For many, or so I have heard, the days and weeks and months of this epidemic have faded together, in a stagnant alley of time. For me, this time has taken a different form. At any moment, you can ask me how many months we’ve been doing this, and I could tell you right away. In March 2020, I had a baby whose whole life was measured in the same epidemic days and weeks and months. Now the epidemic is turning into two, and so is he.
He came early. A few days ago, I saw the only other person in my office disinfecting a packet of Seltzer cans, and was just starting to get involved in mysterious, unreasonable risk calculations:Should I disinfect everything too?-Which will soon become ubiquitous. I skipped a party in favor of a haircut (only me and my favorite stylist, alone in a bad ventilation studio) for two 4 year olds (the number of guests seemed too high). After my water broke, my husband and I waited more than an hour for my mother to take us to the hospital so we could avoid driving with strangers.
If our goal was to avoid contact with this new, uncomfortable disease, all these decisions would have been less effective than the fact that my baby was born two weeks before the scheduled time. Every day, the risk of covid is rapidly increasing. On his birthday, 44 people were reported dead on the Cavid-19 in New York City. On its due date, it was 573.
In the hospital pictures, my husband and I look tired and happy. We are definitely not wearing masks, because the supply of masks was so low that even the doctors and other staff were giving them a few rations. You do not want to be frustrated if you cannot get the right pitch so invest in a good capo, They keep telling us. After her birth, we were in a small, split hospital room for about 36 hours. The second-most dangerous thing we did was send my husband to the cafeteria. (Our take-out order was canceled – the cook called out ill.) The most dangerous was our last, long night spent in a thin curtain from another mom and dad and their new baby.
Then we took him home. In the pictures that follow, many things are ideal for a child’s early life: his first visit to the doctor, his first bath, his first trip. She meets her grandmother. A month goes by. His grandfather, then his aunt hold him. He learns to smile with his head held high. He slept more peacefully all night. Two months, three months. He sat up; She dives her feet into the sea (she hates it); She tries avocados, bananas, and peas. Six months. She has her first Halloween, dressed as a pirate, then has her first Thanksgiving. He likes to swing on the playground. He crawls. Nine months. He is skeptical of snow. He stands up, then shuffles; She screams and squawks. Then his birthday. She drinks pancakes, whipped cream and huge balloons that give her pleasure for a few days.
In those same pictures, you can see the strange realities of the epidemic. Some of it is easy to see: outside of my first meeting with my father; She’s masked, I’m not, and she’s leaning over six feet to get the best impression of her firstborn baby. On an initial trip to a windy beach, my husband, my mother and I are all wearing masks. Alone with the baby in the park – wearing a mask. I remember her delighted wonder realizing that there is a face behind every mask, to absorb and accept another truth of the world. Other absences, he did not understand, and difficult to find: his other aunts and uncles and his only cousins, who lived in Germany and could not come to see; All of our friends who haven’t met him since he was a kid. The parties were never pushed that way with a bunch of other kids, we just kept half-watching him playing; Never go from person to person praising adults.
Which of these certainly fazes him. She is a child. But these are pictures of her baby, which she will look at later to try to imagine the early months of her life. And sometimes I think: How do we describe her this time?
In her second year, as she begins to walk, changes become more difficult to capture — her awareness of the world increases, her confidence expands, she knows what she likes, what she likes, what she is less enthusiastic about. He can understand us when we talk. And there Vaccine, And suddenly আরো more friends! More space! There is no mask! —Then progress begins. In a year and a half, the epidemic is surpassing the top of the Delta case; My baby – and not a real baby – is playing with the worms in the park, and running happily along the east river, pointing at the helicopters flying overhead. At 21 months old, she is impatient to open Christmas presents under the tree, and Omicron is ruining our vacation plan.
In the midst of all this, no matter how many months he lived, the epidemic was always old. Covid has its own growth pattern, its own milestones. (Some, for children, as defined by the CDC.) Like the weight of a healthy baby, the epidemic continues to increase in gravity: in one month, the disease has killed more than 30,000 Americans. In six months, 200,000. In one year, more than 500,000. And now, at two, closing at 1 million. Coronaviruses have also created new behaviors, in predictable ways that still amaze us when we have to face their reality. The need to focus on a short life, a turbulent progress, has kept time ticking for me.
Now that he’s a small child, I can more clearly imagine what it was like for parents whose children started the epidemic with any awareness in the world – I think it’s hard. Epidemic children, millions of them, only know this fact, and no one is worse than me. She goes to day care and plays with the other kids; She has grandparents who are friends with her. At about 2, however, he began to show in a small way how living through it had affected him. It was one of the first 50 words MaskHe rarely wears them himself, but he sees us wearing them, like any other garment he can name: pants, boots, socks or (his favorite) hat. The other day, he volunteered, for no particular reason, to give a Covid test at home.
Before she was born, we had a story that we thought we’d tell her, how I was 33 weeks pregnant – just when you’re thinking of stopping the trip – we went to Mexico and how that trip was worth the risk. In the more dramatic days of the epidemic, we wondered how strange this story might one day sound to him: if by then the airline industry had collapsed, would boarding a dream come true? But in most cases, social changes were not implemented during the lockdown; American life has settled into its much older pattern, for better and for worse. And what happens next will seem to be happening fast. After 2, parents begin to measure a child’s age in long parts — half years, full years. A child shakes the rhythm of your life, and every day must be dedicated to understanding this new, controlling force. A small child will still cling to you, but his wants and wants, his joys and sorrows are now local: his existence is created in you. Soon, I’ll sit down with my daughter, flip through these same pictures, and tell her a story about what this time means. Perhaps he will feel completely different from it, not being affected by this strange event early in his life. Or maybe he will then realize how he shaped the world in which he grew up, we can only guess now.