I never thought how hard it would be navigating life with a COVID positive baby. But when my baby caught COVID, I learned quickly.
When daycare sent a message on a Sunday night implementing a weekly testing policy in January, my husband and I didn’t think much of it. We agreed with the policy, as Omicron was completely out of control across the country.
An unexpected positive COVID test
So when my baby became a COVID positive baby before daycare one Monday, we were completely shocked. Especially when our tests that day came back negative (a few days later, both my husband and I were positive). We hadn’t been with him anywhere. Daycare was the only place he had been, which was a risk we were always willing to take because their precautions are great and daycare allows us to work our full-time jobs, as we do not have family in the area who could watch him.
The baby’s symptoms were almost nonexistent. If he hadn’t tested for daycare, the runny nose would’ve been chalked up to the cold weather, or just the fact that sometimes babies get runny noses. But alas, we had a COVID positive baby. And as many parents with kids under five know, that positive test means ten days at home.
A hard part of parenting
I won’t lie, this has been the hardest part of our parenting journey so far. Not because he was sick (he’s had some colds and a stomach flu before), but because he had already been home for winter break from December 23. Constant caregiving and entertainment for a very active baby is a lot, in addition to working. And it’s not like we could go anywhere – we were stuck at home for ten days. For almost a month, we had to juggle working from home, holidays, and a baby. Don’t get me wrong – any extra time with him is great; but we also love and are grateful that we send him to daycare during the workweek.
Here are some things I learned navigating life with a COVID positive baby that I hope might help you too.
1. It’s ok to feel whatever – you have a COVID+ baby
At first, when I saw that rapid test read positive, I was in disbelief. Pretty quickly after that came feelings of sadness, anger, fear, and, the strongest of them, annoyance.
I was sad for many reasons: my baby was sick; he didn’t get to see his teachers and friends for ten days; my husband and I had to redirect our days to care for him at a crucial beginning of year time for us both. I was also sad that I felt sad.
I was angry, because why my kid? We were so careful. My husband and I are vaccinated and boosted. I was angry I didn’t know where he got it and that everything got interrupted. Also, I was angry at myself for feeling that I want him in daycare so I can work peacefully and have a little bit of quiet time each day to myself.
I was scared because my baby had COVID. We’re so lucky and grateful that he had mild symptoms, but I was still scared. We didn’t know that much about COVID compared to other illnesses, and that’s scary.
I was annoyed because of how much disruption this caused, having to put aside all my January work plans. I was (and am) annoyed because it’s been two years of this and we now have the tools (vaccinations and masking in situations) to stop this pandemic. Yet it continues. This is my strongest and most long lasting feeling. Everything together is just annoying.
All are normal, and all are ok to feel. And if you feel something not on this list, that’s ok too!
2. Do not panic
Ok, I say this, but I did panic a little, to be honest. But there isn’t a reason to panic! Yes, your kid is sick, which is never fun. But panicking never helped anything. I’m not going to downplay COVID, because it can be serious, but the important thing to remember is that you are your kid’s best advocate and best caregiver. Visit the CDC for more information on COVID and kids.
After my panic subsided, we called the pediatrician to get a confirmatory PCR test the next day. They also helped give us guidance on what symptoms to look for, and what to look out for that would require either another trip to the doctor or to the emergency room. Since his symptoms were congestion and runny nose, we knew how to tackle those at home (sit in the bathroom with shower on for steam, saline nasal spray and snot sucker, infant friendly chest vapor rub). We ensured that he was eating normally each day and taking fluids.
3. Take breaks when you can
I’m lucky that my husband is the most helpful partner. And he knows that it had been “84 long years” (to quote that line in Titanic) since December 23. I had time off from then until the beginning of January, and it had been a lot with very little time to relax. My husband saw when I was getting overwhelmed and took over so I could take a moment. Whether that is a shower, the chance to do some work, sit in peace for a few, lie flat because my poor posture makes sitting on the floor painful, doesn’t matter! That time to myself helps me reset and come back to caregiving with a clear and focused mind.
4. Make a schedule
Whether you have help caring for your child or are doing it solo, a schedule really helps. Ten days is a long time, and knowing what is coming when has helped make the time go by faster. It helped us know who was watching the baby when, as well as what meetings could be moved or missed and what couldn’t. We knew when his naps generally were, so we planned around those. We wrote out our meals so we didn’t have to stare at each other when mealtime rolled around. A schedule helps you tell work when you’ll be on a call, when you’ll be dialed in but not participating, and when you’ll not be available.
5. Life will be ok
Usually I’m not a positive affirmation type person, I kept telling myself it’ll be ok. This situation is temporary and we got through it. We’re so grateful and lucky that we all had extremely mild symptoms (which we credit to us adults being vaccinated and boosted, and the baby having a likely level of protection from me being vaccinated while pregnant).
The situation continues to suck. There’s no way around that, although I hope that we’ve turned a corner. But navigating life with a COVID positive baby doesn’t have to be as hard or scary as it was in the past. Many others have been in this situation, and I take those lessons and apply them to what I’ve already learned. One day I’ll look back and not remember how hard it was, but the memories we made during this time.