Vanessa Santos: Battle cry of the COVID momOctober 11, 2021
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“Is he a COVID baby?” The waitress asked my husband and I this question about our sixteen-month-old son, as he gleefully gobbled up a plate of French fries. We weren’t quite sure what she meant.
We laughed and smiled and she moved on. At least, I think we laughed and smiled. At that moment, my mind was a mess. With that question, this innocent waitress had unwittingly opened a Pandora’s box of emotion — trauma, fear, heartache and, ultimately, strength — that I’d only just managed to close a short time ago, as things got back (we thought) to normal.
The new specter of the Delta variant had brought this all bubbling back up and this poor waitress wrenched it to the surface.
Vanessa Santos pictured on vacation with her son in Michigan,
Yes, my son is a COVID baby. He was born in the spring of 2020, during the peak pandemic pandemonium. And I’m a COVID mom. There are thousands of us, maybe millions. We’ve been through the wringer, and we’re ready for whatever comes next.
In my case, that means another baby. Our second little boy is due in December. As I settle into my second COVID pregnancy — a strange, surreal experience that I’m sure will only seem more surreal in years to come — I’ve realized that I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the awesome power of motherhood than I ever thought possible.
The Santos family pregnancy announcement from spring 2021
My baby shower was scheduled for March 21, 2020, two days after Gov. Larry Hogan shut down the state of Maryland, where we live. That threw a wrench into our plans, but that was understandable. The world was changing.
Then our doctor informed us that, due to COVID restrictions, only the patient would be allowed to enter their office for appointments — nobody else. I was making more doctor visits than usual, because early in my pregnancy they had detected a hormonal issue that required weekly sonograms to check on our baby. I was already scared that at each successive visit I would get some life-altering news, and now I was being told I couldn’t have my husband beside me if that happened.
The news was full of stories of women in different cities having to give birth alone, or being quarantined separately from their own babies. Our own hospital cancelled their birthing classes.
Our baby was due in May, and for several weeks I lived with the terrifying idea of having to go through the medical aspects of my first pregnancy and childbirth on my own.
As I settle into my second COVID pregnancy, I’ve realized that I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the awesome power of motherhood than I ever thought possible.
My husband is a scientist at the National Institutes of Health and was assigned to the Operation Warp Speed Task Force. His calming presence, knowledge, and guidance kept me sane. But whether your partner is a scientist or a welder or an insurance agent, you want them by your side as you bring your child into this world.
But an executive order was issued applying to both public and private hospitals to allow at least one person in the delivery room with the woman giving birth. My husband was there when I gave birth to our beautiful healthy baby son on May 1, 2020.
We couldn’t have any visitors in the hospital, and we came home to a strange hermetic world, with friends offering to drive by our house and wave through the windows. I politely declined — it just seemed too weird. After a few weeks of being home alone, we started allowing visitors if they quarantined for the recommended period of two weeks — but there was still tension in the air. Could we trust them on their word alone?
The strange summer and dark winter of 2021 brought changes to everyone’s lives, and we were no exception.
I left my beloved job for a fully remote position, because I wasn’t comfortable risking bringing something home to my infant son’s brand new immune system. I know I am blessed to have had the ability to make that choice.
All of us who’ve had “COVID babies” have had to make different sacrifices. It’s not just parents of the littlest ones, either – think of all the people who had to step in as teachers when “remote learning” fell apart, missed ball games or dance recitals, or didn’t get to see their child walk across the stage at graduation. And many families faced the ultimate loss of a loved one who died from the disease.
We don’t fully know yet what the Delta variant will bring, but it does seem like we will be living with this thing, in some form or another, for a long time. Through it all, people will keep making babies.
That means more COVID babies, and more COVID moms.
As someone who’s about to become a COVID mom for the second time, I couldn’t be more proud to be in the company of so many strong, courageous women around the world.
We will not let this disease stamp out that most precious of human endeavors — the continuation of life.
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