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2020 has been one for the books. Pandemic, murder hornets, virtual learning, toilet paper shortage, and the list goes on and on. What many people may not remember, or realize, is that babies were still being born. Parents fearfully hunkered down at home trying to keep their babies safe during a time of uncertainty. Not only were parents of infants terrified of flu and RSV season this year, but along came COVID-19 adding a whole new level of anxiety to having a baby.
If you haven’t noticed, there are very few babies out and about in strollers and baby carriers. The days of sweet, smiling babies waving “bye-bye” in the shopping cart are no more. There is no crying, laughing, giggles, or sweet high pitched voices echoing around stores. These precious beings are living out their lives at home. Shut away. Not for the world to see or enjoy. The world seems a little duller and is lacking the innocence and lightheartedness that children provided.
Tiny humans everywhere are growing, learning, and discovering the world around them and sadly they are not doing so in the traditional way. They do not get to see new smiling faces playing peek-a-boo in the line at the grocery store or experience new sights and sounds of public places. Just think, soon there will be one-year-olds that have never been on a swing at the park, been in Target, or met relatives due to COVID-19.
Having a baby and being a parent is hard work. It’s doubtful that anyone will argue that. We put ourselves on the back burner by eating cold meals, skipping showers, and sacrificing sleep. Even the most patient and loving parent cannot pour from an empty cup. We all need a refill from time to time.
However, having a baby in the middle of the 2020 pandemic has created many barriers to receiving that much-needed respite time. Babysitters are scarce, if not nonexistent, and fancy restaurants, nail salons, spas, and other date night destinations have closed up shop. So along with those cute squishy babies at home are exhausted mothers with unibrows and overgrown cuticles that just want a shower and a hot meal.
There is anger. A lot of anger about not being able to be my best self for my children. We would all like to say that we are giving ourselves grace, but are we? Are we being kind to ourselves in the difficult moments since having a baby? I have found myself painfully aware of my shortcomings and selfishness. I would love to say that I have handled this situation gracefully. But in all honesty, that is not at all true.
For mothers with multiple children, having a baby at home with their school-aged children is overwhelming. Schooldays for our school-aged kids offered an opportunity to be alone with our newest little loves to bond. Time to slow down, relax on the couch, and stare lovingly at each other, soaking in moments that pass too quickly after having a baby. But that has been stolen by home-based learning, midday meals, and Kids Messenger.
Honestly, it is annoying. It’s not at all our kid’s faults, as they are trying to adapt too. It’s the dinging of the iPad, the Zoom calls (that have to be pointed away from nursing sessions), and technical difficulties that have added much more time and frustration to the overall tone of the home environment. The world that we kept at a safe distance once we were home, has now come busting through the door, welcomed or not. This is not at all the world I thought I was bringing him into.
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2020 has been more than a disappointment or inconvenience. Just think: First birthday parties are going to be approaching soon. Where a huge soiree usually occurs with crowds of friends and family, candles may be blown out with only a select few “safe” relatives. And the thought of no trick-or-treating with the most adorable costume is more than this mother’s heart can handle. Don’t even get me started on missing out on the classic “My First Christmas” photos of baby screaming on Santa’s lap.
Heartbroken does not even begin to describe the emotion that some women are feeling when it comes to talking about what all has been lost for our baby’s first year. Of course in the back of our minds, there is a constant humble reminder that these events are not important in the big scheme of things. Of course, we count our blessings and are thankful for what so many people can not have. However, our hearts are having a harder time.
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So here is the question: When will this end? Not necessarily the virus but the fear that has become all too familiar since having a baby. The stores may open, the restrictions may be lifted, but what about the fear that has surrounded the well-being of our precious miracles. Is it possible without experiencing the most anxiety yet? All these are thoughts and considerations that were not on our radar as we were picking nursery themes and colors before having a baby.
With the risk of sounding selfish: This was not fair. Having a baby, my miracle baby, was supposed to be joyful instead of terrifying. We were supposed to be at the playground, kids’ museums, and playdates. I want so badly to have him on my lap, riding the train and carousel at the local park, clapping and smiling. We are not there. Not even close.
Time is a thief. It takes the moments we want to last and ticks on despite our longing to live in those moments that bring our hearts joy. It also provides hope that these moments of difficulty and discontentment will pass. One day they will be replaced with happy, healthy babies back in our everyday lives. Children running up to us without hesitation for hugs and playful interactions.
I hope that we don’t return to the way things were, but that we take time to reflect on what we have missed and give it the loving attention and consideration that may have not been there before. As the process of grief is concluded with acceptance, I am choosing to believe that my son’s normal first year has been sacrificed in exchange for a lifetime of kindness and connection with others.
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Photo Credits: Amanda Armstrong, Ashley Sisk