I’ve been trying to figure out what to say in this post for weeks. So much has happened since my last one. The last three months have been surreal. I became a mother for the first time, and Tom and I have been caring for our daughter, Nora, together since she was born mid-February. COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic and has turned all of our lives upside down. Where do I even begin?
Let’s start with little Nora. After 9 hours of unsuccessfully induced labor, I had an emergency c-section where I hemorrhaged and lost half of the blood in my body. It was a scary 24 hours but the end result was so worth it. I love her more than I knew was possible. She makes me laugh and brings a tear to my eye every day. She’s happy, healthy, and although she really hates naps, she typically sleeps 7-8 hours in one stretch each night. She’s growing so fast! At this point she can almost hold her head up without bobbing, she is starting to hold objects, and she smiles and coos all the time at me, Tom, and the wall hangings her auntie made for us. Tom’s work has a generous paternity leave policy, which just ended last week. The three of us have been living in a beautiful baby bubble for the last two and a half months. Every day is filled with diapers, snuggles, and endless laundry. The highlight of each day is a chance to nap, read, or a walk outside in the sunshine. When Tom went back to work this week, I started my new job as a Nora’s primary caretaker. I never imagined I would stop working to stay home after having a baby, but here we are! Nora is my job for the time being.
It’s strange to be raising a newborn while most of the world is on lock-down. She’s blissfully unaware of everything that’s happening of course, but it’s hard being away from friends and family at a time when I’m constantly reminded of the preciousness and precariousness of life. I’m so grateful our visitors got to squeeze their trips in before the virus got worse. Their travel plans weren’t impacted until our last visitor, my best friend, who had to cut her trip short by 2 weeks after the airline cancelled her return flight. It was nice to have Tom’s and my parents meet Nora so soon after she was born. And it was wonderful to spend time and share my new life with my bestie, even if we spent most days in the apartment playing with Nora or going for a walk.
Despite this holding pattern, life keeps moving. Nora is still needs diapers, clothes that fit her, and she needs to go to doctor appointments. Someday Nora will hear all about how she entered the world during a global pandemic. While I was pregnant I kept a journal of letters describing the time I was pregnant with her, and our move to Dublin. I decided to continue writing the letters after she was born so she could someday read about her milestones, juxtaposed with updates on the virus that has turned the whole world upside down. This virus is something her whole generation will hear stories about for years to come.
Ireland has had about the same contraction and death rates of Coronavirus/COVID-19 as the US, there are just fewer humans who live here in general. At the time of this post, there have been 19,648 cases and 1,102 deaths, and a 16.5% unemployment rate as of last month. I’m guessing that number will be much higher for April. Schools and Universities were closed first, then they cancelled St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and more restrictions were added from there. Today, grocery stores and pharmacies are the only stores allowed to be open to the public and they strictly monitor the number of people allowed in at one time. Restaurants are limited to take out or delivery, and we have to stay within 2 km from our apartment, only venturing outside for physical exercise and necessities. From what I’ve observed most people have been taking the situation seriously, although I have not seen many people wear masks. When I see people on the streets or in stores they’re generally respectful, but there are always a few assholes who refuse to observe the 2 meter social distancing guidelines. One of the biggest problems right now is keeping people inside. The weather has been beautifully spring-like and abnormally dry, which is rare here. People are starting to spend more time outside and travel to beaches and national parks. That’s why the government recently allowed the Garda, Irish police, to enforce the travel restrictions, I’ve seen a lot more Garda in the last 2 months than I have the entire rest of the time I’ve lived here.
The hardest part of this whole thing for me has been the isolation. Our parenting classes talked at length about how important it is for new moms to get out of the house and spend time with people, and how it is essential for immigrants without family or friends around to get out there and meet new people. As socially anxious as I am, I signed up for a cooking class, but that has been postponed until further notice. I planned to attend playgroups and even registered for baby music classes with Nora. This was supposed to be the time I would be able to meet people and make friends for myself and Nora, since it was next to impossible to do while I was pregnant. I was going to finally get the full Irish experience, including having a pint at the pub and seeing some of the beautiful sights this country has to offer. We were going to take trips to the US so Nora could meet the people she’s heard so much about, and take a summer vacation somewhere in Europe, but all of that is on hold indefinitely. Most days Nora keeps me so busy that I don’t really notice the seclusion, but in the quiet moments I think about how nice it would be to just go for a drive to see the ocean, or some remote area of the countryside, or even to clock more miles on the Pike to visit loved ones. That’s right, I’m at the point where I’m feeling nostalgic about sitting in traffic with the windows down, listening to music. Sometimes I feel the isolation looming and the sadness creeping in, making me question whether we made the right decision to move away. In those times I have to remind myself that there are a lot of lonely people right now, many worse off than we are, and that even if we were in The States we would still be quarantined. I remind myself that I’m grateful to have Tom and Nora, that we’re all still healthy and have a steady income.
The up side to this whole being stuck at home thing? I’ve been doing more reading than usual, and doing a lot of video calls with friends and family. It’s been nice to be able to stay in touch with people, and have them meet Nora, even if it’s just through a computer screen. At some point I’ll write a post about the books I’ve read in the last two months, but for now, Nora is waking up and I’m needed elsewhere. Stay safe, and “mind yourself” as they say in Ireland.