When I delivered my twins, I was terrified that we were going to catch Covid in the hospital. In fact, when we came home, we quarantined from my in-laws and my 2-year old for 10 days – to be sure we wouldn’t get them sick. It was an incredibly hard time to be away from my daughter. We have been fortunate to have not caught it at this point, but not everyone is so lucky. One of my friends was in the unfortunate situation of discovering that while she was in the hospital, her kids had been exposed to Covid, but only discovering that once they came home! Here is her story.
My name is Jenny and I’m from a small town in the Midwest. My husband, Chris, and I have 5 children. Two of those children are from first marriage (that’s a whole other topic!). Our children are 10, almost 9, almost 4, 16 months, and 5 months. I consider myself a terrible writer, but I wanted to share my COVID story anyway. Maybe someone out there will find it helpful in some way.
How and when did you first discover you had Covid?
Our COVID story begins the day after we brought the youngest child home from the hospital. He had a pneumothorax at birth and had to stay in the hospital a few extra days. It was quite strange to not be able to have any visitors or any of my family there for his birth, so we were excited to have a few visitors. It was limited to the people who had been helping take care of the children while we were at the hospital. My little sister lives with my parents, who had been helping with the kids, so she came over to see him. Three days later we found out she had tested positive the day after she visited. She never had symptoms but was tested because a coworker had tested positive.
We had to pull the kids from school after their first day back for the school year and quarantine. We decided to wait almost a week after our exposure to be tested. Everyone but the 1-year-old had been in close contact with my sister, so 6 out of the 7 of us had to be tested. We were tested on a Saturday. It took till Tuesday at lunch time before we got our results. I had started having a slight sore throat on Sunday evening and by Monday I had chills and a slight fever. It was difficult to know what to make of all of it since I was not even 2 weeks post-partum. It easily could have been some sort of post-partum complication. My test result was negative. My husband tested negative. The baby’s result was negative and the oldest was negative as well. But the 8-year-old and 3-year-old were positive. That is the point I was quite sure I had it as well. I went that day and had the rapid test done so that I knew for sure that it was not something else going on.
Less than 30 minutes later I knew I was COVID positive on my daughter’s first birthday.
Can you tell us a bit about your symptoms?
I ran a fever off and on for a week. With the fever came chills. I have no idea if it caused body aches because my whole being hurt anyway from just having delivered my biggest baby (8 lbs and 15 oz!) and having spent 18 out of 21 months pregnant. I also lost my sense of smell and had and extremely sore throat. I also had some chest discomfort/breathing difficulty.
I had enough discomfort on day 7 that I made a trip to the ER. That included some IV fluids, chest x-ray, which looked ok, and a CT scan. The scan showed groundglass opacities in my lungs. Thankfully my COVID pneumonia was not bad enough to require treatment other than rest and Tylenol and ibuprofen.
How have you dealt with this all emotionally?
The emotional toll was immense. So many tears were shed in our house over the month of quarantine and isolation. First, I was insanely stressed over watching my children for complications. Thankfully, they were mostly without symptoms. Then I was also insanely worried that I would be one of those 30-somethings that suddenly died from a stroke or heart attack from COVID. And then there was the guilt.
The two oldest had missed out on an entire quarter of school in the spring. They had been extremely excited for school to start. Having to tell them they could not go back after the first day was heartbreaking. They cried and cried. And I cried some more. Dealing with post baby emotions made all of it even more challenging.
Then there was the missed wedding. I spent all summer planning my little sister’s wedding. I poured more into it than I had my own weddings (yes, plural!) We hemmed and hawed for months about if we should just plan a small reception for the now and a big one later when COVID stuff was less crazy. Finally, mom and my sister decided they wanted to go ahead and plan a big reception since the restrictions had been modified enough that it would be manageable. After my sister’s positive test, they had to call off the reception, but since she would be right at the end of her 10 days of isolation, they still went ahead with a small ceremony on the planned day. Since I was positive and other family members were positive and symptomatic, we were not able to go to the wedding. I cried that entire day. I still struggle with it. I have not been able to even look at the pictures because it just crushes me all over again.
It was a month of constant anxiety and stress and fear. I could not reach out for help, because no one could come. I had a fussy newborn who did not like to sleep. I constantly told my husband that I felt like we were walking through a nightmare, but I knew that our nightmare could be or get so much worse. My husband, while he did get sick too, saved me. He forced me to sleep and nap as much as possible during the day. He hugged me through my breakdowns. He made me laugh from time to time and he did most of the schoolwork with the kids. I prayed constantly. It is still difficult to deal with. I mostly try to just let it all go, but that is easier said than done.
I am mostly deeply thankful that we have moved beyond it and survived it.
What changes, if any, did you immediately make in your home when you found out?
We quarantined immediately after we found out we had direct contact with a positive case. Having small children and a newborn meant that we could not keep any of the positive cases isolated. We did have to sanitize and wear a mask when taking care of the newborn. It was completely miserable to have to have a mask on any time I held my newborn, especially since I was already having some difficulty breathing.
How did this impact your job? Were you able to continue working at home?
I am a stay-at-home mom, so my job is relentless, but my husband was very fortunate to get extra time off from work since we had COVID. There would have been no way I could have handled all the kids while I was so sick if he would have had to keep working.
What were people’s reactions? Was everyone supportive?
Most people were supportive. We were fortunate to have a meal train set up for us and people brought a few meals for us a week for a few weeks. It was so helpful. I had friends that checked in daily to see how we were doing. There were some people that I barely heard from, which was hurtful. It was an exceedingly difficult time. We were so isolated, and it was difficult to feel so alone.
What did others do or say that was helpful in this situation?
The meal train we had was deeply appreciated. And it was just nice to have people send a text and check up on us.
Is there anything you’d share that is NOT helpful? What should we avoid saying or doing when we find out someone has Covid?
Playing the blame game. “You shouldn’t have….” We did everything right. We stuck to just being around our bubble of people. I was one of the first people I know to start wearing a mask when going to public places. I have made so many masks and given them to people since the start of this. I was the person who would bathe in hand sanitizer after touching anything in a store. And yet we still ended up getting it. It sucked. Especially since we had been so careful. But anyone trying to tell you what you should have done or not done is just a jerk.
How are you feeling now?
I am pretty much back to normal. My O2 levels are finally back up to 98/99% (I had been hovering around 95% for at least a month after testing positive).
What advice would you give to a someone if they found out they had Covid?
Take a deep breath. Watch your oxygen level and temperature. Take plenty of vitamins and supplements. Drink lots of water and sleep as much as you can.
Any Closing Thoughts?
Its all very terrifying. Especially since everyone seems to have such a different experience and set of symptoms. I remember sitting in my hospital room after having my son. I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a story that was written by a new mom who went through COVID with a newborn. I was panic stricken reading it. It was terrifying to think about. Then I lived it. But in hindsight, even though it filled me with serious anxiety, I’m thankful that I had stumbled upon that story. In whatever way it did help prepare me for what I ended up facing. I knew it was possible to go through it and survive. It helped me keep going when all I wanted to do was fall apart. And that is the biggest reason I was and am willing to share my experience and answer any questions people have about it.
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