My Pandemic Baby

My daughter was born three weeks before Indiana shut down and the new COVID-19 normal began. I spent a lot of this past year and a half experiencing the pure joy of watching her grow, but also grieving sharing her in person with the world, the Mommy & Me outings we missed, the simple things like taking her shopping with me. 

My little pandemic baby. 

This year and a half has not been anything like what we imagined when we found out you were on the way. So much we had planned, so much that never came to be. I’m so thankful for your health, but my heart still aches for what we missed. 

You’ve never seen the inside of a grocery store. I’ve never put you in a cart and wandered the aisles at Target with you, filling that red cart with things we probably don’t need (although I’m sure this is something your dad is okay with us missing out on.)

You didn’t go to a park or fly through the air in a baby bucket swing until you were over a year old, because for that first year, they were all wrapped up with yellow caution tape. 

You’ve only ever seen your daycare teachers and pediatrician and nurses from the eyes up, because they’re masked up from the nose down. 

You’ve only ever been to your grandparents’ houses, daycare, and the pediatrician’s office. The playdates we planned with the babies of my best friends, the babies we jokingly say will be your besties because their moms are more like my sisters than my friends, have never come to be.

Your first holidays were spent at home with just the three of us, with Easter baskets and Thanksgiving meals dropped off on the front porch. Your first birthday cake smash was held on Facebook Live, family and friends watching from afar instead of singing to you in person. 

So many of our loved ones have only seen you from a distance, through the window of a car or the doorway of our home, or over social media. The people I wanted so desperately to snuggle you didn’t get the chance; you’re a busy toddler now and have important things to do, too much to see to bother with sitting still and being held. 

My little pandemic baby, I’m thankful for your health, the extra time together I didn’t think we’d get, but I long for the things that were taken from us, the memories never shared, the firsts that we never got to experience. I love your joy, your laughter, your curiosity, but mourn that so many have never gotten to experience it firsthand. 

I’m trying to make the best of it, searching for the joy, trying to hold on to hope. But I’ve been angry at guidelines not followed, at masks below noses, at vaccines refused. I’ve mourned what should have been, done my best to find joy when all I felt was heartbreak. I ache for some sense of normalcy which feels increasingly out of reach. 

I’ll hold you a little longer, savor every extra moment with you that we didn’t think we’d have, and let you know I love you more than words could ever describe. I know you won’t remember how wild and unprecedented your first year and a half of life has been, but I will. And while I’ll always remember 2020 as the year that gave me you, my little pandemic baby, a part of me will always mourn what we should have had. 

These last 18 months have involved a lot of conflicting emotions: grief, anger, and anxiety, but also pure joy. I have spent many, many therapy sessions processing the grief of what we lost and have yet to experience with our daughter because of pandemic restrictions or because we just don’t feel comfortable taking her places because she can’t be vaccinated yet (she’s still never in to a restaurant, for example). 

If you became a parent during this time, I hope you know it’s okay to be upset at what you and your child have missed, and it’s okay to mourn that experience. I know I had to, and sometimes still am. It’s okay if you’re upset that your baby’s first holidays weren’t what you expected, or that you couldn’t throw them the huge first birthday party they deserved, or if there are still loved ones that have never held them. It’s okay to be upset that you will remember this time as one of confusion and fear and isolation, even if your baby doesn’t. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my daughter’s first 18 months, and it’s okay if you’re feeling that way, too. Pandemic parenting is not for the faint of heart, and you’re doing a great job. Promise. 

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