We are on a long weekend away from Pittsburgh, safely vacationing on Lake Erie in Geneva Ohio. Last night, I sent this picture to my friend saying that it captures 2020.
I keep thinking that I am done writing in this blog but my mind drifts back to it and how someday, I’ll likely really enjoy reading back through our adventures. Alternatively, I think to myself that I don’t want to forget the intense fear, anxiety and sadness that I am feeling since we have been back. So. I want to write a little about it.
On May 25, 2020 during the continued stay-at-home orders, George Floyd was apprehended for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, resisted arrest out of fear and for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck while he pleaded for his life. He said, “I can’t breathe” and then died while 3 other officers and bystanders watched.
Shortly after, news also spread of the murder of Breonna Taylor, a decorated EMT who was shot to death in her bed during a “no knock” entry by police.
Across the US and the world, protests began along with the same debate that has been happening for hundreds of years- do Black Lives Matter?
I joined in the first big protest in Pittsburgh. It was a hard decision because I have felt so strongly about social distancing and a protest doesn’t afford much distance between people. In my mind, the risk to Black Lives every day and the importance of calling attention to that outweighed the risk of outdoor transmission of covid-19 with masked protestors.
We have always tried to talk about racism at home with our family. Each of our kids processes it differently. Veronica and Ryan seem to understand the complexity more now and what white privilege affords our family. We chose to participate in a family march in Morningside. Joe made his own sign which represents his understanding of racism.
I am trying to read, watch and listen to anti-racism content. I follow Black thought leaders on twitter. I have had hard conversations with my Black friends. Their honesty with me is incredibly valuable.
I have had some hard conversations with my white friends. I acknowledge that I have grown up in systems of white supremacy and racism. I have worked in a system that oppresses people of color and racism (not race) leads to health inequity, especially in Pittsburgh.
I am racist. It is my job to learn and grow and practice anti-racism.
It is heavy and complex.
I went back to work on June 15th. On my orientation to the Covid-19 changes, I caught my breath and shed a few tears in the exam room. The core of midwifery is connection. The masks, the 6 foot distance, the lack of partners for prenatal care…. it’s so hard.
Wearing a mask all day and the intensity of working during a pandemic sends me home with a headache nearly every day. I thought a little peppermint oil might help on this inside of my mask. Instead my eyes were burning for a few hours.
The cases in Pittsburgh have spiked, setting records. I now wear an N95 nearly all the time. Needless to say, it is stressful.
Taking care of people during a pandemic is hard. One of my first prenatal visits back was with a client having her third baby. She cried so much that her mask was really wet. She can’t imagine laboring in a mask. She can’t imagine having a newborn in a pandemic with very little help from her family and community. Another client is Canadian and since our borders are closed, her mother can’t come be with her for her first birth and to meet her very first grandchild. We have no idea when the borders will open again.
As if that isn’t enough, Black mothers must face birth and raising children in a world that doesn’t value their lives. I don’t have words to change that reality and it weighs heavily on me.
I have labored with several people but haven’t attended a birth since I’ve been back. I feel like I need to do that- to remember that life and hope go on.
Life at home has significantly improved with the addition of an above ground pool. I have worried about how disconnected my kids have been from our community. I have worried about their lack of physical activity. This pool has given a general lift in the mood of the Cordova McCarthys. We joke that it isn’t the water in Croatia like we had planned, but it is the same sun and moon.
Other things I want to remember:
Joe and John surprisingly had their outdoor pool birthday party like we had hoped. There was a few weeks where we were sure we would never get the pool installed.
Ryan had a root canal after 8 days of severe pain and sleepless nights. He handled it with his quiet strength and resilience but it was hard to watch. For one of his final school projects, Joe wrote that he wanted to be a dentist when he grows up so that he doesn’t have to see his family in pain.
Sarah’s family chose not to take their beach vacation because of the spike in cases. The kids were so disappointed. We decided to attempt to recreate their vacation with a day trip to Presque Isle. The kids loved it so much!
I completed a DTC challenge of running 100 miles in June. It was hard. After that ended, I needed to get on my bike to get ready to complete 81 miles for Melissa’s birthday (40 for her and 41 for me). We left our houses and rode all the way to Ohiopyle. Kara met us along the way. John and Tom met us in Ohiopyle and we had a serene and safe night at the Summit Inn.
I am so grateful to still see my friends outdoors. Most people in my circle have taken the virus seriously which enables me to see them. I feel so protective of the TMC clients and staff, my family and myself.
We hadn’t left our home since arriving back from Slovakia. We decided to take a couple of days to get a place on Lake Erie for a short vacation. It has given us time to laugh about some of the funniest memories from our trip. Veronica and I have talked about how she is preparing to cross the threshold into high school and how we will have a big decision to make about where she will go. And since she’s a big thinker, she loves to talk about college and traveling and life beyond. Her time as a kid has gone by so fast.
Ryan and Joe remain easily occupied by big waves and endless sand. I would love to bottle up this period in time.
Slovakia has continued to fare well and has received attention for it- https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/06/slovakia-coronavirus-pandemic-public-trust-media/
We don’t know what the fall will bring yet- if schools will open in person or if the kids will play sports. I don’t know when I’ll see my parents and siblings or if I will attend my oldest niece’s wedding- the first of the next generation to marry. Part of the great anxiety with Covid-19 is the unknown.
In the meantime, we try to enjoy our time together. We are off to grab some take out schnitzel for old times sake!