Kayce Christopher and Cleveland Dorse Jr. welcome the arrival of their son, Cleveland Dorse III, who was born amid the pandemic. (Courtesy photo)

New mother Kayce Christopher will celebrate her first Mother’s Day this year. The courageous 29-year-old was excited to discover in May of last year she would be bringing a baby into a COVID-ravaged world.

Cleveland Dorse III made his grand entrance on Dec. 18, 2020.

“The first two months, he didn’t go out of the house because of the pandemic, but also, it was very cold,” said Christopher. “Now that so many people have been vaccinated, his dad and I are not so nervous about taking him out. My mom keeps him since I’ve returned to work. But in May, when I start a new job, we are putting him in daycare.”

Christopher and Cleveland Dorse Jr. have somehow managed to carve out a “normal and happy” life, even in the midst of a pandemic.

“Trey, that’s what we call him since he is the third, is a daddy’s boy,” said Christopher. “He kicks and squeals when he hears his father come in the door, but me —not so much — even though I was the one who stayed with him all day.”

Christopher and Dorse are bucking a national trend which indicates that American birth rates in many major cities are on the decline because of the anxieties and uncertainty fueled by the pandemic. 

Massive job loss and worries about housing and other financial indicators have slowed birthrates nationwide.

In a study released by Guttmacher Institute, one in three women in the U.S. said they wanted to delay having a child or have decided to have fewer children because of COVID-19. Nine months into the pandemic, many states reported a sharp decline in birth rates compared to prior years.

But for this young family, the joy of expecting a baby far outweighed any trepidation about the state of the world.

“Trey just kind of dropped in on us, and from the very first day, he has been a source of great enjoyment,” said Christopher. “He was not an accident or a mistake. Our baby was a nice surprise for our whole family. Every day, he is our good news, in the midst of so much bad news.”

Christopher said she was oblivious to the fact that she was pregnant for the first two months.

“There were some changes I noticed in my body,” said Christopher. “So, I went and got a pregnancy test, and I took it. When it came back positive, I woke Cleveland up from his nap. He’s a truck driver, and he was asleep. But I had to tell somebody. After I showed him the pregnancy test, he said, ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at.’ And I said, ‘I’m pregnant.’”

Dorse was overjoyed about the pregnancy after being with Christopher for three years. He had only one question for the expectant mom: “So, do we want to get married first, or go ahead and buy a house?”

Christopher felt there would be time enough for both prospects when the pandemic ends, so they delayed both.

The birth of their son, Cleveland Dorse III, was a 2020 positive for Kayce Christopher and Cleveland Dorse Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Trey laughs and screams all day because he is “such a happy baby,” Christopher said. “Mom” attributes the baby’s pleasant demeanor to the way she handled her pregnancy.

“While I was pregnant, I decided that despite all the sickness and sadness around me, I was not going to let anything stress me out, or make me angry,” Christopher said. “I truly believe that a mother’s mood effects that child either positively or negatively, when she is pregnant. It all depends on her. We are happy, and Trey is happy. I think babies pick up on the spirit of a home.”

Christopher works as an administrative assistant at the Center for Health and Justice Involved Youth on the University of Tennessee Health Sciences campus.

In May, she starts her new job at the West Cancer Clinic as a scheduler. 

‘I’m excited about the new job because it gets me closer to working in my field,” she said. 

“I finished school last year, also in the pandemic,” Christopher said. “My son was born in 2020, and I completed my degree in 2020. In spite of the pandemic, it was a pretty good year for our family.”