It takes a village to raise a child, or so they say.
Maybe that is true, but it isn’t the reality we live in these days.
I became pregnant just before the pandemic. Our good news was overshadowed, as if from a science fiction movie, by this killer virus that was working its way through wiping out an entire generation of people, instilling fear in the millions. This was the first way in which the pandemic touched me: it instilled fear.
The second way was by loneliness. A monumental time in my life was all but crushed under the weight of uncertainty, financial strain, and social restrictions. With those restrictions came isolation, and through isolation, my world essentially shrunk to the size of our 500-square foot apartment. My only human contact became my husband, who had been robbed of basking in our happiness because the pandemic took his job.
I craved sharing my excitement and my growing belly with friends and family. I daydreamed about walking proudly down a city street, showing off my bump and accepting well wishes from strangers. I imagined what it would be like to see my mom, to feel her holding me while I carried her granddaughter—three generations in one embrace.
My maternity appointments were primarily over the phone, and my only preparation for birth was reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, because all prenatal classes were canceled. I stopped going to work because of the unknowns about how COVID-19 effects pregnancy. My days revolved around trying to keep myself nourished, both mentally and physically. The fast pace of life was reduced to a crawl, and so was I. This is the third way in which the pandemic touched me: I learned to slow down.
I spent the majority of my pregnancy alone. Eventually, my husband went back to work, and my only face-to-face interaction was with our dog. I began to adjust to this new way of living. I woke each morning and knew exactly how my day would look. Life became incredibly quiet, and I became comfortable in the quiet. I relearned the skill, so natural as a child, of enjoying my own company. My mind suddenly had space for things I had long ignored about myself because they didn’t “contribute to my career,” like the fact that I liked to write and draw and read.
I went about my activities with a great mindfulness. I learned to meditate and to sit with thoughts and emotions that before I would have pushed aside. I connected with myself—now one body with two souls—on a deeper level than ever before…and I fell in love.
As my baby grew, I rejoiced that I now had the time and ability to dream of her, to get to know her intuitively. Instead of feeling robbed of this special time in my life, I started to feel as if the pandemic had taken place solely to allow me to experience this magic in a way I never would have had things continued on as before. What a selfish and insensitive concept to admit, but there it is.
I became grateful for the new norm. I found immense peace in knowing that the world I would bring my baby into was better than the world of a few months before: the air was purer, the water was cleaner, and the earth was finally given a chance to heal itself, all because people were staying home. I was able to pay attention to nature taking its course in my body; to notice the small yet significant changes I might have otherwise overlooked. I felt in tune and connected to not only myself and my baby, but to all women in history who had ever given birth. The uncertainty of childbirth became an exciting and mystical event that I looked forward to, rather than the frightening and elusive thing it is largely made out to be. I felt capable, strong, and steady.
The day came that our baby was born. She arrived on a beautiful afternoon in the middle of the pandemic. No friends or family were able to meet her, no party was thrown in celebration, and no well-meaning helpers visited during our first weeks at home. But guess what? There was no less joy in her arrival. I relished those fleeting moments of utter aloneness with her. I could rest easily knowing guests wouldn’t show up unannounced, no unwarranted advice would be thrown from all angles, and no good-intentioned stranger would try to touch my sweet girl with hands that had been God-knows-where.
I’ve spent the first months of my daughter’s life totally engrossed in her, with no distractions from the outside world. We got to know each other intimately and honestly and without the influence of others. We forged a connection with such immense strength that I regularly weep at its beauty. I don’t know if things would be the same if the world hadn’t come to a halt. If I hadn’t been forced to learn to love myself and, in turn, love her. What I do know is that I am grateful beyond words for this pandemic because it has brought me peace, confidence in my intuitive ability as a mother, and a profound understanding of what really matters.
Yes, it concerns me that she has never seen a stranger’s face without a mask, and that she has never been held by other people who love her. I worry that she might feel lonely as she gets older, that she might not be able to safely interact with other children. I wonder if she will ever know the excitement of hopping on a plane to a foreign destination for no reason other than to explore. But I never worry that I am not able to give her everything she needs.
It takes a village to raise a child, or so they say. But I have to disagree.