Postpartum: Pandemic Style by Kate

After the birth of my first child, I had a pretty smooth journey through the first few months. She had a short NICU stay for a seizure episode, so that was terrifying, but after she recovered, with the support of my husband and extended family, I was able to navigate the exciting and sometimes scary transition into motherhood. I had the normal ups and downs of life with a newborn. If I ever was feeling down, I could easily pull myself out of it after a hot bath or a jog around the neighborhood. I have always been a pretty calm individual. I have my dramatic outbursts and occasional “crying over spilt milk” episodes, but I generally am able to overcome slumps.

I wasn’t too surprised after having my daughter about how I felt. The feelings are strong and real and come out of nowhere. I had hormone shifts after my two miscarriages so I feel as though I was prepared in some sense for the swings of emotion.

When I was pregnant with my son, I told my husband that this time would be much smoother and easier. That’s what everyone told me. The 2nd time is easier.

Well, they were right about the birth. My son came right out. I hardly pushed. He pushed himself out.

What we never could have anticipated, not in a million years, was I would be having the baby a few months into a global pandemic.

I was so on edge when we came home from the hospital. My parents had watched our daughter. When we came home I didn’t let them touch the baby. They said hi to him with masks on and then they left. It hurt my heart so much to treat them that way, but at that point we just didn’t know which way was up, so I needed to conduct myself the same across the board. I had to treat everyone as if they had the virus, even those I trusted the most.

Raging postpartum hormones combined with the fear of coronavirus had me on the edge of my seat for a while. I was and still am mostly worried about my parents and my husband’s parents. With more knowledge came a sense of ease. We knew how to be safe and we had gotten into a predictable routine that pleased the babies. Late in the summer, I began visiting my mom’s house. My dad is a physician in an oncology office, but he had been so meticulous and careful and his office had had no outbreaks, so I trusted he would be okay. I didn’t wear a mask in their house and they didn’t wear them either because we trusted each other. I never went anywhere, not even stores. My husband and I get home delivery. Their house was our safe oasis.

December 18th, I stopped by my mom and dad’s house with the babies for a couple hours like I had been doing. The next morning, December 19th, my dad called me. He had tested positive for Covid-19. We were on high alert. He had been holding Zachary in his lap, face to face for at least 15 minutes or so. I began to tear up. I asked him how to move forward. We were to quarantine and I would be tested in about 6 days. Considering the timeline of everything and how safe he had been at work, he is convinced he caught it at the grocery store.

I had panic attacks in the days that followed. I had myself convinced for a couple days that I had it and I was going to give it to my babies. I wore a mask around them. I felt nauseous, weak, feverish. I kept saying to my husband that I had tried so hard to keep us all safe and I was going to be the reason that we all got it. He reassured me that going to my mom and dad’s house was my outlet and I shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so. He assured me we would all be okay. He assured me my dad knew what he was doing and knew how to tackle the virus. Despite his positive reassurance, I had nightmares of my dad going to the hospital and never coming home. I had visions of him on a ventilator, like the pictures they show of people on the news. The fact that my hormones are still jumbled from birth didn’t help. My son has started eating solid foods, so he isn’t nursing as frequently. I can feel in my bones that my hormones are changing. I think that process only fueled my big feelings.

Thankfully, my dad recovered and my husband and my babies and I are all fine. Miraculously, my mom never caught it. As soon as he woke up with symptoms, my dad had my mom wear a mask and quarantine in the house from him. They spent Christmas separated from everyone and they slept in different rooms until he was certain with a verified blood test that he was no longer contagious. It was a horrible holiday for all of us, but we were grateful we live close enough that we could at least drive by and wave from the car.

It was a rough road for my dad. He developed symptoms fast and hard. He had heard through medical colleagues about the monoclonal antibody shot and was able to get it at one of the local hospitals. Most of his symptoms dissipated quickly after getting the shot. He couldn’t believe it. He thought he was on the road to recovery, until harder symptoms hit. Shortness of breath was an alarming symptom. He went to the ER and had a CT scan of his chest. They found double Covid pneumonia in his lungs. He told me they call it Covid pneumonia but it’s blood clots forming on the lungs. He said that is why he was feeling shortness of breath. He knew he was at the stage of the virus when his vital organs were all inflamed.

Thankfully combined with his medical knowledge and the help of my two brothers who are physicians (one of whom works directly with Covid patients) he was able to get on the correct dose of steroids and blood thinners. He was unwell for at least 3 weeks. He is just now getting his regular strength back. I can tell he is still on edge emotionally. He told me he has had bad dreams that he still has it and he infected everyone. I think the mental fatigue the virus put on him and all of us will take some time to clear up.

After this major scare, we are now in a new groove and we are even more educated on how to be safe. I feel less anxious, especially since there is a vaccine that is proven to work and that my dad has recovered and now has some sort of immunity. We were able to safely gather for a late Christmas celebration with my immediate family. My dad was able to hold the babies safely once again.

I feel less anxious, but I am still on guard. It comes in waves.

There have been cases of children presenting with dangerous symptoms 4-6 weeks after a Covid exposure. It is rare, but I am not taking any chances. My kids are 4 weeks from exposure and so far have been fine. I will continue to monitor any little change closely. It is not lost on me how incredibly lucky we are.

As the pandemic and my hormones change, I hold on to the loving, constant support I have in my household.

So much for this time being easier.

-Kate Ells

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