I often struggle to remember the exact date of my daughter’s birthday. I remember clearly that her due date was August 2nd, but her actual arrival date was 5 weeks earlier, give or take. Surprise! Home birth plans flew out the window and we rushed to the hospital. It was such a shock, that the date doesn’t stick, even after 18 years of birthdays and eye rolls.
At 4 lbs 9 ounces, she was tiny.
Put your hands side by side, pinkie of one hand touching the thumb of the other. Head goes in one hand, butt in the other. That’s exactly my position when I held her for the first time – when I noticed that she had her mother’s nose – and when I noticed that despite swaddling and a warm room, my daughter shivered with cold.
Another plot twist
I spoke with a nurse, who whisked our newborn away. She let us know that some premature infants can’t regulate their own body temperatures. She needed to be transferred to the infant ICU.
New parenthood is a confusing, joyous, stressful, sleepless time in the best of circumstances. During the first two weeks of our daughter’s life, we interacted with her through an incubator. Feeding time goal was 10 ml of formula. Any time we visited, we followed mandatory procedures to ensure we didn’t infect our daughter or the other infants in the ICU. Two minutes of hand washing to the elbows, booties on the feet, screened for illness – every time we visited, multiple times per day.
All of the doctors and nurses followed the same procedures, and none of them were without masks.
Life is fragile at that stage. Many of the children in the ICU were in worse condition than my daughter. The steps taken were done to ensure that those children made it.
As stressful as that experience was, I can imagine that new parents with children in the ICU right now are more stressed than I was. There’s more to worry about today.
I wear a mask in public spaces for those parents. They have enough on their minds. They don’t need to worry whether I’m going to give them a cold that would prevent them from seeing their child.
Two thought experiments
For those who struggle with the concept of wearing a mask because you believe it might make you ill, I’d ask you to consider why doctors and nurses – who clearly need their wits more than most of us – are able to wear masks for many hours a day during their entire careers. If, as a society, we were creating brain-damaged nurses and doctors, we’d know it.
For those who refuse to wear a mask in public spaces because you feel it violates a personal freedom, I’d ask you to read a short list of the sacrifices our grandparents made during World War II. Yes, you are being asked (or required) to wear a mask. That is far different than the sacrifices required of our parents or grandparents only a few decades ago. Consider that your mask represents a way to return the favor of their sacrifice – as you’ll be helping to keep those exact people healthy now.
After my daughter “graduated” from ICU and we were past the worry of whether she would survive, I had enough space to think about her future. I decided that she would be successful if she loved learning and if she had empathy for others. I’m happy to say that she has succeeded admirably on both of these goals. She loves school, won a contest to meet one of her idols, consistently helps her friends navigate the turmoil and drama of teenage life; and in November, she’ll vote for the first time in her life.
I think she’ll put that empathy and intelligence to good use.