I am rarely surprised or frightened by the world around me.
When COVID-19 first came out and I kept hearing people worry about it, I kept becoming annoyed by it all and saying, “Yeah yeah yeah. Relax people. Why aren’t we worried about the common flu that kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people every year just in the US? Or heart disease, which kills 650,000 people in the US every year? Or car accidents that kill 35,000 people every year in the US?” I kept saying, “this is a media-driven panic, goddamnit! Turn off your TV!”
I heard a very wise man on NPR say “If it’s in the news, it’s not worth worrying about, because by its very nature of being on the news, it is rare. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth mentioning.” News stations don’t report on the woman that died of heart disease last night, or the kid that got killed in a car accident over the weekend. Those things happen all too often and we’re already bored of them. Give us something new and novel and spine tingling. Killer bees! Serial killer! Armed robbers in your house ready to stab you while you sleep! Beautiful white american girl kidnapped in Mexico! Satanic Ritual killings! Child killed by trampoline! Child drowned in neighbor’s pool! Child killed by dry cleaning bag! Poodle killed by mountain lion! H1N1, SARS, Bird Flu! Y2K!
If they can get you tuned in, scared, and buying things, they are doing their job.
At the beginning of all this, the media was doing its job perfectly. It even got us to make a run on toilet paper; a completely unnecessary product for the situation on hand. I saw the pattern and ignored it and am still really annoyed about the toilet paper thing.
But when I saw companies being forced to send their workers home and state mandates requiring all restaurants and gathering places be shut down for the time being, I started listening. All my conspiratorial juices ran out, cause if companies in this most capitalistic, bottom-line-driven, consumerist country stop making money and actually submit to lawmakers causing them to lose money in order to stop the spread of a virus, what conspiracy is left to me? Conspiracy always has to do with money. Power also, yes, but money buys power. Maybe the real threat is yet to reveal itself. Time will tell, but for now, I’m fresh out of my usual cynicism.
In the world immediately around me, 9/11 was the last thing that surprised and frightened me. The reaction to this virus is the second thing.
I believe it is a dangerous virus and I won’t downplay it as I did in the beginning, but it truly is the reaction we’ve had that is surprising and frightening. A huge portion of our country’s economy has completely shut down. Half of us aren’t working! What’s going to happen with Creditors? Mortgages? Rents? How many small businesses are going to go under? Will the banks do what they owe the American tax payers and bail these people out? Part of my surprise and fear is that this isn’t just an American thing. Other, much more chill and reasonable countries, are shutting down too! This is on a global scale. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be nearly as surprised.
I am nine months pregnant and overdue by one day as I write this article. I am not worried about getting coronavirus, nor of my baby getting it. I have done some research and it has not been deadly to any infants, nor to the majority of people as healthy as I am. I recognize how blessed that makes me to be so healthy, and am grateful for that.
The most consuming thing in my life at the moment is giving birth. It is pretty much all I think about as I sit around my house and wait for the contractions to finally begin. It’s like waiting for water to boil, only worse and it takes way longer. What I am most worried about is how this virus is going to affect my delivery. I’m a little worried that they could close the border between Washington, where I live, and Oregon, where I am going to deliver my baby girl at Good Samaritan hospital. Or, more likely, that the hospital might not allow my husband to be there when I give birth if I go too far over my due date and they end up putting new policies in place by the time I go into labor. As it is, I am allowed only one visitor at the hospital, and it has to be the same visitor for the duration of my stay. It is not the delivery I had been envisioning these last nine months and I’ve accepted that. It is what it is, and my friends and family will eventually meet my baby.
But the thing I’m really struggling with is that I usually make no concessions with these kinds of things, and I’ve had to start making concessions. It is a blow to my pride and my identity.
I was refusing to go buy toilet paper for a good long while, just out of spite for the ridiculousness, but then my husband asked me to and I couldn’t in good conscience make him suffer in spite like I wanted to (Plus, I have a bidet and could live completely fine without TP. He does not share my affinity for the bidet.) So I went and bought two 24-packs of ultra mega roll toilet paper cause that’s all that was left on the shelf and I was angry about it all day, my hand forced by the great mob of lemmings: right off a cliff we all go with our million feet and one shared brain and rolls upon rolls of toilet paper.
Also, I have been socially distancing and staying home unless absolutely necessary for a solid week like a good little citizen.
But the other concession I’ve made is something I truly didn’t want to do, and am quite fearful about. My ob-gyn had wanted to induce my 40-year-old geriatric pregnant self at 39 weeks. I told her at the time she suggested it that I would rather wait until they absolutely have to induce, which is at 42 weeks, assuming I would go into labor naturally well before that. I watched my identical twin be induced and it looked like 23 hours of torture. Her body just wasn’t ready for labor and she suffered tremendously more than needed because her doctor convinced her to be induced. I am very afraid of induced labor because of that experience and the other hellacious induction stories by women I know personally. Heck no! I told my doctor. Not a chance.
But now, with the uncertainty around keeping this virus in check, I’ve gone and changed my induction from April 6th (the 42-week mark), to this Thursday, March 26 (40-week mark), which was the soonest they could fit me in. I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting too long, not going into natural labor before the hospital changed policy again, and then not being allowed my husband there with me to see our one and only child be born. This is once in a lifetime stuff. I hate that I was frightened into changing that. It makes me feel like another sheep: like one of the mob, buying into the fear mongering done by the media, even though I understand that there’s good reason for it all.
I’m doing my best to look at the positives and am genuinely buoyed by the ways our society’s solidarity to end the spread of the virus has created some togetherness in the current culture of divisive otherness. On a smaller scale, I also know it’s good to embrace anything that challenges and/or diminishes my ego; I had just hoped that the act of having a baby alone would fill my quota on that front.