COVID, with a baby, with COVID

COVID, with a baby, with COVID

This has definitely been a year where two months can just disappear on you.

At the end of October the pandemic finally came to our wee household, probably due to all three of us spending various amounts of time at Wellycon, the board game convention. Whatever the source, it felt inevitable, and unnecessary, but I’ll do my best not to make this a political rant.

It’s all a bit of a blur now, but it wasn’t too bad for us. Two or three days of feeling incredibly miserable for the adults, and a runny nose and some fatigue for baby (she can’t give us any more details about her symptoms). I remember lying awake for long hours, desperately trying not to cough, listening to my two loves breathing, and sometimes holding my own breath until baby’s little snuffles came through in between her papa’s rather more resonant huffs and puffs. I remember being suddenly gripped with anxiety that baby was overheating – she ended up in our bed, refusing to sleep in her cot – and stripping layers off her in the middle of the night.

We did feel very alone. It was different to the old lockdowns (I hate that I can use the phrase “the old lockdowns”). We could hear the annual Tawa spring festival going off just up the road from our house (despite the drizzle). It underscored how the rest of the world was just getting on with life (because we’ve given up on actual collective community action, don’t get political). As always, I was very thankful for having online friends to talk to and commiserate with me; I guess all that screen time pays off!

Parenting tips for getting through COVID: switch to disposables, if you’re using cloth nappies. We did not get any laundry done for a week, and we did not need to be worrying about laundry on top of rest, hydration, RATs and keeping down food. Make a supermarket order as soon as you know you’ll be in self-isolation. Easy treats, quick meals, a lot of hot drinks, because water gets very boring very quickly.

And – good advice I think for any kind of serious illness – try to let go of the usual anxieties (like the laundry piling up). Life will pick up again. It doesn’t matter if lunch is just a plain bread roll (or supermarket-quality croissant if you’re feeling fancy). It’s food, and you need food, and hand-baked artisanally crafted brisket sliders can wait until after you deal with the important thing: getting well.

Now, one thing I do want to say is this: the official health advice for self-isolating with COVID right now is that after day 7, you can leave. And some Healthline operators are apparently telling people that they can’t infect anyone after this time. There’s absolutely no requirement or even suggestion that you do a RAT to check. On day 8, I did one anyway. And it was still positive. And I got some … disconcerting advice from Healthline myself. So I asked Twitter what to do.

And this is the reply I got from Dr Siouxsie Wiles (for some reason WordPress won’t embed her tweet directly).

The text of her tweet: “If you are RAT+ (in the 15 min test time) then you are infectious, so best for you to remain in isolation despite the official (bad) advice. If still + by day 12-14, by then you’ll be making antibodies which should neutralise infectious virus & so you’re safe to leave isolation

So … you do you, but personally, we stayed in self-iso. For a lot of people, thanks to having bad employers and existing in late stage capitalism (don’t get political) that’s not going to be an option. But if it is practicable for you, please consider it, so maybe next Christmas we won’t “have COVID hanging over us” (STEPHANIE! NO!).

Since our COVID experience we’ve also had the very bad cold which is doing the rounds of Wellington (assuming, based on negative RATs) and tomorrow (the day I post this) we’ll be off to the GP to check baby’s eyes, which have been getting very red and swollen – another plug for Plunketline here, who advised it’s likely nothing, but always good to get an in-person opinion. I am very tired of coughing all the time, and would like to be able to get through a day without losing my voice.

Roll on Christmas!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Sometimes the baby cries

Sometimes the baby cries

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Sometimes, the baby cries.

And it’s okay.

The way most people react even to the idea of a baby crying, you’d think it’s the worst sound in the world, nails on a chalkboard multiplied by chewing tinfoil to the power of someone slurping their soup. “There was a crying baby” is shorthand for “the experience was completely ruined and I derived nothing of value from it”. And I used to think like that.

I have to emphasise that it wasn’t having a baby which changed my mind, it wasn’t the magical (mythical) “you’ll understand when you have one of your own”. It was years before baby came along, when I simply came to appreciate that babies have no other way of communicating. And when you need something, as a baby, it’s pretty bloody urgent. And god, who wouldn’t love to just sit down and have a big wail about things sometimes?

That cry, on the bus or at the park or on a plane, wasn’t and isn’t about me (or you). It was about a baby who has a need (and they’re a baby! They need it now!) and a parent or carer who’s doing their best to diagnose and correct the issue as quickly as they can – and how could you feel anything but sympathy (especially when you’re on a plane)??

Now that I do have a baby on my own, I’m glad I went through that bit of personal growth. It’s easy to see why parents get to the end of their tether, once you add that full-bore open-mouth bellow of infant anger on top of the sleep deprivation and constant underlying terror of childrearing. It can feel like the baby is just making more noise specifically to make you explode or join them in crying. And it really helps to remember: this is the only way she can tell you things are wrong. She wishes she could make it stop herself. She simply can’t. She’s a baby.

And sometimes I’m not the person who can help, because I am at the end of my tether, but that’s only going to be made worse if I’m also telling myself that the baby crying is a personal moral failure on my part, and that being unable to pick her up because I’m so damn tired, or nurse her because my boobs were too damn sore, means I’ve failed. It’s definitely going to be made worse if I’m fielding unsubtle, contemptuous glares from supposed grown adults in my vicinity who want to pretend that children don’t exist in public areas.

Now sometimes, if a baby’s having a tangi in public, the answer is to take them out of the situation they’re in. But that’s still about what the baby needs, not placating antisocial melon-ballers.* We all have to recognise that some caregivers don’t have the choice to not be on that train, or not do the shopping a that time, or have no space or facilities to feed or change or nap the baby right now.

(I was just out at a nice Wellington bar the other night which had no changing table in any of its bathrooms. I changed the baby on the floor, and she was well grumpy about it, and I did not try to stop her crying because you’d complain too, lying on a cold floor with your bare butt in the air).

Sometimes the baby cries and there’s no fixing it. She’s fed and clean and warm and just really, really tired which only makes her less likely to go to sleep. Or she’s a tiny creature full of big feelings and can’t say “I’m experiencing some existential angst, mama” yet. And what matters, in that moment, is that she needs me, and she needs to let her feelings out, and I want her to know that’s okay, and she will always have someone to snuggle her while she gets it out of her system.

She’s a baby. Sometimes, the baby cries.


*Melon-ballers: the most useless kitchen utensil and yet one we’re all supposed to put up with