Pregnant with a pandemic

Pregnant with a pandemic

Midlife Musings

Indu Anand gives melancholic one-star reviews to marriage, motherhood, most men, and midlife@Indu.A.Anand

First, let us just say that this coronavirus pandemic has no parallels, except in other pandemics like the Spanish Flu of 1918 when all of us alive today were dead. 

But to hold ourselves back from madness, we must find plausible parallels. How else does anyone make sense of this highly mobile microbial massacre that has already taken 191,167 lives, and infected 2,732,948 people, of which, lest we forget, there are some ‘Special Operations’ cases, whatever those are in any civil society fighting a community crisis. The hasty homeward journeys of the foot soldiers of our economy, some bare feet, has even been portrayed as reminiscent of the exodus of the Partition.

The ongoing country-wide home detention has not only unearthed the everyday heroisms of homemakers and the lack thereof of their partners but also triggered submariners to fondly recall their sardine tin-like solitariness, ‘shippys’ to tell of their watery-eyed scans for land across their liquid landscape, and mountaineers to recount their asphyxiating, arid, icy isolations. Of course, the Kashmiris, always a class apart, no pun intended, could hardly contain themselves from thumbing their ‘been-there-done-that’ noses at the rest of us. 

In the spirit of pandemic-propelled productivity, I too have wanted to appropriate some parallel, but I am a mere mortal, having led a rather predictable pre-coronavirus life, serviced with every non-essential distraction. However, I am also perimenopausal, and that’s an adventure in itself. My parallel for the pandemic is, therefore, personal—my pregnancy. 

Like COVID-19, the discovery of my pregnancy was an event of enormous shock, medically unanticipated and unequivocally unwanted. Up till 20 weeks, when I still had ‘agency’, I decided to go into denial. I ate for one, I behaved like one, holding onto all my vices in a clammy, vice-like grip, and never ever caressing my always-full belly like women are wont to do, convincing myself that I would soon return to being just us two. The first trimester was spent in a lockdown of myself. I was suspicious of my own body as it miraculously held another organism that no amount of handwringing could help disappear. I was waging war against an invisible wee thing. Now we all are.

In the first trimester of this pandemic, some of us have become pregnant with more risk. Some of our neighbourhoods have been more vulnerable, and we have needed to be further ‘contained’, placed on ‘bed rest’ as it were. We are the ‘hot-spots’ of the disease. I live in one such, and the shrill, unrelenting vigilantism of the Resident Welfare Association uncles rings the same bells as the unsolicited advice of that whispering ‘well-wisher’ aunty who only ever spoke ill. In this time, we have all been strung into a balcony bunting of hate, towards a dog-walking neighbour or a child on a bicycle within our condominium gate to those who congregate.

Many of the world’s most influential leaders too have misdiagnosed their part of the pandemic and their role in it as a war, against some particular part of humanity, their petulance and that of their cheerleaders on shameless display, symptoms somewhat attractive in pregnancy but never in a presidency. The pandemic has now entered its second trimester, otherwise considered a cakewalk, but the world has severe anaemia. It will have to eat for two, just not its own, and by the third trimester, deliver some hope. 

Each evening of our collective confinement, I feel the same relief as I did that January night years ago, after days of labour, to have survived. The punishing pace of the pandemic is like the sweep of post-partum depression, only I didn’t recognise it then. Like then, I am now exhausted beyond belief but unable to rest, deeply sad, but having to display delight at being privileged, well and alive. My life, your life, as we knew it, is in smithereens, but I have to sustain not one, not two, but three human beings. I was in pain then, but everything paled in comparison to the Event, like now. I knew for sure then what I know now -- that there is now no going back.

This pandemic is a pregnancy, one I didn’t know I was expecting. Worse, there’s no home strip-test for this.