Of course it was snowing. It always snows here when we don’t want it to. And not that kind of snow that teases you with a dusting only to vanish by mid-morning. It was a heavy snow, almost like a thick blanket, and it came nearly out of nowhere.
The maternity ward felt as though it was nearly empty. Really, it seemed as if my wife and I were the only patients — me being a “patient,” in reality. It was mostly quiet, minus the constant shrill of machines we knew nothing about more than the fact that they kept an eye on our soon-to-arrive daughter. It was serene, it was scary, but it was also strangely calming.
We were as prepared as we could have been; we did everything you were supposed to do, and still — we felt as if everything took us off-guard.
The induction had started the evening before and the medication seemed as if that couldn’t even get our little one to arrive–she was already just as stubborn as I always am. But thinking about it now, maybe she knew something we didn’t at the time. Maybe she was aware of what was to come next, and wanted to stay on the other side just a little longer. Because let’s be honest, who would blame her?
Things weren’t progressing, until suddenly they were. The doctor rushed to the hospital in a snowstorm of a magnitude only rarely seen. Nurses running to get prepared for the most exciting moment of their evening. It all seemed so fast, such a blur. Though in reality, the process was longer than I realized.
I’m a guy, I had no clue what I was doing. I did what was told, and what was asked of me. Little things, big things, and everything in-between. I would’ve been scared if I had the energy to, but I truly didn’t after the lack of sleep. Regardless, she was finally there. Our new baby was in our arms. Safe, healthy, and happy — it was just as everyone had said it was going to be. The only issue was that there was something brewing that we never saw coming, something no one could ever prepare us for.
The classes we took were long, but necessary. We were going to be new parents, we really had no clue what to expect, or even how to change a diaper. The information was plentiful, and we thought it trained us to be the best parents we could be — and it did help. We learned how to burp a baby, how to change a baby, and even the best ways to get them to sleep. We thought we knew it all, and maybe we did. But there are some things you just have to learn on your own.
Like how to raise a newborn during a pandemic.
It was March and our baby was only a couple months old when the stories started getting a little more worrisome. COVID-19 had reached American shores — the virus that, until that moment, we didn’t really care much about. It wasn’t affecting us, and it was just something that seemed like nothing to worry about.
I will never forget the night things really started to change. We were trying to rock our baby to sleep — she hadn’t been doing much of that. We were engrossed in learning how to be parents, I was trying to figure out how to be a dad. That night we turned on the television, and the news was suddenly dire. The NBA was shut down, travel was restricted, and lockdowns seemed imminent. Almost out of nowhere, it seemed like the floor was starting to bottom out.
If only we knew.
Only a few weeks later, the stay-at-home order in our state began. We were terrified. Were we going to be able to get enough food for the baby, let alone us? Will we have jobs? How will we get by?
Suddenly, we were living in a world we had never seen before all while still adjusting to our new roles. Shelves were bare, people had begun to panic, and no one knew what to do or what to expect. Forget just worrying about getting sick, we didn’t even know what tomorrow was going to look like. We had to keep it together somehow, and we had to do it alone. Suddenly the classes meant nothing, we forgot everything they taught us, and we were writing our own curriculum.
At the time, so little was known about the virus. How contagious was it? Who is affected? How was it spreading? There were so many questions, and we didn’t have the answers to any of them. No one did. But we didn’t want to risk anything. Not only were we in a new world with something we never could have imagined, we were doing it with a newborn, and we had to think twice — three times — about everything we did.
Our families are the closest things to us; we rely on them and their deep caring for us. They would, and do anything they can for us. But in a terrible twist, they had to step back, and protect themselves from us, and us from them. We’re not the only cases of this. People need their family, and in the darkest hour this country has seen in some time — we couldn’t. Not without a dangerous risk.
Eventually, the days began to blend together, nothing really ever seemed to change. Wake up, take care of the baby, work, eat, and wait for the evening sun to shrink below the horizon until it arose the next morning — and then you do it again. It was a routine that became more routine than any other routine I had ever had. But in a way, it kept us sane. We had a schedule to stick to, we had daily goals to accomplish — and it kept our minds off of what was going on around us.
Our newborn had no idea what was going on, and that’s a good thing. She had no clue that we were lost, we were scared, and we were figuring it out the best we could, one day at a time. But what we also took comfort in is that we weren’t alone. We weren’t the only ones with a newborn, we weren’t the only ones learning on the fly.
In the age of social media, it is so easy to connect with others who were in the same position as we were. No one really knew what to do, or how to best protect our babies. But we could help each other in any way we could, even if it was just a few words of encouragement.
In the nature of human spirit, we were strong, we learned, and we figured out the new world. But suddenly things changed again, and the enemy was no longer directly the virus – it was our own people.
Almost as if nothing had ever happened, life began to resume
Soon, the middle of summer was here, parties were going on, recreation had resumed, and life began to seem normal again — even though it wasn’t. The virus was still here, is still here, and no one seemed to notice. So every day, we assess risk on where to go, when to go there, and if the people around us are taking the virus seriously. Just another thing no class could ever possibly prepare you for.
Every day feels like seven and every situation feels like a math equation we have to solve on the fly. And even if others don’t care about the spread — everything is a risk new parents aren’t willing to take..
New parents have lost a lot this year. We haven’t been able to show our miracle to many of our friends or family. We can’t take her to the zoo. We can’t take her to her first baseball game. And really, we can’t even take her to parks without constant worry of “was that person too close?” Life has become worrying about why people don’t have masks, wondering why we can’t just help each other.
Eventually we will have to explain to our daughter why all of us have masks in her baby photos. A conversation many will have to have, and one that will be difficult to explain.
Occasionally, I will think about the other new parents we saw that snowy evening. I sometimes wonder where they are at, how they are feeling, and how they are coping. It’s okay for new parents in 2020 to be disappointed. It’s okay for new parents in 2020 to be scared. It’s okay for new parents in 2020 to be mad. Maybe my wife and I aren’t alone after all.
We knew we were going to have to sacrifice things when we became parents — that’s just a guarantee. We just didn’t know that we would have to do that in a new world that doesn’t seem to be easily fixed, especially any time soon.
Regardless, we’ll get by, we all will. New parents are tough people, we can do anything. And we’ll do whatever it takes.
That’s something a class can never teach you.