COVID-19: How One Positive Test Rocked Our Family After Months of Quarantine
"I have it," Mike told me over the phone, his voice quiet and thick with guilt. The room spun around me, a heady tornado of anxiety and rage.
COVID-19 had officially muscled its way in to our exceptionally cautious family and, even with 3,000 miles of distance between us, I was going to have to grapple with the consequences. Oh, and Happy Birthday to me.
Generally speaking, we’ve taken this pandemic more seriously than many.
That tone, of course, was set by the fact that we welcomed a newborn baby in March, just days after our country entered a state of emergency and our state issued a stay at home order. We couldn’t get many of the supplies we needed at the time (buh-bye toilet paper, hand sanitizer, milk, eggs, etc.), as grocery stores were picked bare from panic hoarding.
With almost no reliable information about the virus’ impact on newborns at the time, we were told in no uncertain terms that we needed to remain isolated for the foreseeable future.
We were scared of every package that arrived at our door and -- after being spooked by the nurses at the hospital -- I spent night-after-sleepless-night watching tiny Colton’s breaths come in and out, fretting over every wheeze and squeak. I would record him on my phone and email his pediatrician regularly: Is this normal? Is this COVID?
And in the back of my mind: Would his lungs survive it? Is he strong enough yet?
As months went on, Colton grew stronger and local restrictions were eased. Still, we kept our social circle small and left the house only when necessary. My husband spent his days working from home, with only an occasional excursion to hit his beloved Starbucks drive-thru.
In time, as life in a pandemic has become everyone's new normal, I began taking both our children on more select playdates. We began talking about how to safely travel and introduce Colton to his extended family members, who thus far exist to him only on FaceTime.
Over the summer, Mike was asked to be a groomsman for a friend's fall wedding on the east coast. It would be a relatively small affair at a private residence. We spent weeks weighing the risks, but knew deep down that missing it just wasn't an option.
Honestly, I was wildly jealous. Of course I wanted to attend a beautiful wedding! Of course I wanted to get out of my house! Of course I wanted a night -- a weekend -- off from parenting! Of course I wanted a break! But finding help to care for our children wasn't in the cards, and let me tell you, I explored every possible option.
The cherry on top: the wedding was scheduled for my birthday weekend.
Mike flew out a week early to stay with a friend and get tested for COVID before the party. Out of respect for everyone, we figured it would be best for him to be tested after traveling since his level of potential exposure at home is so minimal.
During that week, he continued working remotely and spent some time visiting with friends and family within their respective "bubbles."
His pre-wedding COVID test came back negative and, on Saturday, he enjoyed a lovely and totally normal wedding celebration, drinking and dancing with his closest friends from college.
Meanwhile, I was home, blowing out my birthday candles together with my babies and my parents. I reminisced about this same birthday weekend last year, which we spent in Maui attending another friend's stunning wedding and babymooning with Colton in my belly. Wanderlust was kicking in.
The next day was Sunday, Oct. 18, my actual birthday. Mike should have been packing his bags for his flight home when I got a call: He and his friend, the one he'd been living with for a week, had apparently been exposed to COVID. A person they had dined with earlier that week had just tested positive.
They rushed out to be tested again immediately.
His friend tested positive right away on the rapid, while Mike initially tested negative and needed to wait 24-48 hours for more accurate results. He told the nurse administering his test, "You don't get it. My wife is actually going to murder me." He cancelled his flight home while awaiting results.
All that jealousy I had been feeling quickly pivoted to rage, fear and anxiety. I was dizzy for two days.
On Monday, Mike's COVID test came back positive. His tone was somber as he delivered the news, knowing that his one-week trip was about to turn into three, at least... and that I did not sign up to solo parent for nearly a month. We both quietly feared the worst: What happens if he needs to be hospitalized, while I'm on the other side of the country with our young kids? What if he's one of those rare cases that doesn't come back from this?
Thankfully, Mike's symptoms were mild. He spent a few days unsure if he was sick or just hungover, followed by a bit of a cold. Also, thankfully, the virus didn't spread as viciously as it could have through the wedding. We were incredibly fortunate.
Mike spent 10 days quarantined on his also-COVID-positive-friend's couch, playing video games, grousing about being stuck inside and missing our kids.
I spent it caring for our two children under three years old.
We had good days and bad days. I lost my cool more times than I'd care to admit. But we all survived. I'd like to say that I was on duty from sun-up to sun-down, but the truth is that it was more than that.
Sleeping arrangements were shifted as I called on my parents for a few days of help, and Colton did not adjust well. He began waking me every hour or two throughout the night. A choice was then laid out in front of me: Assistance from grandparents or sleep?
In an effort to keep Everly connected to her dad, we picked out a teddy bear and a book to send to him over Amazon Prime. Seeing photos and FaceTimes of "Mr. Bear" enjoying morning coffee, playing Nintendo and snuggling with Daddy helped her stay connected to him throughout this time and added a sense of fun to a very un-fun situation.
But something else beautiful came out of this situation, too. While we've all been parenting without a village for so much of this pandemic, mine has found creative ways to lend their support not once, but twice now.
Our COVID situation has felt something like fourth trimester all over again -- survival mode. And for the second time this year, friends reached out from near and far to send us meals, coffee, and even toys to keep the kids occupied. I couldn't be more grateful.
Truly, they helped to keep our ship afloat when I feared we might be sinking.
After following the CDC guidelines for quarantining, Mike is back home now and happy to be healthy.
Far from being cavalier about the severity of the pandemic, we've pulled all travel consideration off the table again for the immediate future as we're seeing a rapid rise in cases across the country, flu season has arrived and the holiday rush is approaching.
We understand that reinfection is rare, but possible, and we still don't want anyone else in our household to be infected. We worry about the potential long term effects or consequences of this virus that may surface in the years to come.
For now, we -- like countless other families around the world right now -- are taking things one day at a time.
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