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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Giving birth during pandemic and social upheaval brings hope

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In March, it became clear that I would deliver my second child in the midst of a pandemic. At each doctor’s visit, whether virtual or masked, I constantly queried my obstetricians about mitigating the dangers of the coronavirus for myself and my son as his due date approached.

When his birth was imminent, new upheavals were underway across my beloved country in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Statues of national heroes such as Ulysses S. Grant, Francis Scott Key, and George Washington were being toppled and vandalized. Anti-Semitism and partisan hatred were reaching a fever pitch. And on July 2, as my husband and I made our way to the hospital to deliver our son, the United States had counted a startling record of more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day.

Unrelenting drama had perforated the second half of my pregnancy. I was certain that pandemic and societal upheaval would mar the story of my son’s birth.

The coronavirus certainly cast its shadow over several moments in the hours that followed. I will never forget the uncomfortable nasal swab administered between far more uncomfortable contractions in triage or the emotional conversation with one incredible nurse about the people and experiences the pandemic has already taken, and those it may continue to take. But COVID-19 and other chaos never had the chance to rob the joy of my son’s arrival.

Instead, a huge team of staff, nurses, and doctors locked out the external tumult and ensured my child’s birth was a story of heroes and hope. Their attentive care kept my son, husband, and I well fed, clean, safe, and surrounded by positive energy throughout my labor and recovery. They showed us what the news had not: that people are relentlessly capable of doing good for one another and that small acts of kindness shine much-needed light on even the darkest of circumstances.

Even when we returned home with our fragile newborn, the isolation of the pandemic turned into a blessing. Social distancing measures gave me the physical space to adjust to challenges of parenting a toddler and infant while balancing exhaustion and sometimes overwhelming postpartum hormones. Simultaneously, social media, video chats, and phone calls have kept my family in close contact with our loved ones. Especially at this historical juncture, it feels as though our son’s arrival is being heralded as a particularly powerful moment of joy by all who share in the news.

My son’s birth, of course, did not calm the chaos of the world. On Saturday, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan spewed anti-Semitic bile to a purported audience of 100,000. Coronavirus case counts have continued to achieve new records. Statues, including one of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, continue to be vandalized and felled by radicals.

None of this can cloud the important realization that, in the center of all the uncertainty and fear, a group of strangers and loved ones helped me experience the hope of bringing new life into the world. When I needed to be reminded, they assured me that my son’s life will be colored by far more than the immediate circumstances of his birth.

No matter the forces that prey upon the human spirit and turn people against one another, the kindnesses I received in the midst of trying times have once again demonstrated that humans can create a brighter future by the simple act of loving and caring for one another.

As people struggle through a variety of seemingly hopeless social and pandemic-related challenges, the limitless potential offered by our youngest and newly arrived generations is our greatest opportunity for change. As parents, godparents, family members, teachers, and trusted friends, we can eschew the call of fear and choose hope as we equip these budding humans with the spirit and drive to make the world a more peaceful and just place.

Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance writer from the Detroit area.



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