A mother’s open letter to her baby born in the midst of the Pandemic, by Elsie Jordan
I remember it well. I was sitting in a restaurant in downtown Whitehorse with your dad, Oompa and Grammie, eagerly waiting to ring in the year 2020. It was New Year’s Eve and I was about three months pregnant with you. We had just announced you to the world a few weeks earlier and the new year held so much promise. We were so excited for what 2020 would bring to our family. It was going to bring you, my love, into our lives, and we couldn’t wait!
There were so many plans in place for when you arrived. Your Auntie Judy was going to fly in from Ontario to help set up your nursery. Your grandparents were booking flights to come visit too, so they could be here to welcome you into the world and help your dad and I with the newness of becoming parents. Everything was truly perfect.
And then, three months later, the world changed. Drastically. The world was suffering from a pandemic that shut everything down and laid waste to any plans that your family had made to come and see you. The ultrasounds and doctor’s visits, the ones to make sure you were growing strong and healthy, became visits that only I could go to. Your dad was asked to wait in the car. He missed the first time I was able to hear your little heartbeat drumming away. It was hard for him and he was sad, but he stayed strong for us anyway. I remember the fear I had when word got around that mothers might not be allowed to have any support people in with them while they gave birth. The idea was horrifying. Luckily, that wasn’t the case for us, and your dad never had to leave my side as you were born.
My love, one day you will learn all about how 2020 affected people. How it caused many to lose their jobs, including your dad, for a time. You’ll learn about the fear and death it caused all over the world. You’ll hear all about the toilet paper shortages and how difficult it was to find cleaning supplies, medicine and baby products. People will go on and on about how long it was until they were able to go to a mall or eat in a restaurant. And you’ll no doubt hear the term “Quarantine Babies” when referring to you and your classmates.
Yes, things were challenging. Very challenging. I was only one of thousands of parents who cried, raged and mourned over the world that their children were born into. It still doesn’t seem fair that your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins didn’t get to hold you as a newborn. It’s not right that your first visit with Santa had to be a distanced one and that your family could only share Christmas with you through video calls. It’s unfair that you had two parents who were more exhausted than they would have been if they had been lucky enough to have support from family during those months when you went through your purple crying phase. I also feel guilty about the knowledge we lost out on having by not being able to attend the cancelled lamaze classes.
I wonder about when you’ll be able to visit a zoo, a waterpark, or a playground full of other children. I wait patiently for the church to restart its family services again. I plan an online baptism for the friends and family to share in. I worry about all the things that you’re missing out on. All the things I had planned to do with you in your first year that are impossible with how the world is now.
But then. Then I look at you and you’re smiling. You’re busy exploring, devouring, smashing, learning and experiencing your world. Your world. This is the one you have, not the one I wanted you to have. I realize, as I watch you laugh at yourself in the mirror, that your world is wondrous to you. It’s full of all of these amazing things that I have been too blind to see.
You don’t look at the world through the lens of what is missing, because everything is new to you. You don’t see your grandparents on a video call and feel sad because they aren’t physically there to hold you; no, you see them and you get excited because these are the people in the phone that talk to you, laugh with you and are happy to see you. You don’t get upset that the mommy-and-me swimming classes have been suspended and your parents aren’t able to take you to the pool on a regular basis. No, you don’t get excited at the pool because you finally get to go; you get excited because you’re learning how to swim and you love the water. You live the moments you have, without thought of ones you lost out on. You, my love, make me realize that while 2020 was a challenging year that took many things away, it also gave so much back. It created the world that you love to experience every single day. This world may not be what I pictured for you, but it is yours, and it is its own kind of wonderful.
Your world is one where get-togethers are not taken for granted. Visits with family and friends are cherished more than ever before. People are learning what it’s like to live more simply and are realizing that some of the things they used to think that they couldn’t live without, they are actually better off without. People are learning what really matters to them. Hopefully we won’t be so quick to take the people and things we value for granted.
But the most important thing that 2020 gave back, my love, was you. You, who make me so unbelievably happy. You challenge me, exhaust me, entertain me and enlighten me. You make me realize that 2020 was not a year I will look back on with disdain. I will look back on 2020 and think about you with a smile on my face.
I will think about the first time we called our family from the hospital after you were born and how proud we were to show you off. I will think about coming home to find that our front door had been decorated with cards and well wishes by people who already loved you and want to welcome you from a safe distance. I will think about the first time we brought you outside to touch the trees and grass. You were mesmerized by the outside world. You still are. I will think about the time you got incredibly excited to see other babies for the first time. You made your first friend at that mommy group, and you cried when she reached out and touched your hand. I will think about your first Thanksgiving, and when your Grandma and GrAuntie Judy got to hold you for the first time. And, I will think about the smiles that erupted on your face when your Oompa played the piano and your Grammie sang Christmas carols to you in a video call. Yes, 2020 will always make me smile.
And so, my love, I want you to remember that the year of your birth was filled with some extraordinary moments. One day, even if it takes a little longer or looks a little differently, I know you will get to experience everything that I want for you. You will also live and learn in ways that I can not even begin to imagine. So, I want you to cherish the year you were born because, just like you, it changed my world. 2020 was the year that we became mother and son; and so for that, it will always be the most special to me.
Elsie Jordan is a Whitehorse-based mom and writer. Photos submitted by Elsie Jordan