So we had COVID-19. And it was rough. I would say that my husband and I did not have mild symptoms, but we were also never hospitalized. I think we land somewhere in that middle ground of mild to severe. We have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. Let me tell you, it was ROUGH. But I also need to preface this piece by telling you that I don’t think our situation falls in the normal range.
For example, my husband is active duty military, but he’s in a job where he’s been able to work from home since March (most of my friends with active duty spouses have never stopped going to work or training). This also means that no matter how much time he had to take off for me being sick OR him being sick, we never had to worry about not getting paid or not being able to pay our bills. It also means that if there was an emergency we could just roll up to the ER like we owned the place (not really, because you aren’t supposed to go to the ER if you have COVID-19) and we would never live in fear of crippling health care costs. Finally, we have a HUGE support system. We have the benefit of being stationed near our family and also being part of an amazing church, small group, and Bible study. That being said, we felt SO much love and support. We had literal weeks of meals brought to our doorstep. I realize that these things mean we have great privilege. I hope that our “system” of getting through our round of coronavirus is helpful in the context of it being very specific to our family.
Anyways. Yes. My husband and I both got COVID-19. No, we don’t know where we got it. That’s always one of the first questions people ask us. As much as I would like to pinpoint the “hot spot” for everyone so you could avoid it, the plain and simple answer is––we have no idea where we picked it up. I do know that my husband has been working from home since March and since I am a SAHM, the odds of us contracting the virus should have been less. But I’m not good at math so don’t quote me on that. I will say this, I know for sure that I got more lax in the weeks before our symptoms started. Don’t get me wrong, I always wore a mask and did my best to social distance from people in public. But did I hand sanitize before I put my sunglasses on if I was going to more than one store? Did I wash my hands before I unloaded my groceries? I can’t remember…which leads me to believe I wasn’t as diligent has I had been in the beginning of this never-ending quarantine.
It all started on a Tuesday with a tickle in my throat. I have allergies, and by that I mean I am in a fight to the death with grass and tree pollen. They have become my biggest enemies since moving back to Texas. So when, on a normal Tuesday, I felt a little allergy-ish, it didn’t even cross my mind that I had coronavirus. I even went for a run that evening. On Wednesday morning I had the worst headache of my life. I am talking, on the floor in the fetal position headache. I told my husband that I needed to go back to bed. I did. And throughout the day my cough worsened. I thought I was dehydrated from my run in the Texas heat (my other great beef with Texas, but we don’t need to get into that now). Allergies and dehydration, thanks a lot, Texas. So I laid in bed, just coughing my corona all over my bedroom. My kids came and checked on me, they brought me Gatorade, they read me books in my bed, while I probably coughed corona into their tiny little faces. I started losing my voice. My cough started to feel like I was breathing fire. My lungs started to ache. What kind of allergies were these? By Wednesday night I had a fever, and that’s when we knew. Come on in, COVID-19. Infiltrate my family, my safe place, and let me help you out by coughing all over my house and family members because I THOUGHT you were just grass pollen all up in my nose.
I got my positive results on that Thursday and by Sunday my husband started showing symptoms. Sunday night he had a fever. His fever lasted for several days longer than mine had. He never developed the fire-breathing dragon cough, but his headaches were worse and lasted longer. We both felt weak, weakness we still feel 5.5 weeks this side of our first symptoms. We both felt newborn-cloud tired (you know, that cloud you enter when you have a newborn baby where time doesn’t exist and you wake up at 8am and then you’re sitting there and all the sudden it’s 6pm and you can’t remember if you’ve eaten anything that day but also you never left your house so how did this happen to you?).
Here’s the kicker though. Remember those two small children I mentioned before? The two small children who cannot make meals for themselves? The 4-year-old who still can’t wipe his own bottom and the 2-year-old who’s still in diapers and sleeps in a crib? Yeah. That was our biggest concern. Even though doctors said there was little to no chance they didn’t also have it (remember how I coughed into their faces with my “allergies”…). Even though doctors said the greatest possibility is that the kids were the ones who got it first and gave it to us. EVEN THOUGH we think they had it, we couldn’t be sure. And yes, lots of people will tell you that kids fare much better…but in our minds we couldn’t help but think, “But what about the ones who don’t?” So we had to do our best to protect them.
