I’ve been giving you side eye for more than a decade now. You’re an integral part of me, but I haven’t wanted much to do with you. Yet I find myself oddly grateful for you during this time of self-isolation.
Once before, because of you, I was forced to stay home for months. With the hindsight that’s only ever available years later, I know I needed to slow down, to learn how to wait, to find a different path.
I’ve been giving you side eye for more than a decade now. You’re an integral part of me, but I haven’t wanted much to do with you. Yet I find myself oddly grateful for you during this time of self-isolation. Once before, because of you, I was forced to stay home for months. With the hindsight that’s only ever available years later, I know I needed to slow down, to learn how to wait, to find a different path.
During my first pregnancy, when you began to open much too early, for no discernible reason, I felt like you failed me. Dashed were my dreams of how my pregnancy would go. Instead of bebopping around with my growing belly on full display, I got thirteen weeks of bedrest. Ninety-one days of feeling lost in my very own Bermuda triangle as I moseyed from my bed to the bathroom to the doctor’s office and back to bed.
The one exciting outing I was allowed—to my sister-in-law’s wedding—ended early with a trip to the drug store to purchase suppositories because my horrendous constipation was causing my belly to cramp and contract. Nothing went according to the plans I had carefully arranged this stage of my life around.
I relinquished so much in that mysterious waiting zone: my idyllic dreams, the pregnancy orgasms, a pain-free back, my identity as a distinct entity, separate from my baby, and eventually my teaching career.
As the days of this Covid-19 lockdown pile up, I’m experiencing déjà vu. Memories of bedrest crowd my mind.
The first few days felt like a vacation in Shocksville. I couldn’t quite comprehend the looming danger or face the particular what-ifs, and it felt pretty nice to sleep in and relax and get special attention.
The following few days were harder. All the plans I’d been making to keep my life “just so” were cancelled. I couldn’t wash my own underwear, much less decorate a nursery. There was no longer plenty of time to make long-term sub plans for my classroom babies. New disappointments arose every day as I realized more things I was missing while I hung out at home: a bachelorette trip, a baby shower, the freedom to go anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted.
But I tried to hold it together because I was okay. There was no good reason to cry. Other people were looking to me to know how to respond to this crisis, and by golly, I could be the strong one. Even if every moment felt like a slog.
Finally, the breakdown came.
And then the surrender.
I learned how to exist in this new space without making too many plans. To let go of the hustle that had guided my every move for too many years to count. To unhitch from the identity I’d carved out of my profession and to get to curious about who I might be if my world was different.
That curiosity led me to pivot just a couple of short years later from a teacher to a stay-at-home mom, to an editor running my own business, to a published author.
The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic have very much mimicked my bedrest experience: the shock and incomprehension of my new circumstances, but gratitude for a break from the grind; then my futile attempt to power my way through the disappointment of all my book events being cancelled; the snotty heart-broken wails as I lay on my closet floor and grieved my loss.
I’m somewhere between the breakdown and the surrender. In that intense crucible of the waiting room—the place where what I’d planned transmutes into what the divine has planned for me.
I am so grateful to you, Cervix, for that enforced rest twelve years ago because, now that I’m so far on the other side of it, I can clearly see its purpose. There were so many gifts waiting for me that I could never have imagined if I’d stayed that version of me.
The enforced waiting room of Covid-19 is different, of course. The intensity of the waiting is amplified because the whole world is in this space. For far too many, there is loss that feels like too much to hold. Illness that takes people to the brink of death, and maybe beyond. Loss of loved ones. The shuttering of a business that was someone’s life’s work. And for many others, the fear of experiencing similar tragedies is just as hard, especially when circumstances dictate that they can’t stay home to protect themselves because they’re a healthcare worker, or the woman who can’t feed herself, or her family, if she doesn’t show up to her job.
My own lockdown is fairly comfortable. Lockdown is such a dramatic word. I’m not an inmate. I’m snugged up in my pj’s, in my safe and comfy home, trying to keep the balls in the air: the work, the caretaking, the feeding and watering of the plants, animals, and children. Sneaking in moments of breathing and meditation and Wild Soul Movement. Too much screen time. Not enough sweets. Too much booze. Not enough activity. But overall, everything that I need to ride out this pandemic in comfort.
I am so, so grateful for that, and I also recognize how many of my privileges have afforded me this level of safety. I’m also grateful to you. Thank you, Cervix, for opening too early. Had I not been placed on bedrest, I wouldn’t have the experience to lean into that reminds me I can wait. I can trust. I can just “be” in this very terrible moment.
I don’t know yet what is coming after Covid-19, or how the world and her people will be changed for good or bad or both. Or how I will be changed for good or bad or both. But once before, I have been forced into my home, made to sit still, and wait, all the while, hoping and praying for the best. So that’s what I’ll do now. Sit still and wait, all the while, hoping and praying for the best.
Note: This essay was first published in April 2020, a few weeks into the global COVID-19 pandemic.