My Son Was Born In The Middle Of This Pandemic And The Anxiety Is Real
By Teneile Warren, ByBlacks.com
PHOTO SUPPLIED BY AUTHOR
May 7, 2020
This piece is in partnership with ByBlacks.com
When my wife and I found out we were pregnant at the end of June, 2019, it was an affirmation. We did it! Double entendre intended. As two queer women, it takes a little bit more than the missionary position to make a baby.
We completely upended our lives to make our dream of a family come true. We quit our jobs, and moved from Toronto to Kitchener so we could afford to become parents. We planned every step we possibly could.
"If I wasn’t completely terrified before, I was definitely terrified now."
Up until March of this year, I thought finding a black sperm donor would be the hard part. In retrospect, we’re living the hard part. On March 18, 2020, my son was born in the middle of a global health pandemic. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, so I’ll spare you the details.
Of course, I was regaled with stories of how my life would change the moment he was born and all of that is true, but probably not in the ways I had been told to expect. The week before we entered our first official week of physical distancing, I was preparing a baby room. By the time my wife had her first contraction, I hadn’t slept in a week — I was completely obsessed with how to stay alive to witness the birth of my son.
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Our first trip to the hospital was a false alarm. We gathered all the packed bags and drove to the hospital respecting every road code possible. When we arrived, we were greeted by security guards, nurses in PPE (personal protective equipment) and hand sanitizer stations. If I wasn’t completely terrified before, I was definitely terrified now.
I knew my job: Keep Rebecca calm — tell jokes, stay on top of organization and do not let your fear show.
When the attending doctor sent us home, I was torn between relief and more terror. On the upside, we got to go home where I had been maniacally cleaning for days — I knew my house was COVID protected. On the side of completely rational fear, I was thinking about the hospital security checkpoint and having to do it again. So, when we got home we went into this-baby-is-coming-out-today overdrive. Well, it worked. We were back at the hospital that night and this time we were admitted. Phew! I could focus on controlling this space, or so I thought.
My wife’s insurance afforded us a private room for labour delivery. I walked around. I examined it. At this point, I hadn’t slept for roughly 56 hours; I was being completely led by adrenaline.
"There is this moment of anxiousness that’s become a part of my daily moments with my son."
Do you know how many potential nurses and doctors may interact with your child or partner in labour over a 48-hour period? My answer is nine. Nine different people attended to my wife. Nine different people who I expected to be wearing gloves and masks the entire time, but they weren’t. And did I mention that we have pets at home? There were people, who I love, trust and care about, entering my home at least twice a day. I selected these people as much for their animal-loving temperament as I did for their exceptional hygiene practices. In fact, I would argue that I trusted them more than I trusted myself. But there were already so many unknowns to be prepared for, not to mention a pandemic; I was terrified I'd screw our child up every second of the day, and he wasn’t even born yet.
My wife, though clearly doing the heavy lifting, was on cloud epidural. I recommend an epidural to every panicked couple in a delivery room. I don’t think I could have supported my wife if I needed to also process her screaming. In the childbirth triage area, I listened to several women experiencing simultaneous labour pains. Yes, childbirth is beautiful, but that chorus of contractions was not.
The chorus of various stages of labour reminded me that I was nervous and worried about not making it through the delivery. I don’t like hospitals, I’ve fainted in a hospital more than once. I spent weeks delivering an internal monologue and researching "how not to faint in the delivery room" in order to prepare me for this. Now I had to add "don’t pass on a deadly virus to your baby" to my to-do list.
But we did it! And I didn’t faint. I supported my wife and witnessed every cry, contraction and push that brought my son into this world.
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When my son entered this world on that Wednesday at 7:57 a.m., my joy was short lived. I had to safely transfer a newborn through a hospital, in the middle of a pandemic, with a car seat. I also didn't want to look completely panicked during operation baby transport. But did anyone touch the car in the parking garage? How fast could I get the car seat secured into place? I couldn’t run with the car seat because that’s harmful to the baby, so I walked with a steely, petrified determination and blank stare that I felt screamed “stay six feet away from us!"
"I will tell him the story of his birth when he is old enough to understand it."
I have been guided by that fear and determination ever since. I have found every household delivery service operating in the Waterloo Region. The closest we’ve come to the outside world has been the continuous stream of cardboard boxes arriving at our door — and there is still significant sanitization involved in that. There is this moment of anxiousness that’s become a part of my daily moments with my son. Before I touch him, I take deep breaths and count to ten. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been inside all day or not. These breathing exercises are how I reassure myself that I am protecting my son from a virus we have yet to fully understand.
My son is healthy. As best as he has been able to communicate, I have concluded he is also happy. But newborns are learning to control their breathing; they’re learning to expel mucus from their little bodies. So, there are these moments when my son’s breathing patterns appear irregular or he sneezes more than once and I find myself in the bathroom washing my hands furiously. I wake up at night and read and reread the literature on all the ways a newborn may appear sick, but it’s all perfectly normal.
I will tell him the story of his birth when he is old enough to understand it. I’m hoping by then I’ll have found the humour in the experience or the comedic timing in the story. I’m looking forward to the day when this anxiety is nothing more than a moment in the life of a beautiful baby boy and his parents.
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