The baby clothes, crib and stroller were ready and Leanne Pearson even had a new song, Little Man, to mark the occasion of the birth of her first child.
The gift the country singer didn’t want to get in her third trimester was COVID-19, and the fear and anxiety that goes along with its symptoms, which include coughing, sneezing and difficulty breathing.
Pearson, like so many Winnipeggers during the Omicron-variant phase of the pandemic, has contracted the virus, and has spent the past week in and out of Health Sciences Centre and in quarantine at home on what she believes is the road to recovery.
"My family kind of all fell ill and I was the last one to test positive," says Pearson, who says she’s in her 37th week of her pregnancy. "New Year’s Eve I wound up in the hospital, very sick, lot of trouble breathing and coughing. I was worried about the baby, making sure he was getting enough oxygen.
"It’s definitely scary to be this sick this close to the delivery date, so we’re hoping that the little man can stay in there a little while longer so I can get strong and healthy for him."
Her worries about her health and the health of her child led her to reach out to followers on social media, where the three-time Manitoba Country Music Award winner has a large presence.
She was surprised by the support and reassuring words she received.
"I didn’t want to share my story because I didn’t want people to think it was my fault I got it, but I did share, and the response was overwhelming," Pearson says. "The amount of messages I got, private messages from people, whether that’s just from Winnipeg and Manitoba or across the globe… there were labour and delivery nurses that I don’t follow and don’t follow me (on social media). It’s helped us stay more positive and grounded.
"There’s a lot of people out there that don’t like social media, but I would say in a time like this, this is a perfect example of how it can work in such wonderful ways."
Pearson, 32, and her husband Jordan were married in December 2020 in Nashville by an Elvis Presley tribute artist and minister after the two spent months apart, owing to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. It was a period of time Pearson marked with the single Miles Away, which came out with a video that included an American Sign Language interpreter for who signed Pearson’s vocals as she sang them.
The couple moved to Winnipeg, where Pearson grew up, in October, leaving Music City and selling their house — which was part of a 2019 Property Brothers episode — so they could raise their baby in Winnipeg.
Pearson recorded Little Man long before she contracted COVID-19 and it came out Monday. It’s a song filled with anticipation of seeing her child for the first time.
"I was lying in bed very sick and forgot that this song was set to release on Jan. 3. I woke up and thought, ‘Whoa, it’s release day,’ " she says.
"Hearing the song again was so emotional because it made me think of the power of music and songwriting. All of it looped together, hitting us at the same time at a emotional time."
While Pearson’s immediate focus is on her health and the upcoming birth, she has long-term concerns about COVID-19’s after-effects.
"Being a singer, having any sort of lung infection or throat infection is very scary," she says. "I need to get in touch with an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor who has been monitoring my vocal cords and health throughout the year.
"That’s next on my list when all this is over, so that my singing voice, my instrument, is all good."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.