The Only World She’s Ever Known
To my daughter: It wasn’t like this before you were born
I’d experienced incredible joy. I’d experienced overwhelming fear. I’d never experienced both of these so intensely and at the exact same time.
“Oh, a Spring baby” they’d say. “That’ll be great for going on walks when she’s born”. My due date was April 8th, 2020 and this was a common response from anyone who learned I was pregnant.
It turns out, they were partially right. It was a great time to go on walks. Clasping a mask, crossing the street with the stroller, trying not to get too close to the neighbors.
My daughter was born on April 3rd. Only my husband was allowed into the hospital, but even that didn’t feel like a certainty in the weeks leading up to her birth. We couldn’t leave the room until it was time to go home. We saw doctors and nurses from time to time, but never for long. The answers to our questions were limited: Are kids getting sick? Could we see our parents? On April 3, 2020, no one knew much.
Our story wasn’t unique, of course. 3.6 million babies were born in the US in 2020 (or an average of 9,877 per day). In fact, our friends were down the hall from our hospital room. Their twins were born on April 2nd. We texted throughout our stay but weren’t allowed to see them.
Our story wasn’t unique. And that was the most unsettling part. So many homes with new parents feeling isolated and confused, pouring over news updates while their babies slept. Putting off visits with family and friends for an unknown amount of time.
We were all together and all alone. We needed other parents to talk to, but we were burnt out from all the Zoom calls and meeting in person felt risky. And so, we tried to fill up the space inside our home with as much life as possible and take it day by day.
Our first in-person event as a family of three was my Grandma’s funeral. She died a month after Ayla was born. Long enough to have the name Great-Grandmother on her gravestone, but not long enough to meet the little girl who made her one.
As Spring walks turned to Summer walks and the uncomfortable neighbor-dodging continued, I kept telling myself: “At least she’s not old enough to remember…