“How is your family holding up?” Colleagues, acquaintances, family and friends ask me this regularly, often with a sympathetic tone they add, “It must be so hard.”
“Meh,” I respond. In the grand scheme of things, being under quarantine is just an inconvenience compared to the alternative. In fact, several times a day I reflect on how grateful I am, how lucky we are. Because when I really think about what hard is, this isn’t it.
Death would be hard. Watching my immunocompromised 9-year-old son battle COVID-19 because I didn’t do my part to keep him safe – that would be unfathomably hard.
My husband or I getting the novel coronavirus then trying to isolate in our home, explaining to our 3 young children why they can’t be near us would be impossible.
My family’s introduction to true hardship came a decade ago when my first born entered this world by emergency c-section because he stopped moving. Hard is not hearing your baby make a sound when they are born, followed by hushed whispers from the medical team. Hard is having him whisked away to the NICU after a brief meeting. Hard is not knowing what’s wrong with your baby, being separated from him while in excruciating pain after a brutal surgery. Hard is finding out he has Down syndrome and not being able to hold him. Hard is staring at his oxygen levels, yearning to take him home; gazing at him inside a box, only able to caress his hand; nipples cracked and bleeding from the breast pumps I was clueless about using, trying to get my baby nourishment and relieve painful engorgement.
Hard is repeat visits to the ER and hospitalizations because of pneumonia; calling 911 because croup almost killed him; visiting countless specialists to figure out why his body cannot fight off stuff that gives most kids minor sniffles. Hard is jabbing him with needles every week to infuse his body with antibodies to keep him from getting sick.
Quarantining for most of 2020 has its ups and downs. We’d like for it to be over. But compared to the roller coaster we’ve already been on, this is nothing. I’ve spent endless days in a hospital room next to my son, waiting for answers from doctors about viruses they’ve treated for decades. Putting my family at risk of getting a disease scientists know so little about because we miss going to our favorite restaurant is ludicrous. My son’s medical conditions are mysterious enough, I’m not going to add COVID into the mix. I will not play Russian Roulette with my loved ones’ lives because we miss “normal.”
Screaming, naked kids in the background while I’m on a Zoom meeting is small potatoes. Endless cooking, cleaning, and together time can get annoying, sure. But those moments when I feel like I’m going to lose it, I remember holding my crying child in a hospital bed at 2 in the morning, calling for the respiratory therapist because his oxygen levels are low. I remember THOSE days – and I suck it up. My family’s time dealing with serious medical issues, terrified for our son’s well-being makes an extended quarantine feel like a walk in the park.
Our family is doing just fine. My husband and I are lucky enough to work from home. We’re going on hikes. We’re swimming in streams. We’re playing hide and seek in the yard. We’re exploring lesser known landmarks. We’re playing board games. We’re cooking yummy meals. When it gets to be too much, we have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to distract us.
As far as hardships go, this feels pretty luxurious.