At the start of 2020 my partner, Anna and I decided it was time to try and start a family. By March we were asking ourselves whether it was still the right time or not. Would it be right to bring a new human into the world amidst such uncertainty and worry? Knowing it could take us a while to get pregnant and believing, like many others, that things would be back to normal in a few months, we agreed we wouldn’t put our lives on hold. By April we were pregnant.
Anna has been on the extremely clinically vulnerable list due to her lowered immune system, so as well as adhering to all the restrictions, she’s had to shield for much of 2020. She missed out on friends and family seeing her with a bump and getting the normal types of support and encouragement expectant mum’s need during such an exciting and nerve wracking time. She had to go to all but one of her hospital appointments and scans alone and I couldn’t stay in hospital with her after the long and complicated birth. She’s missed out on baby groups, cuddles with family and friends, and socialising with other parents at a vulnerable time of her life. Throughout all this she’s continued to work her tough job without the face to face support of her colleagues and while studying for her master’s degree in her spare time. Somehow, she’s taken all this in her stride. I’ve had to accept my position through the pregnancy, on the side-lines, cheering her along and doing my best to lighten her load wherever I can. Astounded at her resilience, patience and strength; privileged to bear witness to what she’s achieved. An incredible role model for our daughter.
While the last year has been tough, and there’s been much to feel stressed and anxious about, I can honestly say that now, one year on, the strongest feeling that shines through is gratitude. We have been lucky enough to welcome a new life into our home. Luna joined us on 05 January 2021 and changed our world forever. She’s filled us with a sense of unbridled hope and the potential for better days to come. She allows us to look at and appreciate the simpler things in life through new eyes.
We’re grateful that we live in one of the greatest cities on the planet and are close enough to beautiful places we can explore near our home. Over the last year we’ve found ourselves ever more present and appreciative of our immediate environment and the simple enjoyment of a walk. Despite the social distance, we’ve also looked out for and become closer to all our neighbours and so have felt more a part of our community than ever before. I hope that the positive impact on the environment the restrictions have had, and the new found respect for nature and community people have found, does not get lost in the rush to bring back the old normal.
We’ve both been lucky enough to continue working from home throughout this time meaning we have been able to pay our bills, as well as keep ourselves safe; a privilege not afforded to all and one which we do not take for granted. As a result, we’ve spent so much more time together and haven’t got (completely) sick of each other yet! Now Luna is here, it’s meant more flexibility too, no commute means more family time, and last week I was able to rush down and catch Luna giggling for the first time, something I’d have missed if I’d been in the office.
I’ve also spent more time on personal growth and my own mental health than ever, something which being on the proverbial hamster wheel can prevent us from ever really doing properly. With a new perspective I’m able to consider some of my unconscious behaviours and the impact they were having on my life before the pandemic hit. I’m realising the value of talking about my own mental-health and thereby giving permission to those around me to do the same. I believe working on these things will ultimately make me a better partner, father and fellow human. Things will never go back to the way they were before for me, I’m not quite the same person anymore and I’m OK with that.
I do hope we realise as a species now that all it can take is the tiniest mutation of the tiniest particle to make the entire population of the planet fear the same invisible threat. When pushed, we can be united by a common goal. So rather than live in fear of the next catastrophe or division about how this one was dealt with, I hope we can instead remember that our borders, economies and cultures are just stories we’ve learned. We can unlearn them. We can adapt them. We can learn new ones: We are one, whether we felt like it before or not; when working together, humanity can solve big problems much more efficiently; the lowest paid and previously overlooked workers are the ones who hold society together, and kept doing so at their own risk during our hour of need; one elderly veteran can unite a country with a kind act and words of hope; just because we’ve always worked in a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s right; our species is a guest here, we need the planet but it does not need us.
So many people over the last year have sadly had to say goodbye to a loved one as a result of the pandemic. To those people who’ve lost someone or have friends or family who have fallen ill, my thoughts are with you. I believe the best way we can remember and pay tribute to them, is by learning and evolving from this experience as much as possible, by making the most of the privilege we have and using our platform to speak up for the causes we believe in. Instead of this year just being the end of the virus or the end of lockdowns, lets instead make it the start of something bigger and better for us all.