Is Holding a Newborn During a Pandemic Wrong?
Confessions of a social-distancing rule breaker.
It wasn’t always like this, I told her. There was a time, not that long ago, when a newborn elicited so much delight, adults would hardly be able to contain themselves.
The baby would be passed around the room like a fancy French cheese plate.
Their adoration would have been palpable.
Not so anymore.
The attitude toward newborns is no longer joy-filled; the loving approach of grandparents and family has disappeared with the threat of COVID-19 contamination.
In the last forty-one days of social isolation, some of us have evolved into truly model citizens (dutifully maintaining 6 feet of distance under every circumstance) while some of us, have fallen from grace.
Not knowing these first-time parents had been deprived of grandparental connection, I was astonished to see the young couple with their twelve-day old baby, standing on our front porch.
She held the tiny, swaddled bundle right up to me as if she was delivering an online package to the door.
“Do you want to hold her?” she asked.
She was dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans, her belly curved out like a half an eggshell, freshly cracked. My friend appeared both hopeful and sad, her blue eyes and abundantly curly blond hair were a sign of youth and postpartum health.
“Nobody will hold her,” she said with a wobble in the back of her throat.
I could sense she was attempting to mask the devastation that lay just below the surface of her otherwise buttery voice.
Now, the father held the baby out to me like a question waiting to be answered. As my hands reached instinctively for the sweetly sleeping bundle; all I could think about were moist droplets and the neighbors watching from their living room and kitchen windows.
“Let’s go inside,” I said.
I broke the rules, big time. After forty-one days of near perfect social distancing, I’d broken down. I felt like I just ate my first chocolate donuts on a calorie-restricted diet or drank a beer after two months of sobriety. There was no going back.
Her name is Fiata. The name was adapted from the Latin word fiat, which loosely translates as so be it, let it be done or Amen. When I first looked at her, she resembled the face of the full moon. Her perfect, round face appeared to be the source of a mysterious, luminous, white light.
How many, if given the chance could resist holding the glowing orb of the full moon in their hand?
The disease slowly faded into the background as I basked in the glow of this little moon. The voices of the Prime Minister and his media affiliates lost some of their potency and their volume.
Was social distancing a guideline? A suggestion? An invitation? A law?
I couldn’t remember.
Suddenly, the lines became so blurred. Was I a criminal? A free-spirited maverick? Weak and immoral? Dangerous? Or just plain stupid? It was unclear.
A pandemic is where Fiata’s world began.
I’m fighting with many aspects of it; I guess that she is too. She is being formed by a country that has abruptly given up their rights and freedoms to save each other from death, while at the same time, she is just learning how to live.
She is attempting to see from her eyes, the world. And what will she see? A world without living ancestors. A world without the loving gaze of a grandmother and grandfather. A world without people.
I watched her try to see me. Her eyes black as coal, oscillating in a valiant attempt at recognition. I tried to cocoon her in my gaze; to welcome her to the world without a kiss.
My husband wanted to sing her a song from a socially dignified distance. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
Her mom and dad are also singers. I asked my husband to choose a love song to the moon. The harmonies vibrated through our bodies as the evening sun sank below the mountain and Fiata shone in my arms.
In the early days of spring, when the news of isolation first hit, there was a pink moon that rose above a hundred-year-old cherry tree in the neighbor’s front yard. I tried to snap a picture, but the captured image fell well short of my expectations.
I thought of myself as an upstanding citizen, but I too fell short of expectations.
It has become clear who my real Master is.
I bow to the moon. Not to the Emperor. Not to reason. Not to science.
One day I might be pushed out, locked away or tormented because I risk everything and live for the moment.
Like an infant, I reach out to the spirit of the ancestors who’ve gone before me and wonder if I will ever be properly decontaminated by my humanness to be properly embraced by them.