Column: A new grandchild, a new life in the time of Covid

Lisa Versprille Burkett [Courtesy]

SANDBRIDGE — He is a mushy, squeezable, slippery, sweet-smelling new human being that smiles at me while I change his clothes.

He vocalizes at me with a high-pitched gurgle like a love song I’ve waited all my life to hear. He grins at me with a sly look that says he thinks he recognizes me. I want to crush him in my arms and kiss his sweet cheeks over and over.

He is my pandemic grandson, born in 2020, to new parents who have tried their best to keep their jobs while protecting him from the coronavirus.

There was huge anticipation for this baby to be born. My daughter-in-law’s much-planned baby shower in March was canceled when she and my oldest son learned of this highly contagious virus coming from overseas. Concerns escalated as we all wondered how prepared the hospital team would be to safely deliver the most precious thing in the world.

We didn’t need to worry. My son drove my daughter-in-law to a hospital in Alexandria when she went into labor. They were ushered in and cared for by loving and concerned health care professionals. The next day, they sent a text with a picture of the most beautiful baby boy, his eyes wide open, already looking around at his new world.

I’d imagined I would be there the next day, the beaming grandmother rushing to the hospital to see the continuance of our family embodied in a small and beautiful new baby. But I was not allowed to come up to their room and celebrate the birth of our first grandchild on both sides of the family.  

Not quite 48 hours later, they were told they could go home to Arlington, but I couldn’t come up to help them settle in because the virus was permeating Virginia. Anybody could have it, some without even knowing they did. It was too dangerous.

It was heartbreaking for me. How would they survive without help? My own mother, who had never been on an airplane, flew to Orlando when my first son was born. That son is now the father of his own child. We mothers are supposed to be there for our children when they need us. But Covid testing wasn’t widely available yet. So, I waited.

Eventually in June, after my fiancé and I had been tested and quarantined, they came to visit us in Sandbridge. They arrived late at night, and I waited up to see them.  

I cried when my son walked in. He held the most perfect, sleepy baby I had ever seen. He handed this blanket-wrapped soul to me, and I stared at this new human just as I had with my own babies. I had loved this child even before I laid eyes on him.  

Grandparents are a gift to children, but grandchildren are just as much a gift to us.

It’s not because, as some say, these children eventually go home, and we don’t have to care for them 24 hours a day. It’s because babies remind us of the joy and unconditional love that we experienced as young parents ourselves. They represent the continuance of life.

No matter what is going on in the world, new life finds a way to prevail in situations that aren’t perfect. Love perpetuates life. The importance and continuity of the family is reaffirmed. I have seen my grandchild five times in person and many times on Facebook Live. His sweet face comforts me and gives this new grandmother strength.

I understand more fully the reason I was born so this beautiful, unique human being could eventually follow behind me. I know in my heart that my pandemic-born grandchild has already made the world better for the people that love him. Like all babies born in 2020, I hope they remember the vulnerability that existed in the world when it was their turn to arrive, and the resilience of their parents to keep them safe.  

As the great band Blood, Sweat & Tears sang: “And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on.”

The author is a new grandparent who lives in Sandbridge.

© 2021 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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