Every morning I wake up and the headlines look a little bit more like a post-apocalyptic novel. Today’s included:
Trump suspends most travel from Europe to try to limit virus
Tom Hanks and his wife both have Coronavirus
NBA suspends season after player tests positive for Coronavirus
I think back to the long list of worries that I shared with my husband before conceiving this baby, chief among them was: “Is it really prudent, to introduce a new human into our world right now, with so much going so wrong?”
And now, here we are — 3 weeks away from doing just that. In the midst of a pandemic. Already resources around us are getting scarce. Duane Reades have been out of toilet paper for the past week. Their cold and flu aisle ravaged, shelves nearly empty. Nobody can find hand sanitizer or soap anywhere. Local businesses are getting fined for severely marking up the prices of sick masks. Our hospital has instituted a two-person visitor policy for birthing mothers, not to extend beyond the partner or grandparents. And I’m working from home, in all likelihood up through when this baby arrives.
It’s a funny feeling, to look around the baby’s nursery with such a sense of expectation and wonder, while the energy and anxiety of the rest of the world seems to mount every day. I wonder what shoe will drop first. Will New York City go into quarantine before this baby arrives? Or will she get here just before things really start to fall apart?
It’s hard to say how much panic is warranted. Surely a lot of this is playing into our macabre, survivalist side as humans, that dark part of us that secretly wants to know everything that can go wrong will go wrong. It’s the same sentiment that drew me to hours of reading on baby forum threads, depicting all of the possible ways that a baby might die prematurely. The same reason we ogle at accidents and can’t look away from the photos in global catastrophes.
But part of it is real. People are dying. The disease is spreading. We’ve spent so much of the past five years living on the edge — on the brink of geo-political collapse, nuclear war threats, and climate crisis updates — that it wouldn’t take much to throw humanity into a total meltdown. This is the virus that broke the camel’s back. We’ve run out of willpower to contain our decorum.
And so we say we’re not scared when out with friends, but in the privacy of our own homes, we stock up on canned food. We say the world is going crazy, but we encourage our own employees and teams to work remotely. We’ve spent the past four years teaching ourselves not to trust each other. Now we’re going into self-imposed isolation to just prove how little we need anyone else. We say it’s for the greater good, we rebrand it as “social distancing” so it doesn’t sound quite so dreary. And yet, I find it a little ironic that, at a time when the world needs to come together to fight this, our best advice so far has been to stay as far away from other people as we can get.
We’ve been practicing for this for years, perfecting the technology we need to live wholly independent from interaction with other humans. As long as we have access to the Internet, we have a lifeline. We can talk to anyone from anywhere, accomplish workplace collaboration through comment bubbles and emoji reactions. I think back to all of the futuristic movies and books that have completed the painting of this picture for us: WALL-E, where humans sit in chairs staring at screens for so long that they all become obese and lose the capacity to walk. Seveneves, where upon waiting for disaster to strike, pockets of humanity live in tiny bubbles in space, connected only through a social network that documents everything. We’ve already taught ourselves how to see only what we want to about other people. Depending how long this lasts, we may forget how to see each other as humans entirely.
Will this baby meet her grandparents and cousins for the first time by iPad? Will birth rates decline as humans globally spend less time interacting with each other? Will fear take over so completely that we retreat away from globalism, trusting only those who are in our most immediate circle? We can only take it one day at a time. I just hope we don’t lose our humanity along the way.