The sports and pop culture calendars have paused. The safest thing that you can do right now is stay inside. And millions of people are looking for creative ways to pass the time. The Ringer is here to help. We’re running a series called the Social Distancing Diaries, with our staff’s ideas for finding comfort, joy, community, or distraction while doing their part to flatten the curve. In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into what we’re passionate about and want others to discover—from bidets to buried treasure and everything in between.
My son was supposed to be born on the first day of March Madness. I had it all figured out. We would watch the games when my wife was sleeping. I would break down all the action so he could learn basketball like one of those babies who listens to classical music in the womb. It would be the start of a tradition that would last the rest of our lives.
The start of the NCAA tournament always felt like Christmas to me. The tourney takes over my life every March. I don’t remember the exact date I met my wife. I just remember it was before the Elite Eight game between Kansas and Villanova in 2016.
I kept looking at the clock in the delivery room and thinking about what should have been happening. We got there at the crack of dawn so my wife could be induced, which left us with a ton of time to sit around. There wasn’t much to do beyond watch TV and wait as the nurses slowly increased my wife’s level of oxytocin, the hormone that induces labor.
“I’m kind of glad there aren’t any sports on,” she said from her bed. “Maybe you could just talk to me instead?”
We were both nervous on our way to the hospital. Not only were we about to become first-time parents, but the coronavirus shelter-in-place order had been issued in Dallas the week before. Would there be sick people everywhere? Doctors in full-body protective gear? Would I even be allowed to leave the room?
But the delivery was actually pretty normal. We were lucky to have a due date in mid-March, near the beginning of the pandemic. The only difference from any other day was a couple of hospital employees in the lobby asking if we had been to China or had the flu recently. Other than that, we had free run of the place.
The last few weeks had been brutal for my wife. Her feet hurt every time she stood up and her back was constantly sore. She told me she was ready to give birth just because it couldn’t be any worse than being this pregnant.
Moving around caused her so much pain that we stopped going out. And since we both already worked from home, we were essentially social distancing a month before the rest of the country began to do the same.
In a strange sense, being forced to stay home was a good thing because it dramatically lowered our odds of catching the coronavirus. But we’ve also been away from other people for so long that we’re starting to lose our minds.
Due to the pandemic, we weren’t allowed to have any visitors in the hospital, not even in the maternity ward. We briefly thought about claiming that my mother-in-law was our doula, but instead relegated her to FaceTime.
Everyone said that becoming a parent wouldn’t feel real until we strapped the baby into the car seat and left the hospital. What I remember most about the drive home was that there were no other cars on the road. It was the middle of the day and the highway was nearly empty.
Suddenly, I felt really alone. There wouldn’t be many people around to help us through this new experience. No friends visiting. Not much family. We would have to figure out how to take care of this baby on our own. How do you change a diaper? How often are you supposed to do it? When do you feed them?
I had read several parenting books, but they can take you only so far. The way to really learn about how to take care of a newborn is actually doing it. It’s hard to fathom just how helpless they are. They are so small. Our son weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces at birth. That’s barely a dumbbell. He couldn’t do anything on his own. Not even hold his head up. He was a living bobblehead who did nothing but eat, sleep, and poop.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s no feeling quite like holding an impossibly tiny human that you and your spouse made. I jokingly call our son my iPhone. My wife is our MacBook and she has to charge him every few hours to keep him running. She gives him all the latest software updates, too.
But that happy sensation also comes with an overwhelming amount of responsibility. I think every new parent has a moment when they panic and wonder how they are going to take care of a child when it’s been a struggle at times to take care of themselves.
There are times when my son just cries and cries no matter what I do. Like a human alarm clock that never stops. Deal with that for long enough without getting much sleep or leaving the house and time loses all meaning. The days run together. Then the weeks. Things that should take minutes take hours. You constantly forget what you are supposed to be doing. And you watch a lot of TV.
It’s hard for us to know what is normal and what is not. Our lives were always going to completely change come mid-March. But then everyone else’s changed at the exact same time, too.
There have been some benefits to the timing. I was supposed to go back to work at the start of the NBA playoffs. Now, there are no games to rush back for. I have the luxury of spending as much time with my son as I want. We have been living in our own little bubble since he was born.
At times, we’ve had to stop watching the news. Knowledge isn’t power if all the knowledge reveals is how little power you actually have. There’s something freeing in knowing that I don’t have any control over what happens outside of my front door, and that it will happen regardless of whether or not I know about it.
Keeping my son alive in the middle of all this is enough to keep us busy. We have to be very careful. He hasn’t built up an immune system yet. We haven’t been inside a grocery store in almost two months. Our friends drop off food at our front door—but we can’t talk to them. My mom has held her grandson only once, and she was wearing gloves and a mask while doing it.
My in-laws are the only people whom we can give him to because they have been quarantining as strictly as we have in order to help out. They live only a few miles away, which has made things a lot easier. But even when we drop our son off at their house, we really can’t go anywhere or do anything with our temporary freedom. We’re still stuck in our house, staring at the same four walls.
But the funny thing about parenting is that we spend so much time longing for a break—and then we immediately want him back. I can spend all day looking at him. Part of me wanted to turn in a slideshow of his pictures instead of writing this article. It would probably get more hits.
I’ve wanted to be a dad for as long as I can remember. I never really had a relationship with my father. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when I was only 6. He never got better. He just got sicker and sicker. He was on so much medication that it became almost impossible to communicate with him. He passed away when I was in college and I barely knew him.
I spent my whole childhood watching sports by myself. Having a son of my own feels like another chance.
I don’t know when things will get back to normal. But I do know the first thing I will do when they do. We have a lot of basketball to catch up on.