For us this came in several tangible steps. First, distance. “HOW?” you say? Not easily, is my answer. When I was the only one sick, my husband did live normally outside of our bedroom, where I quarantined myself (again, I never want to assume that everyone has this ability. I quarantined in our master bedroom with a full bath and garden tub. I am so thankful to have the space and privilege to do that). Once my fever subsided and my husband’s fever spiked (which truly, we see it as only grace that kept our fevers from overlapping), he became the more contagious carrier and he had to then quarantine with my big delicious tub and I had to leave the room. And in my coming out to the kids, with still a very active infection, I had to maintain as much distance as I could from the kids while still keeping them alive. Enter, Mother T.V.
We are pretty strict with T.V. in our house under normal circumstances. My kids usually get one show a day. Well, now the T.V. became their new mother. One they didn’t yell at, or run away from. They opened their arms up wide to her. My 2-year-old now knows how to use the remote to turn the T.V. on and off and also how to tell Netflix that she is, in fact, still watching. Honestly, I wish I felt more bad about the amount of T.V. they watched, but I was so sick, I can’t even remember, so I’m just thankful to have HAD a T.V. during all of this.
Because my husband and I were both sick and I didn’t need to distance from him, I was able to sleep in our room at night. In the morning, I would wake up, take a shower, and take my COVID Covered Pajamas right to the washer and run them on high heat. I would then put on fresh non-COVID Covered Pajamas (and a fresh face mask) from the dryer. Then I would take sanitizing wipes and wipe down anything I had touched on my way to the laundry room. Then I would make my kids breakfast and pull out all their snacks. I would set their breakfast on the table and set their snacks out on the counter to the exact right place that my 4-year-old could reach them for him and his sister. Then I would get the kids up and then I would spend the day falling in and out of sleep on the couch. Sweet Mother T.V. kept my kids entertained throughout the day and when there was some restlessness, I have amazing friends that dropped off tons of activities for them. Their favorite was personalized kinetic sand bins. They had their names on them, kinetic sand, and toys to play with. The best part: they had lids so when they were done they just popped the lids back on (if any of my friends with small children get sick, this is going to be my go-to porch drop off for SURE) and ran back into the arms of their new mother.
My kids ate….pretty much whatever they wanted. They got good at using a stool to get full party-sized bags of chips out of the pantry. They would eye me carefully as they passed me to enjoy their bounty in the play room. I allowed it all. And I’m thankful for friends who repeatedly told me to do that. To let go, and remember that this wasn’t going to ruin my kids.
After my kids went to bed at night I ate dinner and I sanitized everything. Every doorknob, every light switch, every thing they or I had touched that day. Even if we hadn’t touched it, I sanitized it all. I would take a shower and fall into bed just to get ready to do it all again the next day. When my husband hit day 5 of his infection he also joined me in this rehearsed dance of doing everything we could to get well and keep our kids well.
Friends, this was so hard. It still feels hard. By day 8 of this my poor 2-year-old laid at my feet, sobbing, saying “Please don’t go away from me. Please let me hold you. Please touch my hair.” And that was enough to make me have an actual breakdown. It was also enough to make me pick her up and hold her (after checking with a doctor). How could her little 2-year-old heart comprehend why we couldn’t snuggle her? How could we explain this to her? At that point, day 8, I was able to sit with the kids (still wearing a mask), read books to them, and rock them a bit before bed. Did they have coronavirus? Did they catch it and recover from it without even batting an eye? The honest answer is: Probably. But on the off chance that they didn’t, I’m glad I can say we did everything we could to keep them healthy.
I still feel like we are recovering. My lungs still feel weak. I still have burning in my trachea. My husband and I still feel tired. I don’t know if you’ll also get COVID-19. I don’t know if you are a single mom who won’t be able to relate to a single word I just wrote because you are totally on your own. I don’t know if you have a support system like we do or if you feel like there is no one in your community that can love on you if you do get sick. I don’t know a lot of things about you.
If I had to guess though, if you’ve read this far you are either my sisters, OR you are a mama to small babes and you’re worried about the health and safety of your family. I wish I had all the answers and could offer cut and paste things you can do to keep this virus out of your home. I don’t. But what I do have is the same encouragement that so many people have given me: do what you need to do. Stay home or go out safely. Send them to school or keep them home. Let them watch ALL the T.V. if you do get sick. Let them eat the whole bag of chips. Because trust me, at the end of the most body-wrecking and emotionally taxing time of your life, your 4-year-old will most likely also say things like, “Mom. Remember when you had the “Cona” Virus and I got to eat all that ice cream and Memaw gave me a huge cake? I liked that.”