Pregnant in a pandemic: When parenting begins before the birth

By Pandemic Pregnancy Project | July 12, 2022

  • N'Jameh Russell-Camara and her husband.

N'Jameh Russell-Camara and her husband. Photo courtesy of Russell-Camara.

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The pandemic has been hard on many parents. For N’Jameh Russell-Camara of Milwaukee, her parenting started earlier than she expected, when a pregnancy related illness sent her to the emergency room during the height of the pandemic. 

Russell-Camara shares her experience as part of the Pandemic Pregnancy Project, which is documenting the stories of families and their babies and how they’ve been affected by COVID-19.


Every time I’d heard someone who was pregnant experience something that was so severe, I would say to myself, “Oh, God that sucks. That better not happen to me.”

And as soon as I said that, it did.

I was in lockdown. And for context, this was the time before vaccines, when people were hogging toilet paper. Anyway, while working two new jobs from home, I was so nauseous and throwing up every day, all day from week seven to week 22. My nutrient levels were all over the place. And, it’s winter time, too, which means windows were closed. Every smell is exacerbated. And all I want to do is go anywhere and get fresh air.

But I can’t because we’re in a pandemic. Given that I had a miscarriage prior, I did not want to risk getting sick.

N'Jameh Russell-Camara with her daughter, who she welcomed on July 8, 2021.

N’Jameh Russell-Camara with her daughter, who she welcomed on July 8, 2021. Photo courtesy of Russell-Camara.

Around week 14, I was listening to a podcast with Amy Schumer, and she was talking about hyperemesis gravidarum and how she landed in the hospital. And I thought, that’s not gonna happen to me. Jump ahead to about week 21, when I didn’t get enough hydration that morning after being sick the night prior. I turned on the shower, waiting for the water to heat up. And I tell my husband, “Babe I’m not feeling good.”

I’d said this so many times before. But all of a sudden, I fell and passed out in his arms. Tongue in cheek. And when I came to, I was on the floor and he’s gently slapping me and splashing water in my face. Immediately we went to the hospital. We’re both anxious because that is the last place we wanted to go. We’d gotten so far in staying away from people who could be carrying COVID, to now land in that spot with them. I was so angry. And anxious. I needed to make sure that baby was ok and that I was ok.

We sat in the ER by the windows, finding a seat by the outskirts of a full room. We waited for over two hours, just to have a bed. Why? Because there were so many COVID patients, there was not enough room for the rest of us. Meanwhile, a woman vomited next to me, making me nauseous. I still don’t know who next to me has COVID. A nurse called me twice to go into a backroom just to check my vitals. Still, I wasn’t seen by a doctor. Every time I go back to my seat in the waiting room, I’m paranoid walking through the sea of sick people.

Finally they called my name at the three hour mark. I got a bed and they infused me with one of those liter bags. I didn’t have to pee for a long time; that’s how dehydrated I was. They checked my baby’s heartbeat. She was healthy. And we did not get COVID that day.

Today we’re at a time where there are boosters, but for many parents, the pandemic is still stressful. Even though my daughter hadn’t been born yet, my parenting had already started by doing what I needed to do to protect my health, my mind and my spirit. Yeah, I sure celebrated Mother’s Day that May, even though she wasn’t in my arms yet. We had made it so far, and that was worth celebrating.

Pandemic Pregnancy Project

Pandemic Pregnancy Project

The Pandemic Pregnancy Project is a Milwaukee-based organization that produces initiatives, organizes community events, and archives stories from across the country of people who grew their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the project is a limited series called “Pandemic Pregnancies and Popsicles!,” a collection of 20 stories with a...

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