I Didn’t Know I’d Be A New Parent During A Pandemic

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.

Posted in Blog, Writings/Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Simple Sunday

Sundays are for relaxing, unwinding, and resetting for the week. Though in 2020, they just seem to be another day — another morning to night workday.

The tasks are different, there is no clocking in or out, but the work is the same.

Maybe eventually we’ll get back to normal.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Warmth Around

Sometimes, everything just seems to fall into place, even when you’re not really expecting it. Big, small, anything. If you look for things to fall apart – then they will.

It was just a normal day really, but on that day – almost out of nowhere – the sun starting shining just perfectly into the room.

These objects have been in my living area for years, and until this exact moment, I had never really realized how interesting they look. It even forced me to take a vertical photo – which is something I don’t commonly do, or like how they turn out.

Things always fall into place, somehow.

Just be creative.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Little Stream, A Little Hope

It’s okay to be a pessimist. It’s okay to worry.

There is a lot to be sad about, there is a lot to be disappointed in – but there is hope out there.

Rivers always keep on moving, and so can you.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Quiet Place, In A Quiet Time

We worry, we wait, we predict, and we pray. Every day it seems like there is something new to concern ourselves with, some new tragedy that will take us down. However, the world goes on around us. And while it can be cruel – it can be calming, and soothing. Even if that is only a facade for what comes tomorrow.

At this point, you take a win when you can, smile when it comes across. For some, that means talking to friends – even virtually. For some, that’s reading a book they have been putting down for months. For some, it’s doing nothing at all.

There are plenty of things to get mad about, people to complain about, and things to get dissapointed over. We’ve lost a lot, gained nothing – and there is nothing we can do about it. But in a way, maybe that’s the best part.

There is nothing we can do but wait, and watch the leaves change color.

Posted in Blog, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Face It – We Lost

Sometimes, you have just to throw in the towel, call it a day, and admit that your best just wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, that seems to be the situation we are in.

Every day there is new news, there are counts, and there are predictions. The days go on, and the outlook becomes more bleak by the second, but for some reason – no one seems to really care. The worry only appears in their minds when COVID has reached their front door, or maybe a relative.

The days go by and more and more names are added to seemingly never ending list of those who we have lost to a monster that seems too difficult to overcome, even though we are apparently the only one with this problem. Some of us pretend we have a handle on it, some of us pretend it’s “not that bad,” and worst of all, some of us pretend it’s not there at all – the ignorance of such an enormous enemy astounding. But in reality, we have already lost the battle, we have lost to something we will never be able to see – and it’s all our fault.

I am no saint, I am not perfect, and I have no idea how to stop this virus. But what I can say is that I tried, I gave it my best – even if that meant I was alone in the fight. I wasn’t willing to put others at risk, even if my measures of safety did “not that much.” I wasn’t willing to play Russian Roulette with other lives because I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. And I never foolishly complained that my rights were being taken away – which is just an excuse for not wanting to admit that you truly don’t care.

I just wish others would offer the same respect.

At the end of the day, I am tired. I am tired of doing anything I can to do my part in the effort, only for others to not do the same. I am tired of caring for others, and doing things for strangers I never thought I would do – only for some of them to look me in the face and laugh, or announce to me how much of a sheep I am, and simply not care for me.

More than anything else, this is what upsets me the most.

What you can do isn’t that difficult, it isn’t that hard, and it isn’t something that will change your life forever. Wear a mask, keep your distance, and just try to do your best. But for some, that task seems just too difficult. Whether it’s bravado, or just plain ignorance, the annoyance is the same. And the sadness I feel from this trend can be overwhelming.

I don’t want this to be the new normal. I don’t want our lives to become nothing but worry, despair, and confusion on what is coming next. I don’t want our new normal to be constantly worrying about friends and family, or if that cough could be something more. I will do anything I can to stop this, even if that means being told I am uninformed or misguided. I would rather try my best, even if others don’t do that for me.

But sadly, I think this will be our own normal – and it’s all our fault.

