Pregnant with Hope

“Holed Up for a Year, I Hope…”

Holy Week blog post from Hayes Willingham

In March 2020, I was halfway through my pregnancy when the world fell apart.  The CDC designated pregnant women as a high risk group. I work in healthcare and soon patients started cancelling appointments with concerns about risks of the virus. I was both relieved and scared when I was furloughed from my job as an Occupational Therapist. My husband and I settled in at home for what I initially thought might be a few weeks. As the virus spiked, hospitals became overwhelmed, and our city shut down, it soon became apparent that we would be living this way for quite some, perhaps indefinitely. 

During this year “holed up” we have all found ways to cope with an unimaginable situation. Phone calls, FaceTime, and Zoom church coffee hour helped bring connection to others and quell those lonely feelings that had been building. Long walks outside brought comfort and a break from being inside all day. I read about people picking up new routines and activities to try to at home, like baking, gardening and knitting.

I decided to get back to a hobby I always enjoyed and that I hoped might help keep anxious thoughts away: painting. I reactivated a website I had let expire the previous fall, when I figured it wasn’t worth the cost of keeping up. I reached out to let others know about my venture and offered up my services as a watercolor painter. To my delight (and distraction) friends and family commissioned artwork and my days soon had a purpose. I made paintings for my daughter’s nursery, watercolors of African safari animals to fill her walls. 

Soon my due date approached and I realized that we had been living in this “new normal” for almost 4 months. So much pain was happening in the world outside during this time. Racial justice protests across our city and our country stretched on for weeks in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May. I wrote a note to my daughter in the days after he died that I hoped she could help make this world we were bringing her into a little bit better.

Our daughter arrived July 4th and is now 8 months old. Though she has not been able to spend much time with her family due to continued fear of Covid-19, she is a joy and wakes up excited to be in the world each day. It seems surreal that we are still in many ways living as we were a year ago. I returned to work in healthcare part-time and continue to try to paint or make something every day.

Despite the hardships of this last year “holed up” at home, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to slow down and imagine that other paths are possible. As more of us are vaccinated, I am hopeful that we can soon return to church, hug one another, be inside together without fear and masks. I imagine the future as a place when we are so grateful that we can do the things we once considered “normal”. I also hope that this last year as taught us to be more empathetic to our neighbor, to recognize our priviledge and realize how unfair we can be to each other. 

Hayes Willingham is an Occupational Therapist, Artist & Mom living in Alexandria, VA.

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