My boys got COVID, and I got a massive case of guilt.
As parents, we’re supposed to protect our children. Seeing them sick, hurt, or in any kind of pain is heart-wrenching. Of course, you know you can’t keep them in a protective bubble, but it still feels like failure when you can’t keep them safe. That’s exactly what COVID felt like to me.
I debated on telling our experience with COVID, since no one experience is alike. I am definitely not an expert. Ultimately, I wanted to share because it’s so important. This pandemic is touching everyone, no matter how protected you think you are.
How it Started
Throughout this whole pandemic, we’ve been trying to be very careful. We’ve followed CDC guidelines, wore masks, and got vaccinated when we were able. While not entirely preventable or protected, I thought we’d been doing a pretty good job at keeping ourselves and our families safe.
Until we didn’t.
There isn’t one particular event I can say for certain put us in this place. There are a few situations, however, that are more likely than others. I’m not sure if I would change anything, if I could go back in time, but it doesn’t change how terrible I feel.
I think the main factor in the boys getting COVID, and the reason for my immense guilt, was the vaccine. It’s probably not the reason that you think, however.
I completely believe in the science behind the vaccine, and I’m so grateful for our access to it. I would get it again in a heartbeat. Instead, it’s the sense of security I felt after getting it that I would change. I let my guard down too much.
The boys were not eligible, but me and my husband were, as well as grandparents and family that we’d been so worried about for months and months. I felt such a great relief that they, and we, were finally protected. I knew that it wasn’t 100% effective, but it was our best chance of staying out of the hospital. Our parents are higher risk, so that was very important.
So, while my vaccine didn’t directly cause my boys’ COVID infection, I think my attitude after getting it was a contributing factor. Which, in turn, is the cause of my enormous guilt.
Getting a little normalcy
After getting the vaccine, I felt like we could get back to a little more normal. It was important to get back to doing things. Mental health can’t be discounted.
I went back to the gym. We ate at a few restaurants, mostly outside, but one inside too. We made plans for a few summer road trips. I signed the boys up for swim lessons, and even felt OK about them going to summer school, where masks were recommended, but not required.
Before doing any of these things that related to the boys, I did speak with their pediatrician. Mr. B happened to have his yearly wellness exam right after I’d gotten my second dose. I spoke with her about masking and activities, and she eased my worries. While children do get COVID, she hadn’t seen a very serious case in one with a normal immune system.
It was OK to let them do some activities. I had to think about their mental health too.
How it happened
Mr. B’s mental health had been impacted the most out of our kids during the pandemic. The twins have each other to play with, but he was alone a lot. He missed his friends, missed doing activities, and missed going out in the World.
He had been begging to go to a water park for a long time, so we decided to finally plan a vacation. The twins were almost done with swim lessons, so I felt better about them being safe at a water park too. It would be nice to get away for a few days, and we were going outdoors, so it wasn’t super high risk.
So, we packed up the car, left the puppy for the first time with a friend, and headed out of town. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the vacation we planned.
Now, before you jump to any conclusions, the boys did not get COVID on our vacation. In fact, they must have gotten it right before.
We actually don’t know which of the boys got it first or where they actually got it for sure. Was it during swim lessons, the one place they can’t wear masks? Was it at the zoo, where we went earlier in the week? We did go indoors to see a LEGO exhibit. Did one of us, me or my husband, actually bring it home and not know it, since we’re vaccinated?
I guess we’ll never be sure. Well, that last one we are sure wasn’t the case, as you’ll read later.
What we do know is that Mr. B got a sore throat the night after we got to our destination. No fever or any other symptoms. It was not that usual, though. He has very large tonsils, and they tend to get inflamed or get stones on them when he gets sick. He said he had felt like he had stuff in the back of his throat, so I figured that’s what it was. We had been to the doctor in the Spring with the same symptoms, and it was just a virus. He had tested negative for both Strep and COVID that time.
Mr. C was also stuffy. However, we had been in the water all day, and he said he got a ton of it up his nose. He kept having to blow his nose all night, but thought it was the water that had irritated him.
So, we all went to sleep. In the same bed, smushed together. I didn’t realize we were getting only a king bed when I made our reservation. It was a long night.
