Bringing a new life into this world is a blessing, and being able to share a newborn with family and friends is one of the biggest joys parents can have. But the coronavirus pandemic has taken those moments away from many families, leaving them with a slew of emotions to work through. WPR’s Andrea Anderson shares these feelings in a letter to her newborn, Magnolia.
I write part of this story on my phone as we snuggle in the rocking chair and you drift to sleep. One of the dogs quietly peeks his head through the baby gate and then walks away. The cat purrs nearby, wishing she could be sitting on the chair’s armrest.
As I feel your warmth and hear your teeny, soft snores, I think about the world you were born into in June.
It’s a world where millions have died from a new virus that has torn the global economy apart and turned life upside down. It’s a world where your sisters’ “normal” is but a memory and also a goal, as they yearn for hangouts with friends, birthday parties and seeing your cousins.
But the world isn’t all bad at this time. People have come together like never before in some ways, working to help those in need.
Sweet Magnolia, you were born into a house and family full of love in one of the darkest times this world has seen. And while many people, including me, struggle to see the light, you are that light our family needs.
We made plans with your grandparents to come and visit right after you were born. But March came and our plans looked like a distant dream in the midst of a pandemic.
We’d say optimistically at the end of Zoom calls and FaceTimes: “Maybe June will be different.” But June came, and the world was no better. Except for you.
You were born into so much love, but only four people could share you: your two sisters; your father; and me. Your grandparents waited at their far away homes for text messages with pictures and videos. They waited for video calls.
After a two-week quarantine just a couple weeks after you were born, they finally got to hold you because we posed no risk. Imagine, a newborn, only a few weeks old, could pose a lethal risk to her own grandparents. It was unimaginable yet our reality.
Your little, beautiful self filled their hearts with joy. It was as if I could see their bodies recharging every second they held you. They didn’t want to let you go because they didn’t know when they’d get to see you again.
It made me cry.
The visits came to an end and we hoped we’d see them soon. But the pandemic continued. The months passed.
The milestones you reach, sweet Magnolia, have been celebrated. But for each one you make, a part of me breaks inside because your village can’t see your firsts in person. Sometimes I take a moment to collect myself as I look at you doing something new. I’m filled with joy for you flourishing and sorrow for your grandparents missing these moments.
I dreamed your first holidays would be filled with your sisters and cousins running around, and your little laugh sparking wide smiles on your grandparents’ faces. But this didn’t happen. At least not in person.
Instead, we had family Zoom calls where we laughed at ugly sweaters and jokes. You smiled as your grandparents chatted with you and blew kisses through the screen. You played peekaboo. While Christmas was still magical, it was heartbreaking at the same time.
Sweet Magnolia, you bring so much laughter and joy.
Your giggles are the best when your sisters make funny faces and rub their nose to yours, or when they tickle your belly. Your chattering in the morning is the best alarm clock. Your wobbly wave is the cutest.
The four of us get to experience your deep sighs. Your snuggles. Your infectious smile. We get to see you roll over, then crawl, then stand. We hear you say, “Hey,” and “Da da.”
See Magnolia, this pandemic has robbed so many people of so many things. It’s not fair. No one ever asked for this to be how it is. But no matter what, we have you and all the future memories to share with your village.
This will all come to an end some day. But for now sweet Magnolia, you remain our hope, our light.
SONGS: “The Mother” by Brandi Carlile
“Sugar Magnolia (Live in Paris, 1972)” by Grateful Dead