We don’t really care for others, we don’t really think about anyone else, and we are destined to be in this vicious cycle forever. Again, I don’t claim to know all of the answers, but I am intelligent enough to know the ways we can try – and not give ridiculous excuses for why I can’t, or won’t, even attempt the simplest things.

I haven’t been around this world for too long, just a couple decades, but even in that short time I can see a crack in our mindset that is disturbing.

Since I was a kid, I always thought of this country and it’s citizens as kind, strong, ambitious, and caring. However since the moment this thing began, I suddenly began to see those standards wash away. We have turned into the “me first” nation, the nation who believes it will never happen here, it will never happen to us, and if I’m okay, then everyone else must be too.

But that’s not how the world works. We have taken a hit, and ignoring the bleeding will only make things worse.

Somehow, we have all become experts, we all know what’s best, and we all know what’s real and what isn’t – and that’s an insult to the very people doing their best to end this the fastest they can, doctors.

When doctors signed up for med school, they wanted to help people, they wanted to cure patients, and they wanted to make a difference. They spend years in school, sometimes a decade learning the trade, getting the experience, and pushing off their own lives so they can improve ours. They delay marriage, kids, and their entire life so they can be prepared for when they are called – and when they finally are, we don’t believe them.

It’s shameful. It’s shameful to believe a group of selfless people who have dedicated their entire lives for this moment have to suddenly fight a war on two fronts, both crushing.

On one hand, the virus just won’t quit, it won’t stop, and it keeps finding ways to baffle science. It’s an enemy that seems to never run out of oxygen, and never sleeps. But on the other hand they also have to fight the very citizens they’re trying to protect. They work day and night, only to be told they’re part of “the system” and are trying to dupe the public into a world of deceit, and control. It’s a battle they were never trained to fight, and it’s a battle I will forever back them on. They don’t deserve to feel like the problem, they don’t deserve to feel like they’re making things worse – but the worst of us are getting louder, and making the solution become dangerously hard to attain.

I would never ask anyone to jump into blind faith of anyone, it wouldn’t be far. But it’s okay to admit that someone knows more than you, and that there is no dark figure behind the curtain trying to pull strings to ruin your life at the end of the day, you’re not that interesting. Doctors are doing their best, nurses are doing their best, and they’re going to continue doing they’re best even though people fight them at every turn.

Doctors do anything to help anyone, but they do have backup, a backup that may be even more devilish to some – the media.

If it weren’t for the media, we wouldn’t have knowledge of what’s going on next door, of how other countries have handled it, or what tactics have proven fatally inaccurate. 

Before this even began, as I have written on in the past, the media has been vilified as another dark entity that is going to consume the world. People assume they lie, cheat, and just make things worse – only because these people are unwilling to accept the reality that is, well, reality. But in a sense, they have become science’s best friend and confidant – a band of misfits, if you will.

Just like doctors, the media doesn’t care what you think of them, they don’t care that you don’t believe them, and they will report the truth anyway. They will let you know of the progress of medicine, who is working hard and who isn’t. They will inform you when a vaccine is on the way, or when we have to go back to the drawing board. Most importantly, they will tell you when envelopes have been passed, and when we need to buckle down on who we let lead us through whatever this is.

I have friends who are doctors, I have friends who are in the media – and they are the true unsung heroes of this time. They have seen things that no one should ever see, and have had to make decisions that would haunt some of us forever.  And if that earlier sentence makes you cringe, maybe you should be the one reevaluating yourself. Maybe you should look into the mirror and ask yourself why you attack the best we have to offer. After all, when we’re in a war, you don’t blame the soldiers for getting us in there in the first place.

This virus has done a lot, but this virus never took away our rights, it never made us “less American,” and it never threatened the freedoms we hold dead. However, it did take other precious things from us. It took birthdays away from us, it took vacations away from us, it even took prom away from us – but all of these pale in comparison to what we really lost. This virus took our friends, friends who didn’t need to die, and didn’t need to be in pain. It took our families, some whole, never to have another Christmas, or another graduation.

There is no way around it – if you’re worried about the false narrative that this is somehow stealing your rights, then you’re horribly misguided. You’re not thinking about the things it really did take from us, the people in our lives that we will never get back, their stories ended abruptly because we couldn’t quell our own selfishness.

