- Our pandemic baby gave us something to look forward to in the bleakest of times, and his arrival spurred our family to recalibrate things from our housing situation to our home division of labor, all for the better. Tweet This
- Our pandemic baby was a bright spot in what was an otherwise dark time. Tweet This
I don’t remember how long I stared at the positive pregnancy test. Now I laugh, but at the time, it felt like the peak of insanity in the most insane of times. It was May 2020, and we were marooned in the remote woods of northern Michigan, where we fled to escape the confines of a 1,500 square foot apartment with three kids in the early weeks of the pandemic. The only thing that seemed more absurd than uprooting our lives overnight for an isolated place over a thousand miles away—when a basic trip to the grocery store involved a face mask and plastic gloves—was the prospect of having a baby in the middle of it all.
And yet, here I am to make the case for a pandemic baby.
It’s true, the pandemic may be ending. If so, thank goodness for it. And yet this is at least the fourth time I have thought as much, so I figure it’s never too late to advertise the joys of unexpected pregnancy.
I say this as someone who finds pregnancy anything but joyful. Each time has bestowed on me what I just call “the Kate Middleton thing” to understanding and sympathetic nods (think the stomach flu for nine months straight). Yet I found that pandemic pregnancy was like a paradox; I thought it would be worse, but instead it was better.
For starters, I didn’t miss one single fun thing—not even one dinner party where I had to turn down a cocktail, or a trip too close to my due date, or an event I had to pass up because of morning sickness. Then, suddenly, my husband was home every day, all day. Normally home in time to tuck the kids in, he could now help me at the dinner hour when I felt too sick to feed the family, or give me a mid-afternoon hug. And the pace of life slowed almost to halt. I recall once glancing at my daughter laying aimlessly on the lakeshore and thinking it looked like a still life. Coming from life in a fast-paced city with no family close by, it was like I had entered a parallel universe. It was a welcome change when I was sick and tired all day.
To be sure, the pandemic created major strains for many families. Businesses were ruined overnight, schools stayed closed for some for almost an entire school year, and many parents had to juggle adjusting to working from home while overseeing a novel concept called “virtual school.” Childcare strains resulted in a record number of mothers leaving the workforce, many from jobs they found enjoyable and fulfilling. School closures and isolation created what the surgeon general recently labeled a “mental health crisis” for America’s youth. I’m no Pollyanna: I know that the pandemic has been beyond hard for so many families, many of whom might have wanted to add another member to their family but felt they couldn’t, hence our birthrate bottoming out in what sociologists have deemed a “pandemic baby bust.”
And yet all I can say is that our pandemic baby was a bright spot in what was an otherwise dark time. I recognize my children have fared well, in large part because their wonderful school stayed open, but I also sometimes wonder if the baby distracted my children’s attention toward new life in a time of widespread death. He gave our family something to look forward to in the bleakest of times, and his arrival spurred our family to recalibrate things from our housing situation to our home division of labor, all for the better. He gave us a certain zeitgeist to move forward.
As one writer put it in The Guardian,
Parenting can suck up all your energy, but apparently it can also return it when you need it most. Who knew? When you’re up against it, a baby can give you hope and happiness and purpose—and all those other trite buzzwords that arseholes like to superimpose against photos of sunsets on Instagram.
Families have certainly been “up against it" these days, yet they are adapting. Might the pandemic have brought around changes that may be more permanent, such as greater flexibility and work from home options as many employers realize that employees can be just as productive if not more with much of prior commute and office time devoted to the home and family front? And might the past two years have spurred many families to finally make changes they had long put off, such as swapping schools (or moving to homeschooling) or moving closer to family or to an environment where they are happier? Maybe late-stage pandemic life is the moment to turn a baby bust into a baby boom?
Ashley E. McGuire is a Contributing Editor at the Institute for Family Studies. Her new book is Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Regnery, 2017).
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.