'We don't get to stay home': Pregnant healthcare worker defends working during COVID-19 pandemic

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Taylor Poynter is still working as a physicians assistant at 33 weeks pregnant. (Images via Instagram).

A pregnant frontline healthcare worker is giving a voice to the expectant mothers working during the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing her powerful baby bump photos to Instagram.

Taylor Poynter of Joliet, Il. has been chronicling her pregnancy while she continues to work as a physician’s assistant. The 27-year-old, who is expecting her first child in June, has been sharing weekly updates of her growing bump to social media, giving followers an inside look at what life is like for pregnant frontline workers.

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On April 8, Poynter shared a photo of herself at 31-weeks pregnant, dressed in head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE) while cradling her stomach.

“Thirty one weeks pregnant and working in a pandemic. There is a lot of fear and anxiety that comes with being a mom on the front line right now,” she wrote. “On a national level, PPE is officially limited, supplies intermittently are running low in certain areas, and we are reusing our masks for the purpose of conservation. There is such comfort in knowing that we have a God who brings such joy out of chaos, and who has a love that casts out ALL fear.”

BabyCenter, a pregnancy and parenting site with more than 515,000 Instagram followers, shared Poynter’s photo to their account. The image received thousands of likes and comments from fellow moms who are continuing to work on the frontlines.

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After receiving hurtful comments, Poynter shared another image of herself in scrubs, encouraging people to think twice before they criticize a pregnant essential worker from continuing to work during the pandemic.

“Some of us are the main income source, we don’t get to stay home...,” she wrote. “We don’t have the luxury of staying home. There are a lot of reasons pregnant women are still working, but none of us are doing it because we want to put our child in harms way.”

Taylor Poynter and her husband Gene are expecting their first child in June. Poynter is still working as a physician's assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image via Poynter Family/Courtesy of TODAY).

Poynter, who miscarried before becoming pregnant with her baby boy, said she was determined to show people that pregnant healthcare workers are experiencing a range of emotions during the stressful period.

“(The posts) initially started as something to remember my third trimester by, but I think it's important that people recognize when pregnant women post these pictures, we are celebrating our pregnancy in the only way we can right now,” she said in an interview with TODAY. “I also think it really gives people a clear picture of what our lives look like right now — this is as real as it gets, all summed up in one photo.”

Although she is continuing to work, Poynter has had to make changes, including refraining from interacting with critically ill patients. When she has worked with COVID-19 positive patients, she limits her interactions whenever possible and wears PPE to protect herself and the baby.

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“Prior to the pandemic, I often saw patients without wearing gloves, masks or other PPE. I felt very comfortable completing my history and exam without these, as washing my hands was enough at the time,” she explained to TODAY. “Now, I do not even fully enter the room until I receive a more detailed history from the patient and determine if I need to add a gown to what I am already wearing at baseline ( a N95 mask, face shield, gloves and surgical cap).”

Despite her commitment to her team and her role of helping patients, she admits she is afraid — almost daily — that she will get sick. Like many expectant mothers, the need to socially distance has drastically changed how she envisioned her first child.

“My biggest fear is that I will be tested for COVID on the day I go into labor, come back positive for some reason, and be told I cannot interact with my baby for two weeks. This would be so devastating to me,” Poynter said. “No one will be able to visit us at the hospital, or so I anticipate, and I doubt we will allow people to freely come into our home after the delivery. All around, this is just not what I expected with our first baby.”

Now, at 33-weeks pregant, Poynter hopes that her posts will help people see the sacrifices that frontline workers are making and practice social distancing to help end the spread of the virus. She also hopes people will see that pregnant essential workers are doing what is asked of them, and taking every precaution to be safe.

“If I had anything to say to people that aren't in our shoes, it would be not to assume pregnant women want to put themselves on the front lines during this time, or that we are poor mothers due to our work situations,” she said. “There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to working on the front lines while being pregnant. This is uncharted territory.”

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