by Jessica Kehinde Ngo
I recognized the signs immediately: tender breasts, irritable stomach, and the constant urge to pee. They were the same sensations I’d experienced five years earlier when I was pregnant with my first son. Even so, this time was different.
It was mid-April 2020 and COVID-19 closures and lockdowns were in their early stages. I was holding onto hope that things would return to normal by summer: all-day outings at the Santa Monica Pier, trendy new restaurants popping up around town, family trips to local water parks. I couldn’t imagine the virus would survive the southern California summer heat.
My son’s French immersion preschool had shuttered its doors and was attempting to hold Zoom sessions for twenty minutes a day, which, it turns out, was about fifteen minutes more than the kids could handle. The only thing they really got into were the scavenger hunts. But the fun ended a few weeks in when one boy fell on his way to grab a toy, and tears spread like a virus across the Zoom screens.
Online learning for the school ended in summer, and suddenly I found myself teaching college classes online between bouts of nausea and homeschooling a preschooler. Meanwhile, my husband and I were adjusting to working from home—rearranging our 900-square-foot townhouse to accommodate two desks, three computer screens, two giant printers, and everything that comes with having a four-year-old at home: Legos to trip over, Play-Doh to scrape off every surface, and food crumbs to vacuum up or ignore, depending on our level of burned-out-ness.
Just weeks before I realized I was pregnant, I’d laughed out loud at a friend’s post on Instagram saying that a pandemic baby boom would be all oldest children, since no wise adults who already had a child would bring another one into the world during a plague. I chuckled and sent a screenshot to my twin sister, who had given birth just months before lockdown began.
As the months have gone by, I’ve noticed that the stages of pregnancy have coincided with the stages of the pandemic. First, a feeling of unsureness: is this really happening? Is it all a dream? Then fatigue, as you begin to adjust to your new normal, the exact timeline of which is unknown. Some days you can barely get out of bed—you’re anxious, your appetite comes and goes, you know you should be exercising but can’t bring yourself to do it. Some days you binge on potato chips and Netflix. There are unexpected periods of immense joy at little things: cheesy rom-com holiday movies, old photos of when you used to go out with friends, flashbacks to the intoxicating smell of a newborn baby. Both roads require taking things day by day, as you never know what to expect.
About seven months into this second pregnancy and the lockdown, I’ve surprised myself by continuing to find humor in the world around me. I pray daily for a healthy baby in January, and for the pandemic to make its exit shortly thereafter, paving the way for new reasons to laugh and embrace the unexpected.
Published on December 6, 2020
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