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

In the COVID queue

In the COVID queue

I had a COVID test this week – after being notified via the tracing app that I was a close contact last week. I’ve been self-isolating, monitoring for symptoms, and trying very hard not to freak the heck out about the worst-case scenario. I’m double-vaccinated, I wear KN95 masks whenever I go out (baby pink with ear loops which my mother bought me because I am that millennial), I scan in everywhere and obviously the Bluetooth is working. I even got my booster shot the very day I was notified about the close contact.

So the odds were pretty strongly in my favour. Not that that did anything to reduce the anxiety, especially when it comes to having a small baby with a history of pulmonary issues due to her heart condition!

The queue at the testing centre in Porirua was long. It opened at 9am; I arrived at 8:20 and the line of cars was already around the block; I was out with a sore sinus and very watery eyes at noon. That’s a heck of a long time to be sitting in the car with nowhere to go, and I definitely felt the glute cramp when I got home. But I had water, snacks, a full phone battery, podcasts and knitting.

(And between starting this draft and posting the finished product, I got a negative test result! Yay!)

More importantly, I had someone at home who was watching the baby.

There were a lot of people with kids in their cars, waiting in that queue. Some probably had to get their kids tested, which is a whole other nightmare I never want to have to face. But I’m sure many more just didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t any other option – no one to watch the kids, no one who could take sick leave, stay home from their paid job, spare a completely uncertain amount of time while the driver went and sat in that queue. Nobody available at short notice, or nobody who could take the risk of looking after kids who might themselves be household contacts of a soon-to-be-diagnosed COVID case.

It seems like the smallest amount of support imaginable – just having another adult around, parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt or older sibling or neighbour, to watch the kids for a couple of hours – and yet a lot of parents don’t even have that. Don’t have the financial means or flexibility to manage sudden upheavals in the usual routine. And the consequence of that is spending three-plus hours with that kid in the car, getting increasingly and very understandably hungry, tired and cranky.

The pandemic has really laid bare a lot of problems in our communities. Things that weren’t quite at breaking point but snapped once they encountered all the pressure of anxiety, illness, insufficient infrastructure and inadequate support systems at once. For the rest of us it can highlight the small privileges we don’t even think about on a daily basis.

I was very grumpy and tired and sore when I got home from my COVID test. But there was a whole huge chunk of care and anxiety that I didn’t have to deal with. The question is, how do we make sure no one has to?

Photo by Musa Haef on Unsplash