- When Lauren Wellbank found out she was pregnant after a recent miscarriage, she was elated.
- But when the pandemic hit, Wellbank was terrified for herself, her family, and unborn baby.
- After her son was born in April, Wellbank was suddenly juggling homeschooling, caring for her newborn, and protecting her family from the coronavirus.
- Had Wellbank known how trying it would be, she said she wouldn't have had another baby.
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When my third pregnancy ended in an Aldi bathroom last year, I was devastated. At 37, I was already worried that I was too old to have another baby. Two months later, when I found out I was expecting again, I hoped my baby would be my miracle — the balm to heal my broken heart.
Throughout the fall, as I checked off each passing week on the calendar in my kitchen, I anxiously waited for it to all be over. Unlike my previous pregnancies, I couldn't relish the steady rhythm of my baby's kicks or my sonogram photos. I just wanted the relief of holding a healthy baby in my arms.
But there was no relief for me while delivering at the height of a pandemic.
When I heard my newborn son cry for the first time, I didn't feel a sense of calm. Instead, I was filled with fear, grief, and worst of all, regret.
On the day my son was born in April, 5,784 people in the US had died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. By the time my baby was one-month-old, that number had soared to 66,000 deaths.
If I had known what having a baby during a pandemic would be like, I never would've gotten pregnant
If I could have possibly known what the first six months of my son's life were going to look like for my family, and the world, I never would've expanded our family.
Our first few weeks at home together were supposed to be a joyous period as we adjusted to being a family of five. Instead, they were dark and stressful.
There were no visitors to gush over our baby or to bring us meals. We thought we'd be able to rely on field trips, end-of-year celebrations, and grandparents to occupy our two older kids while the baby required so much of me.
But the lockdowns cancelled all of that. As much as they wanted to, our parents, who were all in high-risk categories, were unable to help.
We settled for short glimpses of each other through the kitchen window or socially distant visits with one another from opposite ends of the patio. My parents could gaze at their grandchildren. They couldn't hold their new grandson or comfort my daughters who were desperate for their attention.
My 5- and 3-year-olds were struggling to adapt to suddenly not being able to leave the house or see friends due to the lockdown measures.
My oldest started having trouble falling asleep at night, and would stay awake for hours past her bedtime, crying and asking questions about whether she would ever get to see her preschool teacher again.
My youngest, who had come to love our alone time together in the afternoons, began to regress. Instead of expressing her feelings when she got frustrated, she started biting her sister. I wanted to comfort them, and guide them through their big emotions.
But the new baby pulled me in a different direction. Dad took over bedtime. I didn't have time to kiss boo-boos, but I had to find some.
Once schools closed and extracurricular got cancelled, I became everyone's everything.
I was their mom, teacher, coach, and friend. They relied on me to give what the pandemic stole from them and I kept coming up short.
I was taking care a newborn while helping my two older children navigate their virtual schooling
I lived in a nonstop loop of breastfeeding, diaper changes (for both me and the baby), and managing my children's remote classes. I worried about the extra screen time everyone was getting, but also relied on those distractions to get a few minutes to myself to eat a meal, do the dishes, or sanitize my groceries.
Something as routine as my son's well visits caused stress. At that time we knew so little about COVID-19 and how it's transmitted.
I worried that my newborn could contract the disease from the scale at his weigh-ins, or become more susceptible to picking it up after he received his routine vaccines.
My husband's weekly trip to the store to pick up essentials terrified me. Would he bring the virus home to my defenseless newborn while trying to find toilet paper?
That spiraled into my concerns about our finances and what would we do if we were to run out of money.
As our expenses increased, our income started to dry up
Before the pandemic hit, we were finally able to build-up our savings a little bit. I started getting more freelance assignments and my husband had ample opportunities to work overtime. Just as our expenses were growing, my freelance opportunities began to dry up and the unemployment check, which was supposed to make up for my husband's reduced hours, never came.
We had to dip into our savings as soon as experts advised shopping for two weeks worth of food.
At that point, I quickly found myself doing the thing that all veteran moms warn against: I was wishing away those precious newborn days, and the snuggles I had spent nine months desperately dreaming of. I wished instead for the moments when I could hand my son off to focus on reassuring our older children or just run to the store alone.
I just wanted him to be bigger, and stronger, and more independent already.
Perhaps most upsetting of all, I found myself wondering why I had decided to have another baby in the first place. We already had two beautiful and healthy children. We always knew adding a third baby would put pressure on us financially. Our home was already too small, and we'd only just started to get ahead of our bills. This all felt impossible.
It wasn't just the pandemic. There's the long standing racism, inequality and polarizing divisiveness in the country.
I love my son and my daughters, more than anything else in the world.
But I regret bringing my baby into the world during such a dark and hopeless period.
Still, when everyone's asleep, the house is quiet, and I'm able to have a calm feeding session with my son, I feel a brief sense of normalcy. In those still moments, I can pause worrying about keeping my family safe, and notice how being enveloped in my arms alone gives my children the security they need. I don't think I would've realized that if it weren't for those tiny fingers gripping tightly against my own.
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