Love in the midst of death: Even as coronavirus rages, we have a reason to celebrate life
As I gave birth to my son, the number of coronavirus cases was rising and our world was transforming. But I found hope in new life.
It doesn’t matter how much you prepare and plan for having a child, no time will ever be perfect.
This became especially clear when my husband and I realized that our son would arrive amid a pandemic. But ushering new life into the world during a time of widespread death taught us how to appreciate the value, beauty and diversity of human existence.
When we entered the hospital in Carmel, Indiana, to deliver our son on March 12, the world around us seemed normal. But by the time we left midday on March 14, the world had shut down around us. The hospital was quiet, the parking lot vacant, the streets empty.
Indiana health officials confirmed the first positive case for COVID-19 on March 6. After that, Hoosiers responded to the virus in much the same way an Ernest Hemingway character described falling into bankruptcy: "Gradually and then suddenly."
By the time we got to the hospital, the situation was evolving rapidly. On March 12, there were just 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases in our state, but we were beginning to understand that positive tests were merely the tip of the iceberg. Our hospital was changing its policies — about visitors, elective procedures and more — by the hour. My mother and mother-in-law had walked into the hospital that morning with us — and thankfully got to meet our son, Percival — but by the afternoon, they were told to leave.
I wouldn’t trade those first few days in the hospital together — with only me, my husband and our first child — for anything. Without a parade of friends and family walking in to meet him, we had him all to ourselves; we cherished this concentrated time and focused on treasuring the new life we had just ushered into our lives and hearts.
There was a dark symmetry to our cozy, blissful scene: As we nurtured Percy’s new life, just beyond the walls of our small hospital room, death and suffering were spreading in our state, our country and around the world.
A nation adjusts to coronavirus
At this point in March, there were more than 125,000 cases of COVID-19 reported globally. About the same time we were in the hospital, some women giving birth in other parts of the country were discouraged or prohibited from having their partners in the hospital with them. We counted our blessings that we did not have to face this choice.
On March 14, when I called my mother to tell her we were coming 真人百家家乐官网网站home, her response — "Why? Stay another day! I like having your house to myself!" — made us laugh. But could being at the hospital, where only the sickest were bound to come, put us and our new child even more of a risk? To lessen our risk of exposure, we decided to leave as soon as possible.
Seniors lack caregiver support: which we don’t, I knew it would be difficult to incorporate them into my lived experience. This made me realize a broader truth about human nature: fear and emotion are powerful, and it requires continuous, vigilant effort to avoid succumbing to them.
Paradox of life and death
We were in the midst of celebrating new life, but we were also surrounded by death. In my own case, there was, of course, the ever-present threat of the lethal COVID-19, but also the looming grief of my grandmother’s passing just two months before my son’s birth.
Reflecting on this juxtaposition of new life and death led me to a realization: The same thing that makes death so difficult is what makes new life so beautiful.
The bereaved grieve the death of a loved one because of their uniqueness: There will never be another person like my grandmother again, and her absence in my life is painful. But the uniqueness of each person’s life is also what makes the birth of our son a moment of such joy. After all, there never has been, and never will be, another person like him. How privileged are we to be the stewards of the gift of his life?
Psychologist Carl Jung wrote that paradox enriches our existence and supports the “widening of consciousness beyond the narrow confines of a tyrannical intellect,” and allows us to comprehend “the fullness of life.” Bringing in, and caring for, new life during such a disruptive time offers many paradoxes that can remind us of what is most important.
The absence of the physical presence of loved ones makes us appreciate all the times we have had them. Widespread death has elevated for us the beauty, miracle and preciousness of human life — young and old alike. The ample despair has trained us to look for — and hold on to — the windows of hope.
These are lessons that can see us through the pandemic, and beyond.
Alexandra Hudson is a 2019 Robert Novak journalism fellow, a Young Voices contributor and a writer based in Indianapolis. She is writing a book on civility and civil society.