White Coat, Black Art·First Person

I'm a new mom trying to keep my baby safe in this pandemic. Anger is my secret weapon

Maria Glavine became a first-time mother during the pandemic and took every precaution to keep her daughter, Clare, safe. But as mask mandates are lifted and the vaccine passports eliminated in most provinces, Clare has lost her only defence against the virus.

I have to balance my daughter’s safety and pacifying those who are ‘over it’

Maria Glavine holds her 10-month-old daughter, Clare. (Maria Glavine)

This is a First Person column by Maria Glavine who became a first-time mother during the pandemic. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I'm angry.

As a mom, I know that's not the sentence most people expect or want to hear. It's all too common for first-time moms to qualify every complaint with "but it's so worth it" or "I love being a mom, but…"

And it is worth it and I do love it, but that doesn't take away the hard stuff. Motherhood is transformative and comes with strong emotions. After almost a year of trying to raise a child and keep her safe during a pandemic, anger is one of them.

I wasn't always this angry during the pandemic. Public health seemed to be a priority. My community wore masks without complaint to protect each other from the virus and vulnerable people like the elderly were talked about with compassion and were deemed worthy of protection.

Our daughter Clare was born on a warm, beautiful June day when the Delta variant was making its way through Canada. We were terrified to bring Clare into the world. She was born with only one functioning kidney, and like all parents, especially pandemic parents, we wanted to keep her safe. At the time, it seemed everyone else wanted to do their part to keep her safe too. 

Maria Glavine, left, went out for a winter walk with her husband, Dan, and daughter Clare near their home in Ottawa. It is one of the few activities the couple feels safe doing with an unvaccinated child. (Maria Glavine)

My husband and I closed our doors and limited visitors. Family couldn't travel easily to visit us in Ottawa from Australia and Newfoundland. Inside gatherings were a "no." Family vacations were cancelled and we spent Clare's first Christmas alone. Like most Canadians and new parents, we were taking every precaution. We got vaccinated at every stage as soon as we could. We did it all right.

And at first, it seemed like most others were doing that too. Vaccine passports and mask mandates made me feel a bit safer once the spread of Delta and now Omicron waned. 

With them in place, I felt like I could take Clare on errands with me, I even braved a public pool.

My baby, and all the other pandemic babies, also deserve to experience the world.- Maria Glavine

I laboured, pushed and delivered her, all while wearing a mask. Surely people wouldn't mind putting one on to run an errand or two if it meant keeping safe those who couldn't vaccinate or were the most vulnerable. 

I was wrong. People soon got over having to mask. Mask mandates were lifted and the vaccine passports gone in most provinces. While everyone decided the pandemic was over, they casually took away the only defence Clare had against this deadly virus.

She can't get vaccinated for COVID-19 — no child under five can yet. Unmasking before vaccines were made available to those who wanted them was unconscionable to me — the mask and passport are the only form of protection Clare has. It felt like we were pushed back inside and had to close our doors again. 

Our fear and anxiety kept our little girl inside when she was a newborn – when all she needed was her mom and dad beaming at her and playing with her. She is now ten months old. She needs to be outside interacting with people. She needs to socialize and expand her world. She needs people to delight in her and make faces at her and play with her. 

Glavine’s daughter plays in their home in Ottawa. (Maria Glavine)

I'm angry to be put in a position where I have to balance her safety and pacifying those who are "over it." I'm tired of hearing "babies don't get that sick" when they're talking about my baby — my little girl with only one working kidney, and no information on the long-term health impacts COVID-19 has on children.

That anger is now my secret weapon. That anger has given me agency. I'm using it to be my daughter's fierce defender — not only against COVID-19 but also her right to have access and space in her world. Anger is giving me the energy to search for the places still asking for masks and vaccine passports. It's taking me to the public pool where, if it isn't crowded, I can still take my daughter for a swim.

I am keenly aware of how lucky and privileged I am to have a healthy little girl and that we've avoided COVID in our home so far. But my baby, and all the other pandemic babies, also deserve to experience the world. They deserve more than just survival and to fully live their lives.

If it takes a little anger to get there, I think that's OK, too. 

Maria Glavine is a Newfoundlander and a first-time mom living in Ottawa. She gave birth to her daughter Clare in June 2021 and is trying to navigate parenting and the pandemic. 

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