I went in for a routine ultrasound in March, a couple of weeks before the baby was expected. Covid panic was just setting in, in Austin, and toilet paper was disappearing off the shelves. The doctor chatted with us about which grocery stores were better stocked and soon we were good to leave. I reminded him of something he had needed to check, to follow up on my previous visit. It had completely slipped his mind. I went back on the ultrasound table and a few minutes later the doctor announced, “I think it’s time to have a baby.”
I looked at him confused and ventured to get more clarification. “So…what are the next steps?” I asked, still not completely sure what he meant. “You go home, get your bags, and come back to the hospital,” he said. “I’ll inform your doctor meanwhile.”
We checked into the hospital the day things began to be closed down in Austin due to Covid-19 restrictions. My daughter was born the day after. For the next couple of days, we were away from the madness outside but even in the hospital, a sense of uncertainty and dread could be felt. It was all so new and so unknown for everyone. There were new restrictions on entering the hospital and, even more so for entering the maternity floor—only one attendant per patient and no visitors. There was a check-in process for every time you went in and out of the hospital, even if just to grab something from your car outside. The nurses told me how strange it was to see the maternity ward so quiet and empty—normally it’s full of visitors and celebration they said.
When perhaps we would have had to think 5 times before stepping out of the house with a little one, we now had to think 15 times.
It was raining when we took the baby home. My husband felt a wave of sadness as he realized that there was no one to welcome the little one. Our neighbors had left a small bouquet of wildflowers outside our door and, in that moment, it was one of the sweetest gestures that meant the world to us, coming home to an empty house with our new family member.
The next few days, then weeks, passed in a blur. Along with the uncertainty and negative aspects, there were definitely also advantages. My husband got to be home much longer than expected and we both spent more time with our daughter. We avoided unsolicited advice from others on how we should be raising our child, which gave us more confidence in our parenting and helped us figure out what works for us and her. And the isolation, the feeling of being left out that comes with being a new parent, was perhaps not as bad as it could have been. Because, hey, everyone else was also stuck at home and not really out having a ball while we were bound.
Covid did add extra stress and complications though. When perhaps we would have had to think 5 times before stepping out of the house with a little one, we now had to think 15 times. Her first visit to the park, in her new stroller, resulted in the stroller getting stuck on the way back and not folding down to fit in the car. As my husband struggled to find a way to shove it in, baby was screaming, and I kept thinking how we couldn’t even ask anyone for help in these strange times. I ultimately drove back home with a very traumatized baby and my husband walked the stroller home.
Today, 10 months later I have moments of panic where I think my baby might never get adjusted to seeing a lot of people together indoors. Instead of looking forward to having everyone meet her, I sometimes dread it. All sorts of thoughts cross my mind. Will I ever be able to take her to see family without her crying hysterically? Will she ever be able to attend a wedding without being scared? Is she going to get to play with other children in a timely manner? It’s not just the immediate apprehensions, directly related to the Covid world, but also the fear of what the long term social and psychological effects might be.
I have faith that it will all work out in the end but today, in this moment, it is hard to put aside the fact that we are living in unprecedented times, the outcomes of which are impossible to predict.
Photograph by Massan Photography
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