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. But I know when to call it a day. 

We haven’t lost the war just yet, but we have yet to win a battle. Like a snake eating their own tail, I just hope we can realize the bed we made, and I hope we refuse to lie in it.

This isn’t a world I want to live in, and I hope you don’t either. But until we realize our own flaws, and trust the knowledge that we do have – we are doomed to repeat history, day by day.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Best of the Midwest

IMG_2239

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live in other parts of the country, sometimes I think that it would be better to live somewhere warmer, more populous, or just generally “nicer,” – whatever that means.

However, every now and then, I am blissfully reminded of just how beautiful the Midwest can be, and it soon becomes clear why it sucks people in. The old saying of “you never leave Ohio” becomes painfully real – and all it takes is a brisk walk through the canal system on a warm summer evening.

There is a lot to hate about Ohio. The brutal winters, the stuffy humidity, and the rainstorms that seem to pop up at the worst possible times. But there is also a lot to love about Ohio.

Ohio is a place where family and friends rule, the people are tough, and the scenery is a hidden beauty that only certain people will ever see. Sure, it’s not the rolling beach, forests of palm trees, or rolling sands of the Southwest. But it’s Ohio, it’s ours, and it really isn’t that bad when you just open your eyes.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunset Over Ohio

IMG_2056

It’s funny how nature doesn’t know.

Nature doesn’t know about pandemics, in the sense we do. It doesn’t know about poverty, worry, abundance, or anything that we worry about daily. Nature doesn’t think about bills, schoolwork, daycare, or mortgages. It just exists, going on its daily routine from one sunset to another, it schedule about as rigid as a river.

Sometimes I am sure we all wish we could be nature. We all wish we could put everything that’s bothering us away, and just worry about getting enough sunlight. Stop worrying about the daily grind, deadlines, and only think about the stars at night.

Even in the bustle of the world around it, nature sits alone, calm, and quiet. I wish we could all be as tranquil, and find peace within the air around us.

We’ll get there someday, somehow. But until then, we’ll have to find our relaxation in the woods, deep in the woods. Where they worries of the world can’t reach, and are no match for the solitude of nature.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Thoughts – If It Matters

As if we all were in some strange, messed up movie, it seems like all days are blending together. Weekends blend into weekdays, weeks into months, while none of us know what’s up from down.

All day long the television is loaded with talking heads, celebrities on Zoom telling us that we are all in this together, and companies somehow trying to convince us that Doritos are just what we need in these “unusual and unprecedented times.” It all becomes so frustrating, so mind numbing, and so confusing. What’s good for us? What do we do? When will this end?

Most of us have spent months trying to determine the best course of action on how to get us out of this, thinking about ways to lead us through the maze that is this virus. All the while trying to adapt to a new normal that is difficult to conceive. Every day we look at graphs, charts, predictions, and any other scientific data and understanding we can. We try to apply anything we have learned to the situation to desperately quell the spread.  And still, we have no answer. We are so close, but at the same time, we fight ourselves, and push ourselves deeper into the hole in every minute.

It’s the people who deny science, then demand a vaccine become available. The people who think the virus is a joke, only to beg for forgiveness when it attacks their lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. It’s okay to not know the answer, none of us do – but to knee-cap the very science and people trying to solve the biggest issue the world has seen in decades is incredibly dangerous, at best – let alone plain disrespectful.

We can go over the numbers again and again. We can talk about how it hit the amount of flu deaths in one month, we can talk about the concerning disease it is causing in the young and healthy, and we can talk about how it is decimating the most fragile our country has. But no matter what, it will only lead down the road of argumentative discourse. We don’t talk, we yell, we don’t think, we assume. All of this can be accepted, as long as we also accept the fact that we really don’t care about each other. It’s fun to pretend like we do, sharing strong words of encouragement, only to later uproot it with our careless actions and hypocritical rhetoric.

