Becoming Parents in a Pandemic
It has been a stressful eight months! Levi Fletcher Nikuzwe Barnes arrived in October and has completely changed our lives. We once would sleep in on Saturdays, would take leisurely walks in the afternoon/evening and plan our day as the hours ticked away. Those days are done and dusted! We now count our days in three hour blocks and celebrate if Levi takes a two hour nap! And we are still working to get him to sleep through the night.
In July 2020, we “repatriated” to the United States from South Africa because of the COVID19 pandemic and in preparation for Levi’s arrival. We spent nearly three months with my parents before Levi entered the world. Because of COVID19, we lived in a nearby house for two months in an effort to practice adequate social distancing. We would spend the evenings sitting on my parent’s sundeck exactly six feet apart. Before Levi’s birth and as Hurricane Sally was threatening the Gulf Coast, we moved in with my parents. After Levi’s birth, we waited for three months for Sheila and Levi’s passports to return from the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the passport were stuck in the United States Postal Services (USPS) because of the pandemic and the political games played with the USPS. This delayed our trip to Kigali Rwanda from December to February.
We finally departed the US in February for Kigali, Rwanda. We spent two nights in Turkey where Levi experience his first snowfall before continuing the trip to Kigali. I will talk more about our airplane woes in a different blog. Levi has been meeting with and getting to know the Rwandan relatives.
I say all this to illustrate that unlike other babies who have beautifully decorated baby rooms; Levi has been either sharing a bed with us (we know that it’s not recommended but he had his own bed that sat on top of our bed), sleeping in a portable bassinet and now sleeping in a borrowed pack & play. Levi already has four country stamps in his passport!
It has not been easy raising Levi in the midst of so much uncertainty in our lives. Our time in Rwanda is dwindling as we will be heading back to South Africa soon where we will be on our own raising Levi. We have started early training Levi how to sleep, play and eat. While the training has been successful in giving Levi a daily schedule and helping him sleep better at night, we are still working on sleeping through the night. This has also created some challenges as we know that any move or change of scenery can disrupt Levi’s schedule.
Since Levi’s arrival, I have learned that everyone has an opinion on how the baby should sleep, eat, spend their time during the day, the clothes he should wear, how to manage immunizations, etc. Africans are probably more vocal in their opinions and advice than Americans but Americans love to share their opinions too. As I mentioned, when Levi was born we were staying with my parents, my mom and dad often laughed at us that we used a book to schedule Levi’s days. They were always quick to remind me that they raised me 40 years ago and I turned out ok. We tried our best to navigate our book training with my parents’ experience raising children.
We were out at a shopping mall and had recently fed Levi. At the same time, he needed a diaper change. We had no choice but to lay him down and change his diaper. When we finished, we lifted Levi up and he spit up. At the same time, someone walked up and told us that we are not supposed to lay a baby down after eating! Thankfully, I had a mask on my face so the person could not read the discontent on my face!
Friends often tell us that the time will pass quickly so we should enjoy each feeding, each snuggle, each cry. Very soon, he will be telling you what he likes and what he does not like. He is already showing a desire to walk. He has learned to hold the sides of his pack and play and take wobbly steps. Sometimes when I see other children walking with their parents, I try to visualize Levi holding my hand walking down a sidewalk. Then I wake myself up from the daydream to try to appreciate the time I have with him now.