Your first year of life hasn’t at all been what I had imagined, I’ve said it a hundred times.

I gave birth to you, my precious girl, my first baby, just months before the pandemic started in the height of cold and flu season. You were so tiny and new to the world; you and I spent the first months of your life in self-imposed quarantine as I feared you would catch the flu from strangers in public places where I couldn’t control whether or not they had vaccinated. I had read the heart-wrenching stories of babies contracting RSV and spending weeks with their tiny, fragile bodies hooked up to a ventilator in the NICU. I was determined to keep you, my sweet baby, safe and healthy.

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There would be time later for us to explore the world outside the safe confines of our own home.

I returned to work in early March after a 16-week maternity leave. I cherished every single moment with you during my leave and I was filled with trepidation at returning to work, not spending every moment with you. By mid-March, just when I thought we would be ending our self-imposed quarantine and joyfully introducing you to the world, I found out that things would continue as they had before but there was a new and scary threat on the horizon, and the rest of the world would be joining us in quarantine. I would also now be working from home full-time and caring for you full-time, without the help of a babysitter while fulfilling the demands of my job.

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I’ve read a lot of articles about the challenges of parenting school-aged children and working during a pandemic—and I feel for the parents who are making the hard choices about whether or not to send their children back to school in the fall, and oscillating between homeschooling and staff meetings, but what I haven’t read a lot about are the parents who are splitting their time between conference calls and their infant’s near-constant need for attention.

No, you’re not learning how to read or write, it’s true. But you are learning about your place in the world and whether you can trust that someone will come when you cry, and that feels big and important to me, too.

You are only a baby once and I am worried that I am messing it all up by dividing my attention between you and my work—but what choice do I have? I didn’t have any practice to prepare me for being a full-time, work-from-home mom without access to my support system.

I thought that the first year of your life would be spent surrounded by loved ones—your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close family friends. Instead, it’s mostly been just you and me. I’ve treasured every single second we’ve spent together, and I believe we are closer than we would have been if life had gone according to plan.

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So, on the days that it’s hard, the days when I am on deadline and have hours of back to back conference calls and you’re crying for my attention because let’s be honest, you deserve it, and I feel like I can’t possibly do it all, let alone do it well, I will remember to be thankful for each extra moment I have had with you in the safety of our own little bubble.

There will be days and months and years for us to do all of the things I’ve dreamt about later, but for now, it’s just you and me.

Your first year of life hasn’t at all been what I had imagined, I’ve said it a hundred times, but in so many ways it’s been better and I wouldn’t trade one single moment.

Chelsey McCarthy

Chelsey is the mama of one sweet baby girl and one grumpy bulldog. By day she works in patient advocacy with the rare disease and cancer communities. She is overly sentimental and an aspiring writer.