In a world where solutions are unknown, we take what we can get, we do what we can do. It’s a simple one at that, wear a mask. However, the word mask alone has turned into a four-letter-word of its own. It no longer is seen as a safety precaution, it’s now seen as a symbol of someone who has given up their rights, and are falling on their knees for the government. Forget the fact that we can still move about as we please, protest at will, and have free speech. To some, the masks are just too much. 

Somehow, we have gotten to the point where we assume doctors, who have spent their entire lives dedicated to scientific research and helping patients, are now part of this elaborate scheme to destroy the world. Some think the media is nothing more than a factory of detrimental fear-mongering information – when in reality, they’re just producing facts. Some feel they very people trying to save are are only trying to gain notoriety, and cash this virus like a check at the bank. 

But most shameful of all, is that we attack them. It’s bad enough not to trust and have faith in the people who know better than us, who have done their research – but it’s a whole other thing to attack them, belittle them, and make them question their own safety. Again coming down to the basic fact that some people only care about themselves, we only want to hear what is good for us, and anything else is evil.

Doctors are here to help, they’re here to care – and they’ll do it whether you feel you need them or not.

Every day we inch closer, to milestones none of us ever thought we’d see. One hundred thousand gone. They were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and so much more. They had a story, they were meant to be someone, but their life was cut short by a virus that some deem as nothing more than a fabrication. If there is anything that is more painful, is that in someway, their death was in vain. They became the unknown, the disregarded, and the phony. There are some people who don’t know any of them, so for them their lives apparently mean nothing. But to someone else, they were the world, and now the families have to fight a second, possibly more unsettling, battle. The battle against those who simply don’t care.

Over and over again we hear how 99% recover, and “you’re probably going to be fine.” But when did that 1% of life not matter? When did we decide that giving up even a single life is justified in the name of getting a haircut. Out-loud, the argument sounds ridiculous, but it’s the one some use. Maybe deep down they know they are wrong, they feel bad about what they’re doing, but they feel safety in numbers since it never touched them. The 1% only matters when it begins to affect them.

People love to tout that we’re all in this together, but are we really? Do people deep down really care about what their neighbors are dealing with? If packed beaches and patios mean anything, if people totally refusing to follow even the most basic safety precautions, the answer is a resounding “no.”

Maybe the worst thing about this virus is the fact that it exploits the greatest weakness we have. In all reality, and more than likely, you’re going to be fine, but that doesn’t mean your family will be. In a sick twist, you could be your own nightmare, and bring the tragedy to your own doorstep. It’s not something that can be chosen, you can’t just ask it not to spread. We could be our own downfall, and we know it. And what’s most worrisome is that we don’t care. We don’t care that we can spread it to people at the store, the gym, or the var – because we don’t know them.

The virus doesn’t care that you think you’ll be okay, it doesn’t care that you’re a healthy adult, and it doesn’t care about your beach party. You may think there’s no way you’ll spread it, it’s silly. But the virus doesn’t care about that either.

But there is another side – and the fact that all of us truly do have these feelings. We feel invincible, that it can’t happen to us, and that it’s just a boogeyman that is being perpetuated by the very government of our towns. We all want to go back to normal, we all want to hug each other and see our friends again, and we all want to pretend this isn’t happening. But it is.

No one is perfect, I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But I hope I can still have respect for others, I hope I can worry about others, and I hope that I do my best to stop this the best that I can. 

It’s okay to have feelings of confusion, disappointment, and even anger at the situation. It’s okay to feel that maybe you’re being a little too cautious, that maybe it’s okay to return to normal and put this all behind us. But what isn’t okay is to be cavalier in logic that makes no sense, to recklessly endanger those around us simply because you’re upset that life isn’t the way you want it to be, and to attack those who are desperately trying to help, while also endangering everything they value – including their own lives. It’s not okay to attack and confront those just trying to do their best, trying to do what they feel is right, just trying to get by.

This virus is something we have never seen before, but unfortunately these attitudes are something we have dealt with forever.

The virus is bad, the virus kills – but what’s worse is how we have handled it. Maybe we can be better, maybe we can finally understand that life isn’t all about us, it’s about everyone. And while you may never know someone affected, they’re there. They’re real, and they’re all human.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Presented Without Context

IMG_0054

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | Leave a comment