New Parent circa 2020
When the IVF treatments finally worked after the 4th try in April 2019, I never imagined, like many other women, that my child would be born into a pandemic. Such a word had only existed in board games, sci-fi, or dystopian media. Ecstatic to finally have a successful pregnancy, I began preparing for maternity leave. As the new year approached and my 39th week came, our excitement and anticipation of this magnificent change grew daily. Everything was ready at home, but abroad it was a different story. My husband, a news nerd, always has an eye on all kinds of news stories throughout the day. So when the news started reporting this odd virus, he checked Snapchat and Twitter to get as much information as possible. The political hurricane that came with the virus was scandalous, as opposing parties blamed each other, foreign countries, and certain elites.
Our child was born in early 2020, and at the same time, the news went from bad to worse. All I’d heard was that some deadly virus was spreading in Asian countries but that they didn’t know much about it yet. Supposedly, travel bans were about to hit to contain it, but it was too late. Covid was already here.
As we headed home from the hospital after five stressful days, the roads were snowy, and the news was still in a stir about this mystery virus. There was chatter about some Wuhan Lab, a planned leak, an accidental leak, an under-cooked bat eaten by someone, and all kinds of bizarre stories. As February turned into March and my maternity leave was about to end, everything that could be was closed for two weeks. Everyone went home if they could to avoid getting the virus that thousands already had. Essential workers had to report for duty (my husband being one of them), and letters were given to them in case they needed to get through checkpoints.
It wasn’t long before the Detroit area was a hotbed of covid. My husband’s employer had several sick people, and he was one of them before the end of March. I was home working remotely with a three-month-old baby and trying to care for a very sick husband. There were no take-home tests, no actual treatments, and since he was pre-transplant at that time, his immune system struggled to fight it off. We had to beg the nurses at his PCP to get him referred to a testing site. Three days later, it was confirmed. Covid. I was so afraid called my doctor and asked what my chances of not being hospitalized were. I’d been exposed to it thoroughly, and so had our three-month-old. I couldn’t visit my mom or have her come down to help either, as she’d be exposed to it too, and I wasn’t willing to risk that. She’s all I have left as far as parents go, and her well-being is/was of great importance.
So there I was, like many other new moms in 2020, navigating the turmoils and joys of early motherhood and a potentially deadly virus. My husband ended up in the hospital for three days but thankfully recovered in time for me to begin my two-week covid infection so he could help care for our baby. It was a long two weeks. I remember hoping our baby wouldn’t get sick, and thankfully he didn’t get severely ill. Learning to be a mom with a temperature of over 102 (101 with Tylenol) was challenging. I was glad we’d stocked up a month prior when he’d seen in the news that stores might close down if the virus got terrible enough in the US.
It was odd to have worked three days after maternity leave, gotten sick with Covid, and been off work for two weeks. Not being able to see anyone but each other except in video chats was the most difficult, I think. I’m sure other new moms can relate to that as well. Having to fly solo as a mom with a sick husband/partner while working remotely full time isn’t easy. But like many other people in this situation, you find a strength you didn’t know you had. Like when your fever drops suddenly after two weeks, and you almost pass out while changing a diaper. Your whole body feels horrible, yet that baby needs you, so somehow you do it anyway.
I never thought I’d become a new mom right before the world turned on its head. Though, as stated by Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Like other moms, I was scared but glad to have more time with our baby. Recovering from covid took a while. Like thousands of other people, I’ve never been quite the same. I wish our child hadn’t been born into a world of chaos, but at the same time, I’m so delighted he’s here.
By Gretchen Hendrick Gardella, MLIS
Gretchen Hendrick Gardella is a Librarian with administrative, research, and vast technical skills. Ms. Gardella brings over 16 years of experience working in academic and public libraries to the discussion.