It’s been ten weeks of coronavirus shutdown. Since all this began, life has changed so much—both because of the covid-19 pandemic and because we had a baby at the beginning of the country’s outbreak. We’re not only adjusting to life with three kids but adjusting to a new normal along the way. And since every day is the-same-but-different as information and recommendations change, “new normal” seems like a moving target. 

At our 2-month well check last week, I asked the pediatrician about coming out of lockdown: kindergarten for Claire, preschool for Nora, swimming at our pool, social distancing, our families meeting Olivia, etc. As NC is phasing in, the state’s community transmission has not decreased (covid numbers were still rising). Numbers in our county are still not alarmingly high, which perhaps is a good sign. However, there seems to be some consensus that the risk of spread has not decreased, and based on all our errands/appts, I think that’s obvious: whenever we go anywhere we have to call from the parking lot, get our temperature taken at the door, use hand sanitizer at every corner, and masks are required or we can’t come in. There are signs taped every 6’ on the floor, fewer chairs in waiting rooms, appointment times limited or only telehealth visits available, etc. Obviously Olivia is too young for a mask, so there’s even more precaution. (This has not been the case for appts for all my friends though, so I don’t know if our providers are just extra cautious or if I’m the only one taking the “masks required” signs seriously.) My mom had emergent outpatient surgery in May, and I wasn’t even allowed in the waiting room!

We can’t live life completely sequestered forever; we all know that. Reopening and widening our circle is necessary, but caution is vital. The general consensus for visiting a newborn (sigh, she’s not a newborn anymore but I’m gonna pretend she is) is that (potential) visitors are symptom-free, have been following stay-at-home orders, have no sick contacts, have been diligent about keeping social distance, and wearing masks whenever they’re around others or out running errands. It’s what we are doing, and it is what’s best for everyone (us, the baby, AND the visitors), since so many people do not show typical symptoms when they’re spreading covid. 

It’s frustrating to me that this public health emergency has become a political divider across party lines; it’s frustrating that we are not, for the greater good of our fellow citizens, taking a pro-life stance to protect our communities. They’re calling this a “novel” coronavirus for a reason: it’s causing a new disease that we know very little about, and as such we should not need to be told to be careful and intentional about protecting others! When we are told, we should respond with humility and urgency in the interest of protecting as many people as possible.

Is there “new mom” fear and anxiety here, on top of global pandemic virus woes? You bet! Which is why we consulted with our pediatrician and midwives to help assuage any fears. It’s normal (and understandable) to have an added layer of caution with a new baby, so even though it’s frustrating for friends and neighbors to hear “you can’t come visit,” (and even more frustrating to keep saying it), I no longer feel like I’m being unrealistic. 

It’s hard to not be able to share my new baby with my friends (even those who have been quarantined since March and live across the street). One thing about the “new mom” postpartum phase that I have missed is people coming to see and delight in holding my baby, and sharing her squishy cheeks with those near and dear to me. I want to hug my friends, show them my battle scars, gush over her cute noises, lament about her gas and poor sleep, accept offers for meals and play dates for the older kids…the list goes on. In all the ways we want to help others, I want to be able to accept that from my community! 

My dad, my small group (with whom we rejoiced and lamented weekly in my living room for the last 2+ years!), my in-laws, and so many other friends have not been able to be near enough to meet my new baby because of covid, yet as hard as it’s been on them it’s been even harder on us as new parents—I will be forever grateful to my mom for coming when she did and putting her own life completely on hold for me in early March. She’s missed nearly three months of her own life: her friends, cat, appointments, her husband, her own house and bed (although, hopefully she also feels like she gained three months of quality time with her daughter, son-in-law, and favorite granddaughters)!

I honestly don’t know how I could’ve survived emotionally without her here. My husband had 6 weeks of paternity leave and did all the masks-and-gloves-required essential errands for us (like food, gas, and prescriptions!), but there’s been a “no kids allowed” rule at most things since our stay-at-home order went into effect and we would’ve been up a creek without a paddle trying to figure out how to proceed without the extra help with the big two (not to mention that all night labor and delivery 40 mins from home, and no one to call for childcare)! Without our regularly scheduled programming like preschool, small group, bible study, YMCA, there’s nothing for the big girls, and no break for us—and they can’t come with me on errands and appts. Sure some neighbors were free, but the point of quarantining is undone then. As a stay at home mom, stay-at-home orders initially felt like business as usual, except our normal things to break up the day (library, playgrounds, parks, play dates, restaurants, etc) were abruptly taken away. (Yes, I know how privileged-first-world-problematic that sounds, but the abrupt change is what was the hardest at first).

One of the toughest things about our family and friends not being able to see our new baby is the guilt that we are withholding her from them. No one desires this when they plan for their delivery and postpartum experience! We don’t WANT to tell our families “no,” but we don’t want to put anyone at risk either (and we sure don’t want them/us/her to catch it or be hospitalized). 

Our friend died in the middle of March, and I am still sad. I haven’t been able to grieve as we’d like with his wife and sons because of the absolute inconvenience of this pandemic lockdown—he’s had no funeral, no memorial service because of it! How much harder could this be on his wife, to grieve without her friends?! It’s hard on me, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg for her. (It feels terribly selfish to even mention it).

Preschool graduation was cancelled, kindergarten won’t start on time, we don’t know when or if preschool will reopen, church hasn’t met in over two months, and so.much.more. Thankfully, we’ve had no personal economic fallout from the closing of jobs and businesses, so I know it’s been so much worse for SO many others; it feels completely trite and privileged to complain at all. And yet the struggle is real, the emotions are raw, and the challenge continues—we were (are!) created for community…but we cannot be in contact with those we love!

In all of this lamenting, I pray: Jesus, be ever near! Teach us to pray, to listen, to care for, to lean in, to lean on, to survive, to thrive in such an unprecedented time of separation. Be our strength, our comfort, our confidence, our confidante. Lord, unify us during a time of unrest, help us to show YOUR unending grace and mercy when we disagree on numbers, data, procedures, policies. Protect our health and lives. Empower us to respect the boundaries of others and humble us to see things the way You do, not the way WE think is best. Spirit, lead us. Turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and fill our hearts with Your desires, Jesus. May we delight in You. 

What do you say—? Leave a comment about some struggles you’re facing in this pandemic so we can encourage one another (please be kind)!