Everything’s Different

Dear Carter,

From the moment your dad and I started talking about trying to have another baby, I had this incredible need for everything to be different. I said it a hundred times and it directed every choice we’ve made. We chose different prenatal care, opting for a more medicalized model with an OB practice. We set up the nursery in a different room. We knew that our trauma wouldn’t permit us to send a baby to daycare at 12 weeks old, so we planned and saved and adjusted so that I would feel comfortable with taking an extended leave from work. There was a profound sense of relief when we found out that our new baby is a little girl; not that we would have been upset if it was a boy, we were just thankful it would be different. My pregnancies have been different in a lot of ways, too. I had more nausea this time around, but I’ve gained less weight, had less swelling, and had much clearer skin. My heartburn didn’t get bad until much later with this baby. Most important, I’m now in my 35th week, meaning I’ve been pregnant for longer this time than I ever was with you. It’s our fervent hope that this baby waits until full-term to make her grand appearance and is able to come home with us right away..

But there’s another, much more global, difference happening right now too. We are living in a historic and unprecedented time caused by a global pandemic of the COVID-19 disease. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. To date, more than 2 million people worldwide have contracted the virus, and 128,000 people have died from it. Cases have been reported on every continent except for Antarctica. America leads the world in both number of cases (580,000) and number of fatalities (over 22,000). Because COVID-19 is easily transmitted, the entire world has ground to a halt. Schools are closed, businesses are closed, and basically all forms of social gatherings are cancelled. Health leaders worldwide recommend “social distancing” and “self-isolation,” meaning everyone should stay at home as much as possible to avoid contact with others and limit the spread of the disease.

No one’s ever experienced this before. The economy has taken its biggest hit since the Great Depression because so many businesses have had to close, so many people are filing for unemployment, and life has just been put on pause. Healthcare workers are on the front lines of battle as they go to work every day to care for the infected. There are mass shortages of the protective equipment they should be wearing in attempt to avoid getting infected themselves. Some hospitals don’t have enough ventilators to provide the life-sustaining care that many patients with this illness require.

Hospitals are changing policies for birth as a result of the infection risk. Our hospital is limiting the number of people allowed in the delivery room to one and not allowing any other visitors. Your dad and I had planned to have a doula with us, and for Gigi and Shakhi to be there too. Now it will be just the two of us to welcome your little sister Earthside. Gigi and Papa are still planning to come to Florida for the summer, but we are adjusting plans as needed as we get new information. They will spend 2 weeks isolated and quarantined to ensure that they don’t begin to display any symptoms of the disease after having travelled by car for several hours and risking potential exposure.

*The above portion of this post was written 04/15/2020*

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WOW looking at the saved draft of this post from almost a year ago is like a snapshot in time from the very beginning of the pandemic, before your sister was even born. We’re a year into COVID, Olivia is 10 months old, and while everything is still different from life as we used to know it, a lot of it is still the same as it was when I started this post.

There are now 29.7 million cases of COVID and over 539,000 deaths in the US alone. Worldwide, there are 122 million cases and 2.7 million people have lost their lives. Businesses and families are still feeling major financial effects, masks are still required in most states, social distancing continues to be recommended, and leisure travel is still discouraged. New variants of the virus and an increase in more normal daily activities have resulted in a fourth wave of the virus and spikes in many states. People are still contracting the virus, still having serious complications, and still dying from this disease.

But there is one big difference. Three companies have gotten EUAs (emergency use authorization) for their COVID vaccines, and 100 million people in the US have been vaccinated. The first people to receive the vaccines were those at high risk for contracting the virus, like those age 65 and older, those with other health conditions, and front-line workers. Gigi and Papa received their vaccines since they are over 65, and Daddy and I received ours since we are healthcare workers. As more vaccines are manufactured and shipped, states have been able to offer them to more and more people. President Biden’s goal is for everyone over the age of 16 to be able to receive a vaccine by May. This gives us so much hope that soon we will be able to have normal lives. We’ll be able to hug our families without worry. We’ll be able to go to the movies. We’ll be able to live with less worry and anxiety.

There’s a part of me that wonders what will continue after the pandemic is over. There are a few things that I hope will carry on:

  • Continuing to wear masks if we are sick, to prevent the spread of colds and flu
  • Job flexibility and the ability to work from home if needed or desired
  • Support of small businesses
  • Giving healthcare workers and teachers the credit and pay they deserve
  • Appreciating time spent with family
  • Spending more time outdoors
  • Valuing our home as our sanctuary
  • Prioritizing mental and emotional health
  • Making sure to stay connected with friends and family either in person or through technology
  • Supporting working parents
  • Recognizing the environmental impact of daily living and pushing for changes to reduce that impact (electric vehicles, regulation of emissions, sustainable farming, more eco-friendly products and services)

I wanted to write this post so that years from now, I can look back on this moment in history and remember how crazy it was to live through it. I want to be able to share it with Olivia and tell her all about how she was a Pandemic Baby, and what that meant. I want my grandchildren to learn about it in school and then come ask me a million questions about it, the way we asked our grandparents about the Depression and the World Wars. It has been one of the most challenging times in the history of humanity, and yet for our family, it has in many ways been a gift. We have spent so much time in our “bubble” at home with Olivia, truly establishing our bond as a family, getting to witness so many of her milestones and watching her grow. We haven’t had the distractions or the crazy pace of normal life, but have just been able to wallow around in love and comfy clothes. Things are slowly picking back up and soon I will be back to work and Olivia will be going to daycare and meeting new friends and having more of the experiences that help kids grow and learn. And while we will always look back and remember those that lost their lives during this year, we will also remember that it gave us a sacred pause to really reflect on what’s important: love, kindness, and time together.

I love you and I kiss you,

Mommy

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