My baby is helping me remain calm and focused in an unnerving time.
With COVID-19 on the rise, this is a particularly scary time for parents. Perhaps most frightening is the unknown of the disease’s full effect on babies and children.
While I would not wish my baby to have to go through this time in a million years, there are actually some hidden blessings to having a newborn right now. Besides the closet filled with wet wipes and sanitizing products, having a 3-month-old is helping our family get through an extremely stressful period with grace, humor, and most importantly, hope.
To begin, having a baby requires us be present. Fear is often the brain jumping forward to what could happen in the future, but when you are taking care of someone else — someone who relies on you for survival — you must be fully in the moment. It is hard to think about anything else, when you’re dealing with a blowout emergency or singing songs together.
To act afraid when babies can be so sensitive to even the slightest shift in our attention changes the dynamic. The minute that my mind wanders toward fear or I start to scroll on my phone for updates, our baby seems to sense it and reacts. He draws me back to him with gentle squawks and squeals or sometimes, quite literally, with his hands pulling my face toward his.
At a time when we are being asked to stay away from one another and to practice “social distancing,” babies are a powerful source of connection. Feeling their tiny hands wrap around your fingers or the way they gaze deeply into your eyes brings you back to the moment.
As my son nears 4 months, we are in a phase where he is becoming increasingly interactive. Our apartment lights up with the sounds of his coos and laughs. It fills the increasing silence of the city outside. Plus, I will take a nonsensical noise exchanges with my son over small talk with strangers any day. There is no more satisfying conversation.
Babies elicit calm. When a parent and baby connect chest to chest, whether for a snuggle or in a carrier, the heart rates of both the baby and the parent not only lower but even seem to synchronize. There is nothing more calming than hugging my son in close. An instant feeling of relief washes over me.
This was particularly helpful the first weeks of his life when we were both sleep-deprived and tear-soaked in the middle of the night. It is equally, if not more so, helpful now when there seems to be a frightening news update every hour. My sister was in New York during 9/11 very close to the twin towers, and later that day she went to her best friend’s house to just hold her baby. They are powerful healers.
Babies are a source of joy. Literally. Spending time with babies increases two key pleasure hormones in our brains — dopamine and oxytocin. No matter how bad the news of the day or how upset I may be, when I hold my baby close, and he flashes me a toothless grin, my mood is immediately lifted.
And they are hilarious — from being super smooshy as newborns to their little laughs and developing senses of humor. I find myself belly laughing with our son multiple times a day, and we all know laughter is the best medicine.
Finally, I would do anything for my son and our family. During this pandemic, this has meant making decisions to take care of myself better than I perhaps would have otherwise. Like, stopping visits to my favorite coffee shop or fitness classes well before I would have if I were single. And constant hand washing has been implemented since he was born. By taking care of my son, I am learning how to take care of myself better at a time when my health is important for the greater good.
The city of San Francisco was just mandated to stay home for 3 weeks, and while many joke that they are already “bored,” there is no place I would rather be than home with my family. It is especially a gift for my husband who gets to work from home during this important time in our son’s development.
This means that we’ll all be together for his first laugh, his first time rolling over, and the many other firsts soon to come. In a time when jobs are uncertain for many and those who need to work outside the home feel at risk, we don’t take these moments for granted. That is truly a blessing!
Babies are a reminder of hope. That all is not lost. We have a bright future ahead and we will get through this difficult time. The proof is giggling right in front of me.
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher trainer. Based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love to one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website, www.sarahezrinyoga.com.