my baby and me the best possible fighting chance.
I’m hoping my little angel comes out perfectly healthy, but if not I’ll be ready to do whatever I need to do to give my child the life they deserve. As a parent, I have to get ready for everything life is going to throw my way — and my child’s. I'm currently 15 weeks pregnant now. My hope is that I'll continue the rest of my pregnancy stress free, and that maybe even a vaccine for Zika will become available. It'd be a dream come true. I know there's only so much I can do, so I do my best not to let my anxiety get the best of me. Of course I wish I could go out more and chill with friends because I know things will inevitably change after the baby arrives, but I still can't bring myself to go out all that often.