Parents Are Celebrating “Baby’s First Pandemic” on Instagram

Like most things on the internet right now, it falls somewhere between dark humor and terrifying reality

baby's first pandemic
Welcome, pandemic babies! Sorry about this whole global crisis thing, you caught us at a bad time.

While the jury’s still out on whether or not we’ll see a post-coronavirus baby boom or, for that matter, any semblance of a post-coronavirus society at all — there are still babies being born right now. And as these new lives enter a very different world than the one they were conceived in mere months ago, their proud and terrified parents are taking to Instagram to document “baby’s first pandemic.”

The trend, which Vice pointed out earlier today, has amassed more than 1,500 hashtagged posts as of this writing. Typically featuring a baby posed next to quarantine supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, as well as one of those letter boards every Instagram parent has with the “baby’s first pandemic” catchphrase spelled out, the posts parody the more traditional “firsts” — like “Christmas” or “steps” — that parents have been documenting in the lives of their children for generations.

The phrase also echoes a tweet format popularized by poet and writer Melissa Broder, who, in simpler, pre-pandemic times, was known to put a dark spin on a number of baby’s firsts, including “baby’s first illusion of control,” “baby’s first imposter syndrome,” and “baby’s first making peace with death.”

But as the dark, if humorous, realities Broder’s writing has long illuminated just beneath the surface of everyday life continue to rise above that surface, the “baby’s first pandemic” trend reflects an increasingly unsettling union between a long-running internet genre of existential distress and actual, lived existence. Like most things on the internet in this strange era, “baby’s first pandemic” is half gallows humor, half harrowing reality.

Born into quarantine, these babies, much like the rest of us, don’t have anywhere to go. Their parents can’t facilitate a bougie professional infant photoshoot or bring them along to a brewery and hashtag “baby’s first bar crawl.” Maybe in the coming months something resembling normal life will have resumed and parents can proudly post shots of “baby’s first Halloween” and “baby’s first breakdown after being handed off to a strange man in a Santa suit at the mall.” But for now, baby’s first pandemic will have to do.

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