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My Slightly Unreal Pandemic Pregnancy

On March 12, 2020, at 2:15 P.M., after Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. director-general, officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I texted my husband, Caldwell, “You should maybe try to leave work a little early today so we can go to the grocery store. Seems like this whole thing is starting to get serious.” I quickly followed up with: “Or does that seem crazy?” On March 19th, California went into lockdown. On April 4th, I found out I was pregnant.

When we went to buy the pregnancy test at the Glendale CVS, in Los Angeles, we were greeted by a good omen: there, on the otherwise decimated shelves of the paper-goods section, was a single six-pack of Scott toilet paper. I could tell this was a good omen because it stood out against the overwhelming backdrop of bad omens. A large sign at the entrance warned shoppers to stay six feet apart and not to enter if they were experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus. A smaller sign, fresh off the printer, insisted that masks be worn at all times (per the C.D.C.’s revised guidance issued the day before), with a handwritten addendum stating: “No mask sold here. Out of stock.” Beneath that, someone had angrily scribbled: “How can we wear masks if there are no masks???”—with the question marks curving down the side of the paper in a poorly planned fizzle of fury.

Approximately sixteen minutes and seven glasses of water later, I was pregnant. That evening, as I performed my nightly ritual of scrolling through news alerts, a CNN headline jumped out: “That coronavirus baby boom? Experts say it’s unlikely.” The article quoted Kenneth Johnson, a professor of sociology and a demographer at the University of New Hampshire, who explained, “There’s no way the number of births is going to go up. . . . This is not the kind of environment in which people say, ‘Let’s bring a child into the world now.’ ”

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