The day that I tested positive for COVID-19, my child and I spent the day at home waiting for my results, baking peanut butter biscuits and unpacking our suitcases. We’d just returned from an emotional trip to the UK for my grandmother’s funeral, and for the last week, I’d been suffering from fevers and aching limbs. But when the call finally came through from the hospital, I had to get our suitcase straight back out and start packing again.
This was at the start of March, in the very early days of COVID-19 appearing here in Australia, and the process at the time was to isolate each and every COVID-19 patient — in a hospital. I was very lucky, because this has since changed. I received world-class treatment; today, however, positive patients are currently being instructed to self-isolate at home unless in a critical condition.
When I was diagnosed, they said they didn’t know how long my kid and I would need to be hospitalized for. But as a solo parent by choice, I always prepare for the worst — so I packed as many toys as I could, along with my and my child’s clothes, the half a block of chocolate I’d just put back in the fridge, and my ukulele.
I’m a queer solo parent by choice to a four-year-old — and because we’d been in close proximity for the last month, my child had to come in with me. Late that night, the ambulance arrived in the paddock next to my remote little cabin, in a blaze of flashing lights. My kid was, of course, asleep but has never ever transferred well, so I had to bundle my sick self as well as a disoriented and distressed child in to the stretcher while batting away the onslaught of moths and mosquitoes.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were hurried down the eerily empty corridors flanked by people in masks and haz-mat suits to a negative pressure isolation room in the pediatric ward. We had a TV, a couch, and an electric hospital bed, which was of course a source of great entertainment to my kid. But there was no working internet, and my phone reception was too poor to hotspot. It wasn’t until halfway through our stay that someone offered my kid a toy to play with.
As far as symptoms go, I was one of the lucky who don’t get hit very hard. For me, the novel coronavirus felt like influenza — you spend the first week in bed, the second week wishing you were in bed, and then you get progressively better from there. Miraculously, my child remained completely well, despite the fact that we were trapped in a room smaller than our kitchen at home. Also, luckily, my child adores screen time, which definitely made our time in the hospital much easier than it might have been; in fact, when we were finally discharged, my kid didn’t want to leave!
The kindness of friends and family was truly what kept us going. We had life-saving Lego deliveries from those who lived nearby, parcels of chocolate and craft supplies from those further away. My mum was there almost daily, waving at us through the glass windows and bringing clean underwear, games, and salad dressing (to help make hospital food more edible).
But the highlight of our nine days in hospital was the day the clown doctors came. They drew funny things on the other side of the glass, made my kid laugh, and gave us contact with the outside world for a moment. For the rest of the time, it was just the two of us, with the exception of the heavily masked and gowned people who came in regularly at all times of the day and night to monitor us both.
My kid and I took showers for fun and slid around covered in hand soap, pretending to be at an ice-skating rink. Some days we’d play hide-and-seek, as only a four-year-old can find entertaining (ie in a room with nowhere to hide). We watched a lot of TV. We ate a lot of jelly. We made up games like “take you down” where we’d take turns gently pushing each other over in the bed. This game was a beautiful excuse to fit in lots of cuddles and intimacy in a playful way.
In fact, there was a wonderful thing to have come out of contracting coronavirus: the pure time it’s given me with my child. I had a few incredibly low days when I started to go to dark places in my head, and on those days, my kid’s kooky sense of humor or sweet kisses on my cheek dragged me back to myself. We’ve now been released from the hospital, and I’ve finally tested negative, which means I’m in the all-clear. We’ve just got another two weeks of quarantine at home now, to make sure my child is also in the clear.
While I was writing this article, I asked my kid how they felt about being in quarantine. “I love it,” they replied. “How come?” I asked, expecting them to say something about screen time and video games and TV.
“We don’t have to hurry to go anywhere anymore, Mama. And I don’t have to say goodbye to you at kindergarten either. I get so sad when you go to work. Now, we get to be together.”
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