A Year Of Unknowns: What It’s Like To Have Your First Baby During A Pandemic

by Molly Bentz
Courtesy of Molly Bentz

On February 26th, 2020 at 6:30pm, my firstborn arrived. 8 lbs 10 oz and 22 inches representing the conclusion of our infertility journey following a successful IVF frozen transfer.

As one of five children raised by a single dad, infertility ignited a profound yearning to exercise my maternal instincts and exasperated my desire to be a mom. Our nine months leading up to Annie was filled with a plethora of emotions, but I vividly remember hour 24 of our induction when our doctor delivered our Annie, and unintentionally fractured her clavicle while hurriedly untangling the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck. I remember the palpable silence of the delivery room and the subsequent relief in my husband’s eyes as her long-awaited cry commenced.

After a brief hospital stay, we went home. Relieved, grateful, and largely unscathed. As we came up for air following the haze of our first weeks as a family of three, Minnesota implemented its first stay-at-home order.

We quickly succumbed to a new way of life, while mourning our inability to share our long-awaited Annie with family and friends. Instead, we diligently wiped down groceries, secluded ourselves and took turns verbalizing our respective psychosomatic respiratory symptoms. Throughout the remainder of my 16-week quarantine maternity leave, I would stare at Annie, mesmerized by her presence, and overcome with emotion. The pulses of parental euphoria quickly in conflict with an equally consuming sense of fear and dread of the unknown.

I watched with fear as Andrew Cuomo updated the world on COVID progress each morning (and tuned in as Chris Cuomo anchored from his basement during 2:00 am feedings, for that matter). I spent afternoons engrossed in Minnesota’s daily public health briefings and became emotionally invested in our COVID progress; feeling excitement when cases stabilized and frustration when peaks reached high points.

I held back tears when my pediatrician reassured me in early May that “COVID hasn’t broken Annie” after I expressed concern over delays in her social development because she had not been to Target or the grocery store. I cried in the car following the same appointment when she calmly reminded me that we were only in the beginning stages of living in a pandemic. I resented my inability to feel optimistic about our new way of life. I was tired of the self-induced information overload and protocol of calculating risk before what previously had been seemingly inconsequential decision making. I felt guilty for grieving my maternity leave when I knew how fortunate I was to receive paid leave, and most notably, I hated the fear and isolation I felt as a first-time mom raising a baby in the early stages of a pandemic.

It’s safe to say COVID consumed my first year of parenting but I’ve learned (albeit slowly) that this is okay. I have a healthy baby. My reclusive maternity leave is over and I feel a different sense of calmness as a person having navigated hurdles I never anticipated. Our friends and extended family haven’t embraced Annie with hugs and almost none have held her close, but they will grow to know her. They love her like they love me and that’s all that matters.

Our journey to having Annie was a road filled with an abundance of unknowns and I still reflect on our infertility journey with appreciation for the challenges we went through because we always felt loved, supported and best yet, hopeful. I like to think that our first year as parents was also a version of exactly that. Different challenges, different pain, too many unknowns but a whole lot of love and hope too.