The next morning, Mr. C was fine. Mr. B said his throat was still a little sore, and laid around a while, but still wanted to participate in activities. No fever, so I didn’t really think anything of it.
Getting home and getting THE diagnosis
Luckily, our trip was short. Mr. B wasn’t feeling good, and stayed in the room instead of going to dinner or to the pool. So, we cut our trip short. By the time we got home, Mr. B wanted to go to the doctor.
I made an appointment, and took him in. I was expecting a Strep test, and also agreed to a COVID test, for peace of mind.
Strep came back negative. COVID positive. We were both shocked.
Mr. B was actually very scared. After being stuck at home and hearing nothing but terrible things about this virus, to get diagnosed was terrifying for him. For me too.
The doctor tried to calm him and assure him that he would be fine. Keep him hydrated, as that was a major reason kids ended up in the hospital. I also had to keep track of how much he was using the bathroom, and push liquids.
So, I took him home, gave him some pain medication, and got him in bed. Then, I had to figure out what the rest of us had to do.
The Isolation and the quarantine
Both the nurse and doctor agreed that it was too late to isolate Mr. B. We had all been together in close contact for the past three days. There was no escaping it. We had already been exposed.
Obviously, we would not now be sharing a bed or a room, but there was no need to make Mr. B feel worse than he already did. We would treat it like any other illness in our house.
We did, however, need to get tested and quarantine for a certain amount of time, depending on the results of our tests. The nurse suggested we wait three to five days since Mr. B started his symptoms. Otherwise, we may get a false negative. Neither she, nor the doctor, were certain of the latest protocols for vaccinated individuals, so they suggested I consult the CDC website.
According to the CDC, neither me nor my husband would need to quarantine, since we were fully vaccinated. We would need to monitor for symptoms, get tested, and wear masks outside the home for 14 days after our last exposure. The twins would be monitored, tested, and quarantined for 14 days after their last exposure, if they tested negative. Those 14 days would start 10 days after Mr. B’s first symptom appeared.
I messaged a few friends that we had seen the week before Mr. B got sick, just in case. We then found the testing site our doctor recommended and took the twins.
The test has gotten a lot less invasive. Just a quick swirl around each nostril. The twins both said it tickled. I was thankful it wasn’t a big deal. I was also thankful that our results would be accessible that night by midnight.
By the time the results finally showed up, I had checked the site no fewer than 20 times.
Negative. Negative. Negative. Positive.
One of the twins also had COVID.
However, after talking to our doctor and health department, we all decided it must be a false negative for the other. The twins share EVERYTHING. The drink out of the same water bottles, sleep in the same bunk (even though they have bunk beds!) and are constantly in each others’ faces. Since the NICU, I don’t think one has ever been sick without the other.
As for my husband and I, the vaccine worked. We were still to monitor our symptoms, but we both took a sigh of relief. We did not bring it home with us. A little guilt could be removed.
Mr. B had an extremely sore throat. He had no appetite, and he was tired. He also lost his sense of smell and taste.
I constantly had to push liquids and stay on top of pain meds. After about a week, he started to turn the corner. He started eating again and his throat felt a bit better.
The twins never really had any major symptoms. Looking back, Mr. C’s stuffy nose and Mr. P’s sneezing were probably the only effects of COVID.
We all got very, very lucky.
So, now Mr. B mostly has his senses back and no other lingering side effects that we know of. We also have finished our 14 days of monitoring, and are hopefully in the clear. The guilt, however, continues to hang around.
The Mental Toll of COVID
I know in my head that you can’t protect your children from everything. We had to make the best decisions we could at the time and also consider mental health, as well as physical. Still, when I saw how scared Mr. B was, it broke my heart. I wanted to take it all away.
So, even though it wasn’t the worst illness we’ve experienced, I hope we never have to do it again. Not only was it hard to watch Mr. B in pain, but it was also hard to quarantine ourselves. You’re left alone with all the “what ifs” and “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s.” It is exhausting.
Now, we will live our lives with a little more caution. Wear our masks indoors, and be so grateful that our experience with COVID wasn’t severe. Mr. B has already decided to get the vaccine when he is eligible.
I hope you will too.
Please be safe and stay healthy.