Melissa Flores, Program Coordinator, HealthySteps
I found out I was pregnant by accident. My husband, Jason, and I went to my doctor together because something was off with me and we were worried. The doctor issued an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. A few minutes into the ultrasound, the technician asked us if we were excited to have a baby on the way. And that’s how we learned we were expecting. I remember it vividly. I looked up at Jason, he reached for my hand, both brought to tears of happiness by the news. It felt like one of those scenes you see in movies, the ones you watch and think this only happen in movies. I remember thinking, When did my life become so perfectly normal?
At the time, we had no idea it would be the only ultrasound or doctor’s visit Jason would experience with me and our baby throughout the pregnancy. That appointment was on a Friday. The following Monday, COVID mandates were issued and life as we knew it would take some drastic changes. I was scared. Scared of being a mother, scared of the virus, and truth be told, I was scared to feel anything for the baby because there were so many unknowns. Part of me was waiting for the ball to drop because suddenly nothing about the situation felt “normal.”
After my first trimester was behind me, I kept the news to myself for the most part. I told only my immediate family, colleagues, and close friends. I quickly learned of stereotypes and societal norms associated with expectant mothers. The first question I almost always received from those I told was “Are you excited!?” And I remember how uncomfortable that question made me feel. The truth was, I was just scared. I didn’t know how to be excited. COVID had me terrified of going to the grocery store, how was I supposed to wrap my head around having a child?
Time passed. My belly grew. Baby kicked and began making sure I knew she was real. I had to adapt and figure out a way to feel her, not just physically, but mentally. Things were heating up around the upcoming presidential election. George Floyd’s death had sparked a movement in DC and throughout the country that I wanted so badly to support and be a part of with my friends, family, and peers. COVID cases were reaching record highs in the US, and there was still very little data around COVID’s effect on pregnant mothers and babies. My feelings were so intense and my stress level was at an all-time high. I held my belly and thought about bringing a baby into a world so divided. It was then that I felt my baby, mind, body, and soul.
I had to adapt and figure out a way to feel her, not just physically, but mentally.
My excitement didn’t stem from cute baby clothes, themed baby showers, or gender reveal parties. It was sparked by my promise to lovingly raise a child; teach her kindness, human decency, and equality; make sure she knows she can love who she wants, identify however she feels, and take whatever path she chooses as long as it makes her happy. If half of the American population didn’t support those values, she would grow up in a household that did and therefore be a part of the solution to issues that shouldn’t even be relevant at this point in time.
Progressing to a passionate, excited mom-to-be, I still decided to keep baby our little secret. I wasn’t sure how to bring her up in conversations during such a chaotic time with so many more important things happening in the world. And because no one could see me, because I didn’t leave the house, it was easy to hide. At first, the thought of going through a pregnancy and becoming a new mom without friends and family was intimidating. But as time passed, I grew to appreciate the intimacy that came with deciding how to prepare for a baby and thinking about the kinds of parents we wanted to be, just the two of us.
While I was excited, I was also bored, and missing social interaction. I began focusing on preparing for baby, but I didn’t really know what a baby required and I wasn’t able to just call a brunch together with friends to get input. There was the obvious, bottles, a high chair, a bassinet, you know, the basics. But as I began creating my registry, I was overwhelmed by how expensive it is to prepare for a baby. Jason and I really wanted to be practical parents and were having a difficult time determining what was necessary.
Mothers were throwing extra things in the bags I would pick up with kind notes to reach out if I needed anything. Suddenly I didn’t feel so isolated or alone.
The pandemic caused people to stay home. Weekends were no longer filled with soccer practice, vacations, family trips to the zoo, or whatever else local mothers in my neighborhood would normally do. Instead families were taking time to purge and clean their homes. I had never been a mom before, but my instinct told me that babies are messy, so most things for babies are likely made to be washed. I took advantage of the situation and bought the things I needed second-hand off Facebook Marketplace. By doing so, I helped other moms by giving them back some money for the things their kids had outgrown, left less of a carbon footprint, and saved a ton of money. It gave me something to do and relieved my stress a little by allowing me to safely leave the house, even if just for a quick ride in the car for a local porch pickup. What I wasn’t expecting was to make friends with some of the mothers I’d bought from. I suddenly had mom friends and nearby support! I’m not sure that would have been my experience without the pandemic. People were looking for ways to socialize and interact with others. Mothers were throwing extra things in the bags I would pick up with kind notes to reach out if I needed anything. Suddenly I didn’t feel so isolated or alone. I felt like I was part of something. It was one of the ways I coped with the pandemic, a silver lining amidst loss, fear, and isolation.
River was born on October 29, 2020, healthy and strong. Our “nothing normal newborn.” I hadn’t taken a tour of the delivery area of the hospital before I delivered. I hadn’t been offered the resources hospitals usually offered expectant mothers to help prepare them for motherhood. I had never seen the inside of a baby store, or even really walked the baby section of a Target. I remember feeling so clueless. However, with time, I realized that, while my experience wasn’t normal, my feelings were. As a parent, I would be clueless until I figure things out, and just when I think I have it down, baby would grow, needs would shift, and I would be left clueless again. A vicious, beautiful, exciting cycle only the love of a child could make someone appreciate.
River just had her 6-month well-child visit and she’s doing great! She’s healthy, happy, and developing wonderfully. While the pandemic, as well as some very important milestones in our history, made sure nothing about my pregnancy was normal, I now realize as a mom that it was never going to be normal. My nothing normal newborn was just the beginning of my journey as a mother filled with unpredictability and life-learned lessons. And that’s completely normal.