Since my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our daughter Lucy in October 2019, I started to write little notes to her, things I hope to share with her one day when she’s older. My letters to Lucy started as a bonding process and a way to document my pregnancy. As the pandemic hit the United States in the spring, at the beginning of my third trimester, the letters shifted as documentation of the unusual and chaotic world she was about to join.
My letters described wearing masks at the grocery store and social distancing. They are practices that I hope will be entirely foreign to her. I’ve also documented the hospital protocols that I had to follow during my prenatal care and how her birth was shaped by policies associated with the pandemic. Yes, the story of her birth also included what it was like getting tested for COVID-19 and wearing a mask during labor, but the larger emphasis was on all of the amazing doctors and nurses who worked so hard to safely and joyfully welcome Lucy into this world. With every visit we make to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital for Lucy’s wellness checkups, I remain in awe and gratitude for all of the health-care providers who are taking care of us.
My letters talk about what it was like to introduce her to her grandparents via FaceTime. Every day at dinnertime, I FaceTime with my parents while Lucy plays on the floor. While they’ve thankfully been able to visit on occasion, these nightly FaceTime sessions provide Lucy with a regular connection to her Gigi and Papa. They “play” peekaboo with her and watch her play. They’re able to say goodnight to her every day. Even though it’s remote, it’s clear that she recognizes them. She beams every time they appear.
My letters describe what it was like to go back to work at Georgetown University in a virtual environment, which means that Lucy is usually no more than 2 feet from my “office” (my laptop). They record what it was like having her “sit in” on staff meetings and how, on more than one occasion, I’ve had to deal with diaper blowouts mid-meeting. But my notes also recall funny moments when she’s babbled along during work conversations and how my office has “watched” Lucy grow up.
But the main theme that encapsulates these letters is the outpouring of love and kindness we’ve received. I never doubted that Lucy would enter this world already loved by so many people. That was evident throughout my entire pregnancy. But as it increasingly looked like it would just be my husband and I caring for Lucy without any additional help, friends and family sent food, baby supplies, and anything else they thought could be helpful for raising a newborn in a pandemic. Each time a package arrived, I was filled with gratitude for people offering their virtual support. Even if people couldn’t physically be there for Lucy, their loving support was profoundly evident.
Our beautiful baby girl is now 7 months old and is blissfully unaware of what a tumultuous year it has been. Her unbridled joy provides daily joy, even when so much of our future seems uncertain. When she’s older, I cannot wait to share these letters with her and remind her that even when the world feels upside down and loved ones are far away, she has always been surrounded by love.
Vanessa Corcoran is Lucy’s mom and is an academic counselor and medieval historian at Georgetown University.