By Brett Heinzerling
DENVER (CBS4) – The year 2020, and especially early 2020, will forever be known as the COVID-19 crisis. It will be taught in history classes and remembered the way my grandparents remember the Great Depression, or the way America will always remember 9/11. The year 2020 (April, 2020, to be exact — the height of the coronavirus craziness) is also when my daughter was born.
They say the virus doesn’t affect kids as badly as it does adults. But do they really know? The “19” in the name comes from the year it was discovered. There hasn’t been much time learning about it to truly know what impact it could have. Coronavirus meant changes and they became painfully apparent to us very quickly.
We practiced social distancing for weeks before her birth. We worked from home and barely left the confines of our house. We did everything possible to mitigate our risk so that she would not be put in danger.
We knew there were changes, we knew there would be difficulties once she was here with us. But knowing and experiencing are two vastly different things.
It started in the hospital. The “mom and baby” floor is typically bustling with visitors and well-wishers. Instead, it was eerily quiet. No visitors, no trips to grab snacks. Every doctor and every nurse covered by masks. It was so quiet. And while we know the reason is because everyone was reducing exposure, not seeing smiling faces was a weird and uncomfortable experience.
We also knew it would be less convenient to run to the store for essentials at a moment’s notice. What we’ve experienced is far more powerful. A Target run to pick up a prescription became a fearful trip out in public. I wore my mask and kept my distance, but this time I did it so that I would hopefully not bring home any germs to my 3-day-old little girl.
We knew doctors appointments would have a different feel to them with everyone in masks, hand sanitizing more than ever before. But knowing that the times we HAVE to leave the house — to make sure she is progressing the way she needs to — are also the times she is at risk is such a confusing and anxiety-producing conundrum. “Anything to keep her safe” is our mantra, but what about when keeping her safe could be putting her at risk?
Those are the logistical oddities. Not the emotional gut-punches COVID has inflicted.
More than anything else, we knew that our little girl wouldn’t get to meet her big brother at the hospital. Her grandparents wouldn’t be visiting. Her cousins wouldn’t get to hold her. We thought we were prepared for that. But when a FaceTime call, or a meeting through a closed window, is the only contact she’ll have with the people who have been awaiting her arrival, the gravity and heartbreak of the situation hits hard. Our family gets it. They can’t come around until it’s safe. That doesn’t make it easier.
Instead of pictures of hugs and cuddles, pages of her baby book will be covered with screenshots of smiling faces who do not get to see her in person for who knows how long.
We know she’ll meet her family. She’ll meet friends. If we, and everyone, continues to do our part, she’ll be OK. And being born in a pandemic, she’ll always have a story to tell.
Brett Heinzerling is a Writer/Producer in the Creative Services department at CBS4 in Denver.