At the mall some months ago, I saw this woman rushing to Target. She had four children. Two sullen teenagers, one jumpy primary school kid, all in their uniforms. And one in the baby carrier. Instead of wondering how she was managing, I felt envy. I thought, "I would like even half of that handful."
Afterwards, I chastised myself for that thought and said a little prayer for their family and my own. Evil eye is a huge deal in Muslim culture.
I repeated this process every time I saw a family with multiple children. Since I already have a six-year-old, our lives often revolve around other young families - so this used to be a lot of prayers. Everywhere I looked, there were babies: at school pick-up and drop off, at the mall, at the play centre. Isolation had caused procreation for everyone. Except me.
It is a unique sort of agony when your body gives you one child but not another. When I tell people I only have one child (and none other on the cards), occasionally I would get puzzled looks from others. I've had intrusive questions at work meetings, from people coming to pick up furniture, even at the hairdresser.
One unexpected benefit of lockdown is that I don't see pregnant women and babies everywhere. Not only that - my prayers have taken a different turn. Lockdown has taught me a few very important lessons.
I can't control the forces of nature.
I'm following all the health orders. I got vaccinated. Some of my friends with small kids are even going one step further. They are not stepping out of the house for anything, even exercise. Still, the numbers are going up.
I can munch on all the prenatal vitamins and vegetables I like. I can exercise and get my eight hours sleep. My body won't get pregnant until fate decides it. It's completely out of my control.
I am making assumptions about pregnant women that I should question.
Was that mother I saw in the mall happy? Did she want that many children? How do I know that any pregnant woman I see actually wanted to be pregnant? How do I know how easy or difficult their pregnancy is? Whether they have a supportive partner? Whether they even have a partner?
As shown by the recent ban on abortion after six weeks in Texas, pregnancy isn't always a happy event.
People aren't their reproductive status.
Just as every life lost to COVID-19 is more than just a number - they aren't just their age, their gender, their geographical location, their 'underlying conditions'; so too is every pregnant woman more that just a 'mum-to-be'.
All lives are valid and valuable. My small beautiful family is as sacred and worthy as the big sprawling ones.
My feelings, whatever they are, are welcome.
I'm not going to lie, I still feel a pang whenever I see my pregnant neighbour go for a walk. I still feel desperation when I think about when we might get to see our doctor again.
While the prayers helped to centre me, shaming myself for feelings didn't.
When school rolls back around, I'm sure the feelings of yearning will surge again as I find myself surrounded by gorgeous little children. Some days will be worse than others.
Some days, those intrusive questions will slide right past me as I find myself happy with the flow of life. Other days, they will blindside me with sudden grief and I'll likely snap back. Grief isn't a straight line. All feelings are okay. They are a part of being human and alive.
The little things are the big things.
I have a good enough marriage and a good enough child. We have enough - enough money, enough food, enough devices for us to do our remote work. That is a lot more than many people can say in this pandemic, especially where we live in Western Sydney.
More than anything, I am grateful for peace. In the absence of a blessing with (more) tiny feet, peace is a small mercy. And you know what they say - the small things are, in fact, the big things.
Sabina Giado is a mum, Muslim and comedy filmmaker. She tweets at @SabinaGiado and her films are at sabinagiado.wordpress.com.