“Two days after the World Health Organization proclaimed the coronavirus a worldwide pandemic, I became a mother for the second time. Although childbirth is not something that I approached with any expectations, being in the midst of a pandemic is something I truly never anticipated.
It created myriad challenges, to say the least. Our parents had to cancel their plans to fly out, and we scrambled to make other childcare arrangements for our toddler. When the morning of labor rolled around, our neighbor’s son had the sniffles and my best friend’s mom was not able to be home for a few hours. We debated what to do. Taking our son to visit his friend with the sniffles was out of the question…after all, it could be the coronavirus!
Should my husband stay at home with our son and miss the birth? The prospect of experiencing the birth alone seemed more unbearable than the contractions. I didn’t know if I could make it a few hours, with my contractions eight minutes apart, but we decided to chance it. I ended up spending the longest hour of my life at the hospital waiting to push the baby out so my husband could get back from dropping our son off.
With each contraction, I started cursing my husband for taking so long and shrieking that I couldn’t wait for him, and in between contractions I calmly told the doctor I changed my mind and I would try to wait. In a movie-worthy ending, my husband arrived, breathless, just minutes before the baby came, so he could be by my side as I dug my fingernails into his hand and uttered endearing profanities at him.
We have now spent the last couple weeks adjusting to life as a family of four without the help of family and friends…something which I would not have thought possible, or which I would have imagined at the very least to be an utter circus. And we have had more than our fair share of circus-like moments…
The other day, for instance, I fed my toddler dinner by tossing him chunks of cheese that fell on our (recently cleaned) floor, while shooing the cat away, bouncing my crying baby who had just peed on me, and sobbing to my mom on video chat (surely that would give any juggler a run for their money). I wish I could say this moment stands out, but if anything it was representative.
But we have also had moments of grace and ease. Remarkably, my husband and I have actually argued less than normal, and when we do argue, we are quicker to apologize and forgive one another. Our expectations of one another are not as high, and we are content just to be surviving and together. We are getting a crash course in something that might have taken us years to learn…gratitude and acceptance can only come through letting go of the unattainable goal of Having It All Together.
Moreover, the unusual circumstances of the quarantine have given us time to just to be, both as a family and on our own. This is exceedingly rare in our capitalist, fast-paced society. After my first baby was born, my husband and I experienced a quiet week of bonding before my mom came out, and then his attention turned towards catching up on things–going to to the dentist, getting the oil on his car changed, etc. I remember unloading my postpartum hormones upon him in a hysterical meltdown:
‘But how can you think about the dentist at a time like this? I just had a baby!!!’ In a nation that normally valorizes productivity above all, we had to prepare to be thrown back on the treadmill when we had barely had a moment to catch our breaths.
This time, there is no sense of urgency to take our fingers off pause. It reminds me of Shabbat in Israel, when all the businesses shut down each Friday at sundown and the economy comes to a halt for a day, in order to give time for rest and mental balance. Shabbat is a time to focus inward, and as many who observe it suggest, not merely an interlude but the most sacred of all time we are given. If only we didn’t have to experience a quarantine to carve out this space.
These silver linings are ultimately just that…small slivers of hope amidst a weight that feels overwhelming. Finding the mental energy to reflect even now takes fortitude, and of course we would rather have our loved ones by our side to share in our joy (and bring us food, too). Yet the light seems brighter amidst the darkness, and each day we are reminded of that as we hold our babies in our arms.
We pray for the day that we can all embrace again, and that the world in which find ourselves at the end of all this is one that is a little more humane. Our journey, so far, has been a testament to that transformation.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rebecca Kling. You can follow her journey on her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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