The process of bringing a life into the world — the enormous, almost debilitating responsibility of it, the daily miracles one witnesses as the 40 weeks unfold — defies all sense of normalcy.
And yet it happens so often that we have grown accustomed to its mystery. It is, after all, how our species survives.
Now, however, in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed over 280,000 lives, being pregnant seems weighted with more meaning than before. It certainly is a much more uncertain time. Enter Katie Mitchell and Kyle Lovseth. The Iola residents are expecting their first child, due in early July.
Katie, a professor of sociology at Allen Community College, came to Iola from Austin, Texas in 2017. Originally from a small town in southeastern Iowa, Katie has a sister, brother-in-law and niece in Kansas City. Coming to Iola felt, in a way, like coming home. In short order, she convinced her husband Kyle, a Kansas native, to follow.
The couple is 31 weeks into their pregnancy. They’ve arranged to deliver the baby at Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute.
The only constant seems to be change. Katie receives a call before each visit updating her of any modifications to procedures. For their prenatal visits, both are now required to wear masks. For two months now, they’ve known that Kyle will be the only person allowed in the delivery room. No doula, and much to the disappointment of Katie’s mom, no grandmas.
In spite of a pandemic raging through the country, both Katie and Kyle, however, seem quite serene. Both work at home and spend their free time gardening or walking their two dogs.
Katie remarks, “It’s been nice to stay active. I feel like we’ve been very lucky to get out and do things outdoors and on the trails. Especially for a small town, there’s quite a lot going on.” She’s sewn masks for the couple to wear while out and about, and Katie tries to limit her visits to the supermarket to just once a week.
Kyle, who works for the University of Texas and describes himself as “done with the making friends phase of his life,” has been remarkably unaffected by social distancing. “My life,” he says, “has changed very little.”
THE EFFECTS of the coronavirus pandemic on Katie’s pregnancy, however, are impossible to ignore. The hospital’s child birthing class has been canceled. Katie’s been unable to get together with friends and family, and in Katie’s words, “Neither my mom nor my mother-in-law is technically savvy enough to have a virtual baby shower,” so that option’s off the table.
“There’s so much that’s changing quickly and so much that we don’t know that it’s hard to know how scared I should be as a pregnant woman, how scared we should be for our newborn infant once our infant is born,” Katie said. “It’s going to be a drastically different world that we’re bringing a baby into.”
Like so many across the country, both have taken the nation’s increasingly precarious economy into account. While both still have full-time jobs and without many of the distractions to spend money, Katie insists they have been lucky. Kyle, however, differs. “I feel less confident than Katie does. I don’t feel that I would get fired. I’m more worried about the survival of my organization. We’ll see.”
No matter the circumstances their child is born into, he or she will likely have the needs of all babies, pandemic or not. And when one runs down that list — a safe and welcoming home, loving parents, time to spend goo-ing and gaa-ing and smiling into a newborn’s eyes — Katie and Kyle seem to have all of the above in abundance. You’re never really ready to have a child, but they seem to be awfully close.
Taking stock of the situation of so many, “We have been really lucky,” Katie says.
She continues, “There’s some disappointment that I haven’t been able to be as physically close to friends and family as I would have liked in this period and leading up to and right after the baby’s birth, but I guess the good thing is that I’m fairly good at not worrying about the unknown.
“I know there are scary moments ahead and I know having a child in this brave new world will be different. I don’t know how to visualize how scary that will or won’t be. And the good thing is that we won’t have a choice. We’ll just have to deal with it because it will be our reality.”
Wise words. And in the midst of a pandemic, many of us would do well to take them to heart. This is now the world we live in, and the advice one often gives to first-time parents rings true here as well: One day at a time.
Listen to the full interview with Katie and Kyle on our podcast “Registered” here or find us wherever you listen to podcasts.