Lockdown life without your village: Bringing a newborn into a COVID world

AT HOME TOGETHER: Harry, Josie and Sadie McGrath.
AT HOME TOGETHER: Harry, Josie and Sadie McGrath.

On March 21, the number of coronavirus cases across Australia passed the 1000 mark.

And, really, Australia as a whole still didn't know the full impact the COVID-19 crisis would have on our day-to-day lives.

Also on March 21, my wife Jess and I welcomed our third child - a healthy, beautiful little girl, Josephine - into the world.

As much as parents like a little bit of control, the timing of the pandemic was out of our hands.

And as such, any plans we had to fully milk the whole 'it takes a village to raise a child' concept and get plenty of help from friends and family to navigate what is already a tricky period of adjustment for any family was completely quashed by the social lockdown we were all forced into.

Pubs closed. Restaurants too. Don't travel. Don't leave the house. If you have to, ensure you keep that 1.5-metre social distancing measuring stick on your person at all times.

And, importantly, wash hands. Often and thoroughly.

For most families bringing home a newborn, the goal is invariably to introduce your new bundle of joy into normal family life as smoothly as possible.

Any sleep on top of that is a bonus.

For us, the normal included Harry (five) being in his first term of kindergarten and Sadie (two) enjoying two days a week at a family day care. Josephine (a few days old) would eat, sleep and you know the rest, fingers crossed, until her little heart's content.

The restrictions outlined turned that normal on its head.

Home schooling was now a thing, and after the opening 10 minutes of the first lesson where I took on the role of head teacher, it soon become clear Jess would have to complete the rest. (Sorry).

Sadie slowly morphed into Peppa Pig - a very quick 'I don't care about anything you say, Daddy', on about day 20, confirmed I'd unknowingly taken on the role of the always-wrong-push-over Daddy Pig.

And while Josie did her best, sleep was increasingly tough to snatch when some noises down the hallway were louder than claps of lightning - honestly, how do such tiny humans produce such deafening sounds?

Jess, amongst all of the commotion of living 24-7 at home with three kids under foot, proved a pillar in keeping the family cohort on track, and while that job became increasingly harder once I'd returned to work the McGraths are still on track - and benefiting from just about everything you can order online being delivered straight to our door.

The kids and the cat, all together during lockdown.

The kids and the cat, all together during lockdown.

Schools return to normal on Monday, signalling the welcome restoration of that normal a lot of families have missed over the course of the last two months.

Us though? Well, the madness of what has become our new normal will be missed.

Chaos is hard to avoid with kids. We've come to accept that. Avoiding it while everyone remains under each other's feet for weeks on end is impossible.

But in between the sibling quarrels, the kids loved their time together.

The outside play in the garden, the time riding scooters together on our paths. The time drawing with chalk on ... just about anything they could find.

The books. The LEGO. The crafts. The time with Mum. The time with Dad. Those Zoom sessions with schoolmates and family. Sitting down together as a five to have dinner. The walks with our dog Max. Even the odd encounter with the cat, big Molly, a renowned recluse at our place. Our new normal has grown on us as a family.

We sat down for dinner on Saturday night and asked Harry, who is busting to go back to school and see his mates, what he'd miss most about not being at home every day.

His answer? 'My sisters'.

What will I miss? Listening to a five-year-old sing happy birthday to himself while washing his hands to help keep the virus - or the germs, as the kids call it - at bay is heartening.

You see, we've learned. Society has. My family has.

The coronavirus has changed the face of the globe immeasurably. From the decisions our world leaders make, to having your two-year-old daughter correctly identify the hand sanitiser at Woolies ... the future is different, sure, but it's heartening to see how resilient communities and families can be, how quickly they adapt, when faced with adversity.

I don't wish a return to lockdown. It was tough. And I don't think I can happily reprise the role of Daddy Pig any time soon.

Lots and lots of families would have done it much tougher too. It's important to remember lives have been lost as a result of COVID-19.

But there's elements of the last two months our family will be sure to continue. And I hope others in the same boat can find little glimpses of the last 10 weeks and look back and smile fondly.

Our normal is returning. But not without a little bit of the craziness of our new normal as well.

Nick McGrath 

This story Lockdown life without your village: Bringing a newborn into a COVID world first appeared on Central Western Daily.