WASHINGTON — As lawmakers gathered in the well of the House in the early hours of March 14 to vote on a sweeping coronavirus relief bill, Representative Max Rose, Democrat of New York, felt that the pandemic that had already begun spreading through the ranks of Congress was about to upend life as he knew it.
Hundreds of miles away in New York, his wife Leigh Rose, unaware that votes had finished just before 1 a.m., was frantically calling him, and then his roommate, Representative Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine, to let him know that his life was about to change in a much different way.
“Buddy!” Mr. Rose recalled Mr. Golden saying when he finally tracked Mr. Rose down. “You’re having a kid.”
The baby the Roses had long planned to adopt was about to be born, three weeks early. Now, the pair is navigating the first months of parenthood in the middle of a pandemic, figuring out how to secure formula and diapers in a shuttered city — all while Mr. Rose juggles trips back and forth from Washington to vote. In the middle of it all, the first-term congressman from Staten Island deployed for two weeks with the National Guard to assist with coronavirus relief.
“Think about this world that he’s been brought into, startlingly different than the world was just several months before,” Mr. Rose said of his newborn son. “We just really want him to be safe, and happy, and healthy. It’s scary.”
“But what a story of his birth,” he added.
The prospect of parenthood had been simmering beneath the tumultuous events of Mr. Rose’s freshman term: a month after he took office during the nation’s longest government shutdown, the couple began pursuing the adoption process. The months of arduous paperwork and uncertainty continued through Mr. Rose’s adjustment to a weekly commute between Staten Island and Washington, and a summer of congressional investigations.
In November, as the impeachment inquiry consumed Capitol Hill, the couple learned they had been matched with a birth mother, whom they declined to identify out of respect for her privacy, and began preparing to welcome their baby in April. But in the wee hours of a Saturday morning in March, as Mr. Rose voted on coronavirus relief legislation, Ms. Rose learned that their son was about to be born right then. She jumped in her car and drove through the night to reach New England.
Miles Benjamin Rose was born at 2 a.m., and Mr. Rose got the first flight out of Washington later that day to meet his son.
“There’s so many families that are going through exactly what we’re going through — I mean with newborns with young children at home,” Ms. Rose said. “We’re definitely not alone.”
As the couple drove back to New York with their son, the city had begun to completely shutter to stem the spread of the virus. They agreed that Mr. Rose, an Afghanistan combat veteran who is a captain in the Army National Guard, should deploy to help with the city’s response to the pandemic. He was the first member of Congress to do so, citing a desire to take a more personal role in providing relief to his constituents.
It was a decision that kept Mr. Rose physically apart from Ms. Rose and Miles for a month, during the deployment and then the mandated two-week isolation period to ensure that Mr. Rose had not contracted the coronavirus.
“It was the right thing to do,” Mr. Rose said. “It was important to serve in this capacity at this moment.”
“Everybody is sacrificing far more than we have,” he added, pointing to the doctors and nurses he met who were isolating in basements or hotels for far longer periods of time to protect their families and maintain their work.
Ms. Rose acknowledged the challenge of the circumstances, but added: “There’s so many people that are struggling, and it’s so important for Max to take care of the people in our district.”
In the moments when Mr. Rose could come home during his deployment, he would eat dinner on the trunk of their car in the garage — 10 feet away from where Ms. Rose would stand with the baby. But then Mr. Rose had to isolate himself for another two weeks, keeping him from holding Miles, who is just starting to coo and smile, until Friday.
The pair has also tapped into the growing network of parents on Capitol Hill with young children. They ticked off a list of Mr. Rose’s Democratic colleagues — Representatives Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Pete Aguilar of California, Josh Gottheimer, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Antonio Delgado of New York among them — and their spouses, who have repeatedly checked in on the couple in recent days.
“I lean on them — they understand the experiences that we have,” said Ms. Rose, who recently joined a Zoom call with a dozen congressional spouses to check in.
It remains unclear, they said, how the couple will handle Mr. Rose’s trips to Washington, where coronavirus cases continue to escalate. The House is expected to return the week of May 11. Mr. Rose said having a newborn at home had only intensified his desire to institute a remote voting policy in times of emergency, to ease the burden on congressional families.
And the work on Capitol Hill and its consequences, he said, have become even more personal for him now that he is a father.
“We’re going to continue to find joy in our family, and the little moments each and every day,” Mr. Rose said. “And that joy and that optimism and that hope is even more important right now, because when we say that we’re all in this together, it’s our family with everyone else’s.”