VIRUS DIARY: Time and longing during a locked-down babyhood

In this May 31, 2020, photo, the unending pandemic has intensified the finite period of babyhood for Associated Press writer Sally Ho, whose 8-month-old son, Clark, has spent 32 percent of his life under quarantine in Seattle. (AP Photo/Sally Ho)
In this May 31, 2020, photo, the unending pandemic has intensified the finite period of babyhood for Associated Press writer Sally Ho, whose 8-month-old son, Clark, has spent 32 percent of his life under quarantine in Seattle. (AP Photo/Sally Ho)

SEATTLE (AP) — My 8-month-old baby has now spent 32% of his life under quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time blurs enough during infancy for both babies without long-term memory and parents deprived of sleep. But the lockdown has further stretched the elasticity of time for me as I witness my son growing rapidly, even as time feels like it’s standing still out there in the world.

Those of us lucky enough to be healthy and comfortable during the quarantine are faced with this same paradox: a blessing of time and the curse of longing.

For me, the unending pandemic is intensified by the finite period of babyhood.

The first year of a child's life is full of anticipation for the minutia — first tastes, first sights, first moves. It's one of those few occasions in life where every day can feel monumental, measured by milestone to milestone, moment to moment.

It was 80 days ago that President Donald Trump issued social distancing guidelines in the U.S. that effectively shut down our world.

My son was almost 6 months old then, a milestone I looked forward to because it meant we were done with the recovery and hibernation phase of having a new baby. Clark was at that point merely a lovable, snuggle-able meatloaf, but he was beginning to bloom.

The second half of babyhood is when things get fun — when the shock of being responsible for a tiny, fragile being has worn off a bit and the kid's personality begins to emerge.

Today, Clark's giggle fits are boisterous and his toothless smiles are utterly joyful. If you look away from him for too long, he has the confidence to grab you by the collar like you owe him money. In the past three months, he's also started eating solid foods, babbling loudly and crawl-chasing his big brother all over the house.

Watching him develop this very happy life is a welcomed distraction to the grim reality and collective suffering of the pandemic.

But there are days I'm also torn by the longing that I feel for normal times. I fear the lockdown is ticking away at my baby’s babyhood.

I wish I could enjoy this time without the nagging fear of a scary virus that could hurt him. I'm sad we're missing family visits, as he has yet to meet much of his extended family, including his grandfather.

Clark's older brother at this age was enjoying life's pleasures simple and grand: weddings and parties, hikes and beach time, the sight of community festivals and the smells at a grocery store. But there are no special occasions for Clark — no occasions at all for the time being. Not yet.

There is one unexpected upside that this quarantine time has granted us. Instead of day care, he is having unlimited face time with both of his working parents.

While I enjoyed an extended maternity leave to be with each of our kids, my husband, like most working parents, could never have dreamed of having this much time to hold their own babies while they are babies.

He peacefully naps in a baby carrier against our chests while we work. On breaks from the desk, we tag in to supervise as the boys play and wrestle. Lunch is now a savored family meal time.

Of course, there are plenty of challenges to working and caring for a baby at the same time. But for now, at least we don't have to miss out on the day-to-day moments we'd long for.

And I try to remember: This will all be a time of his life that he’ll forget. Still, the fear of missing out will never be as strong as when you are a parent trying to give your kids the world.


Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus saga through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow Seattle-based AP journalist Sally Ho on Twitter at

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