In June 2021, we visited friends in the suburbs for a “pandemic baby” party. With all adults vaccinated and the older kids wearing masks, we gathered outside to hug friends we hadn’t seen in 18 months and meet the eight new babies among us who had come into the world during that time. Although COVID-19 was far from gone, the event was symbolic — something of a bookend to my pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience, all of which took place during the pandemic.
My husband and I had planned to try for our second baby in late spring of 2020, but the uncertainty of the pandemic threw all that into question. However, after realizing that our lives were in many ways safer than ever with strict quarantining, and based on the encouragement of my OB, we decided to go for it. Many people over the course of the year asked me how it felt to be pregnant and have a newborn during the pandemic, often commenting, “You must be so nervous!” Admittedly, some parts were nerve-wracking. I wish my husband could have attended the 8-week and 20-week appointments with me, for example. And it was certainly stressful to worry about having my parents quarantine for long enough before coming to help after the birth. But more often than not, the experience proved to be a bright light in an otherwise dark period. Here are the four reasons I enjoyed having a pandemic baby.
1. I didn’t have to see many people in person. As most second-time moms can attest, you start showing a lot earlier with the second pregnancy, often well before you’re ready to share the news. Without in-person gatherings and in-office work, I didn’t have to take pains to hide my growing bump or morning sickness. In fact, some of my coworkers from other departments didn’t even know I was pregnant until they saw my out-of-office maternity leave message.
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2. I didn’t miss out on social events. When I was pregnant with my first, I found it difficult to adjust from having an active social life to sitting on the sidelines. Pregnancy can feel like you’re frozen in time as the rest of the world moves forward without you. Although I tried to remain as social as possible, I couldn’t help but feel left out when I had to drink water at a work happy hour or duck out early from a late dinner with friends. With a pandemic baby, most social events fell to the wayside for everyone. I didn’t feel like I was missing out because, unfortunately, everyone was missing out.
3. I got to savor the final months of having a family of three. Although the pandemic introduced an overwhelming degree of chaos for parents, particularly those of school-age kids, it also provided an opportunity to spend more quality time with the family. Without the distractions of playdates, activities and trips to visit family and friends back home, my husband and I were able to soak up time with our 3-year-old. Christmas, which usually involves a whirlwind tour of Wisconsin to see as much family as possible, last year consisted of the three of us making dinner and enjoying a quiet evening opening gifts in front of the tree. I remember moments where I just sat and marveled at my daughter’s beautiful face, grateful for her, our health, and our safety. I had time to be in the moment with her, before life changed drastically once again.
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4. I had hope for the future when every other part of life felt hopeless. The degree of uncertainty, fear of illness, sadness over the thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone, and stress of working with a child at home were enough to feel like the world was ending. Pregnancy provided an escape, a chance to see the future through a hopeful lens when the world was crumbling around us. Bringing new life into the world felt like an act of defiance in the face of a relentless virus that took so many lives. I’ll always be grateful for the joy my pregnancy provided when little else did.
As fortunate as I feel to have had a positive experience with pregnancy during the pandemic, nothing compares to the privilege of living a safe, healthy, and normal life. When I attended the pandemic baby party last summer, it was emotional and somewhat surreal. The other moms and I found ourselves reminiscing about the experience and swapping stories from the previous year. But soon enough, the pandemic talk got old. With our spouses laughing on the deck and our children playing together in the sprinkler, we decided to spend the rest of the day looking to the future — to the joys of normal, routine life we hoped were right around the corner.