I’d say it was probably three or four weeks into quarantine when I put my finger on the extreme sense of déjà vu I’d been having for weeks. The emotions, exhaustion and anxieties I’d been experiencing since that fateful weekend in March when we’d all been thrust into a new life defined by Covid-19? They were the same feelings I’d experienced each time one of my children was born.
Bringing a new baby into the world is different for everyone, but I offer this metaphor in case it can be as helpful to you as it has been for me these last four months. You see, I was never the kind of mother who bounced back resiliently after the birth of any of my children. I was the kind who holed up in my house, lost track of days, and fretted over … everything.
The first month of Covid was no different. Tucked away in our house, sleeping patterns became irregular, routines were upended, and life was all about the basic necessities. As we struggled to keep up with Zoom calls and unanswered emails, laundry piled up and children ran wild … when they weren’t binging PBS kids in an effort to give us parents a moment of quiet. The newborn stage is rough.
After about a month, it became clear that at some point, we had to find better coping strategies. At this point, the baby is (hopefully) sleeping in longer stretches, falling into somewhat of a predictable pattern of eating and crying and maybe even offering up some cute “tricks” that make the rest of the family laugh.
This stretch was also, for me, the time when maternity leave ended and I had to figure out how to resume work while balancing the needs of a still-very-much-needy infant. Or, in this case, a house full of children that each had their own schedule of Zoom meetings to attend and nearpod lessons to complete.
Summer arrived just about the time I remember really starting to feel like things might be OK. My kids all started sleeping pretty well around three and four months.
It was also around that time my husband and I had typically fallen into predictable routines of alternating bath time and bottle washing duties. There was a sense that yes, we can do this. It’s going to be OK. And I suppose that’s how we feel now, too.
But here’s the thing — life is never the same once you’ve welcomed a new baby into the house. It changes you.
In the same way, life will never be the same even after Covid-19 has subsided. It has revealed vulnerabilities in ourselves and our society we’d once been happy to ignore. It has forced us to face the reality that how we behave has ramifications far beyond our individual lives. It has called us to set our own comforts aside so that others might merely survive.
Parenthood is the hardest job in the world, but it has the power to bring out the best in all of us.
Rev. Kathy Wolf Reed serves as co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Auburn. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Journal for Preachers, The Christian Century, and Presbyterians Today.