I’m “doing everything right,” but I’m still terrified of getting COVID-19.
By “doing everything right” I mean that I’m following all the suggested protocol. My children haven’t been in a public place in two months, and it’s been over a month for me. Since my husband has to leave the house to work, he is also our designated shopper. The grocery store is the only non-work place he goes. He brings alcohol to disinfect the cart handle, carries hand sanitizer, and wears a homemade mask with multiple layers. He even takes off his glasses so he won’t have to touch his face.
On the rare occasion that we order takeout, we do no-contact delivery. We tip generously. I transfer the food to our own plates, throw all the packaging in an outdoor trashcan, then wipe down the surface it sat on before we eat.
I leave packages outside for 24 hours and wipe them down before I open them.
We haven’t had company. Even my dad and stepdad sat on the porch when they brought us toilet paper and a few groceries I couldn’t find. My kids stood at our windows and talked to them. I wanted to cry as my kids showed their grandfathers pictures and toys through the screen.
We haven’t visited anyone’s home, even once. Our kids have not been allowed to play outside with neighborhood children, and I have only seen my girlfriends via Zoom. I even figured out how to cut my husband’s hair.
I am being as careful as humanly possible, but that doesn’t alleviate my fear and anxiety about getting COVID-19.
Honestly, I have an anxiety disorder. It’s well-managed, and it is livable for me, but I do know that my body’s tendency toward serious anxiety is a factor here. But please don’t dismiss my fear as a side effect of my mental illness.
It is rational and understandable to be afraid of an illness that has only been in existence for a few months. We don’t know everything about it yet. People are suffering from symptoms we didn’t know about when this began. It’s not just a mild respiratory illness for a lot of people, and it’s not always easy to predict whose life will end or be changed forever.
I hope and pray that if my family picks up this novel coronavirus, we will all be lucky enough to have a mild to moderate illness and recover at home without incident. I know that is a possibility with COVID-19, and I haven’t lost sight of that best-case scenario.
But there are so many other possibilities, and I’m not ashamed to admit that they scare the hell out of me.
Of course, I’m a little bit afraid of dying or losing someone I love. Some populations, like the elderly and immunocompromised, are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 death, but nobody is invincible. I do worry that if we got COVID-19 right now someone in my family could die. I also acknowledge that it’s much more likely that we would live. Statistics help me keep the fear of death at bay.
That’s not what keeps me up at night. Knowing how my family could suffer if I get this virus and get very, very sick is my biggest source of fear.
I am terrified of the idea of being in the ICU, maybe for weeks, alone. My husband is in the military. He’s working in COVID response behind the scenes right now. He would still need to work even if I got very sick, so someone else would have to care for my children. Honestly, I don’t have any clue who that “someone else” would even be. I don’t happen to know anyone who can drop their entire life to raise my kids for weeks while I hopefully recover. The physical illness would be horrible, and the emotional pain of being away from my kids and husband for all that time would kill part of me, too.
I know my husband would make sure our kids had what they needed, but I am the stay-at-home parent here. There are a lot of things he doesn’t know because he doesn’t have to. I don’t go to work with him during the day and learn how to do his job. He doesn’t ask me what I do every minute of my day, either. I chose this life and I love it, but it does mean that in some very practical ways, I am the glue that holds this family together. They all need me here.
My husband adores our children. They would feel loved and safe in my absence. I don’t doubt that at all.
But he’s not me. My speech-delayed four-year-old has asthma. He sometimes gets very sick, very fast, even with a common cold. He is working hard learning speech and language, but he still relies on me to notice his behavior changes before he gets to the point where he needs an ER visit. If Walker got sick while I was gone, would anyone else see the subtle signs that he needs to start nebulizer treatments and steroids ASAP?
My sweet little baby is only four months old and breastfed. A serious illness would impact my ability to feed her. Weeks apart would end our nursing relationship forever and break my heart. I know she wouldn’t starve, but she would be sad and confused. I’d be sad, too. That tiny baby needs her mommy.
My seven-year-old is the only one of my kids who could fully understand what was going on, but that’s another thing I’m afraid of. He’s a worrier by nature. If I was so sick that I ended up in the hospital, he would not have a moment’s peace. He would be afraid every second until I came home. I work hard as his mom to protect him from potentially traumatic situations as much as I can. I don’t want to see him work through that experience.
And then there’s my husband. My sweet, handsome, hard-working husband. I just don’t want him to go through this. Any of it.
I could probably go on for hours. Even though I know lots of people recover without lasting effects, there is really no good way to have COVID-19.
I don’t want to deal with this virus right now before we have a solid treatment, cure or vaccine. I don’t think I’ll be in fear forever. As the science progresses, I’ll feel some relief. But I am really scared right now.
That is why I’m doing every single thing I can do to keep our chances low. It’s why I’m not going out yet. I’m letting myself desperately miss the people I love for a little while longer. My kids and I are staying home, despite our cabin fever.
I’m doing everything right, and I just hope that’s enough.