1016 Letters from the Pandemic 19: My Dearest Maddie

Letters from the Pandemic 19: My Dearest Maddie
by Cindy Li

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My Dearest Maddie:

Maddie’s newborn photo

When your dad and I learned that we were expecting you, I could not in my wildest dreams have guessed what kind of world you would be born into.

On February 22, 2020, you were born at BC Women’s Hospital. It was a smooth delivery, everything I could’ve hoped for, and we were ecstatic. Your delighted grandparents and uncle visited us, barely able to contain their joy.

That was the last time they saw you for many months.

Two weeks after your birth, Canada entered a nationwide lockdown to prevent the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. Despite the virus being recognized early on to disproportionately affect the elderly and immunocompromised, I took no chances with you, my darling. Except for your doctor’s appointments (which we later learned that we were lucky to attend as many doctors stopped seeing even their infant patients), we stayed home almost all the time. Your dad went out to get groceries for us while you and I remained in our little cocoon of safety.

In those early days, it was as if we were in a haze. To say we were blindsided is an understatement. We were swimming, not walking, through each day. The sleepless fog of parenting a newborn combined with the social isolation of the pandemic was truly a bizarre and unprecedented experience for your father and me. I had trouble with nursing early on and couldn’t even see a lactation consultant anymore. We were unable to get help from family or friends. Even now, they’ve had little opportunity to see you in person, let alone hold you in their arms.

Cindy Li with her husband and Maddie

But despite the shock of it all, we are fortunate enough to say that it wasn’t a purely negative experience for our little family. There were definitely some silver linings in the mix. For one thing, your dad was able to work from home and spend more time with us, particularly you. And of course, I very much valued the help he could give occasionally while working from home. He now laments that if you were to get a younger sibling, he may not have the same opportunity.

At the beginning of the lockdown, you wouldn’t think there were any crowds, but there were. The entire city flocked to the seawall and the beaches in droves. We avoided crowds like the plague (quite literally) and explored back roads instead on what we called our “COVID walks.” We got to see hidden cotton-candy blossoming trees and visited smaller, lesser-known local businesses as they cautiously began to reopen. When the restrictions eased up a little, I started meeting with mom groups outside so that you could have a chance to stare and babble at other babies from two metres away. It wasn’t much, but it was something, and I relished the time we were able to spend outdoors in the sunshine.

Maddie at six months

And this whole time, you were growing, learning, doing amazing things day by day. The pandemic brought the world to a halt, but it couldn’t stop you. Your first smile. Your first laugh. Your first roll, your first sit, your first crawl. Your dad and I found endless wonder in witnessing each of your firsts. We took you to the park to show you the colourful autumn trees, and you tugged on the branches and laughed in delight as you observed the masses of gold swaying above you. You babbled at dogs at the dog park and squinted at the sunlight sparkling on the water. You waved at strangers and regularly made them laugh and smile. You brought infinite joy to your grandparents through video calls and short walks outside.

Now, as you prepare to start transitioning into daycare, you’ll have to interact with your caretakers through the barrier of a mask for some time still. But I know you are adaptable and resilient and strong, and you will flourish in spite of these still existing COVID conditions. I’m thankful that you will finally enjoy the human contact and socialization that is your birthright. Vaccines are rolling out, and we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

So keep learning and growing, my darling, and know that we not only survived the pandemic — we thrived in it. For many, 2020 was understandably a year to forget. But for us it was the best year yet: it brought you into our lives.

Love always and forever,
Mama

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Cindy Li

Cindy Li is a master’s student in the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Simon Fraser University. She grew up in Richmond, BC, and has had an interest in liberal arts since an early age. She previously studied English linguistics and psychology at the University of British Columbia, and currently works in communications and marketing at SFU.

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The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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