I had a pandemic baby and Covid three times. Here’s what I learned
My 10-month-old daughter is a pandemic baby through and through.
She was conceived during the pandemic, she encountered the virus in the womb, and she tested positive for omicron at the beginning of this year.
I’ve also gone toe-to-toe with the virus three times.
My Covid-19 story begins with a Hawaiian vacation.
Mentions of a novel Coronavirus outbreak in China were in the news, but in early 2020, concerns were relatively low-key in the U.S.
Photos I snapped at the Kona airport in March 2020 show travelers making their way through the concourse without masks or social distancing.
They are scenes from the Before Times.
During our week in paradise, the nightly news reports became increasingly frantic.
Our alarm grew as the virus’ landfall was reported in Washington state, with SeaTac Airport identified as a major gateway.
A couple of days later, the first case was reported on Oahu and the islands began to shut down. We worried about getting home.
The night before we left, I awoke with a sore throat and lay awake gripped with fear I was infected with the virus that had already claimed lives back home and that I may have unknowingly spread it to my husband and parents.
The following evening, as we sat in the terminal waiting to board our red-eye flight, chills and body aches swept over me and I could feel it beginning to take hold of my sinuses.
The whole flight to Seattle I writhed with fever and discomfort, disembarking tired and weak into an eerily empty airport, where TSA agents seemed to outnumber travelers.
Our flight to Pasco was delayed, so I spent hours in a fetal position, sipping orange juice and sleeping.
I had never experienced such severe body aches in my life.
By the time we made it home, my fever dissipated, but the cold-like symptoms set in.
A couple days later, my husband began to experience the same. We went to an urgent care clinic, but Covid tests were not readily available then. We were told we likely had colds – a diagnosis I didn’t trust.
Four months later, we were unexpectedly pregnant with our first child.
We were trepidatious about what world our baby would be born into.
While five months pregnant, in November 2020, and still months away from a vaccine, my husband contracted Covid at work. I soon became symptomatic, as did my in-laws.
Both of our initial PCR tests came back negative, despite multiple days having passed since exposure, but our second tests were positive.
Our respective onset and symptoms were identical to what we experienced after our Hawaii trip eight months earlier, though my fever lasted an extra day and my cold symptoms lingered for weeks.
My in-laws also had minor cases, and our unborn baby was not adversely affected.
Our girl was born two and a half weeks past her due date in late April as healthy as can be.
I hoped the antibodies I had generated stoked her fledgling immune system – and would like to think they did.
I rolled up my sleeve to get both rounds of the vaccine and the booster to keep those antibodies flowing to her.
Yet despite these efforts, my daughter woke up very sluggish on Jan. 10, 2022, and throughout the rest of the day was alarmingly drowsy and lethargic.
She was running a moderately high fever, and so I spent the afternoon and evening cuddled on the couch with her nursing and sleeping off and on until the fever came down.
The next day, I began to experience chills and fatigue, but nothing like I’d experienced in past cases.
On Jan. 12, we stood in line for over an hour at the Richland community testing site, uneasy and trying to put as much distance between ourselves and the dozens of others waiting their turn.
Surprisingly, my daughter didn’t put up any fuss at having her tiny, plugged nose swabbed. Our results both came back positive, as did my husband’s a few days later.
For a week and a half after our tests, we slogged through congestion and other cold-like symptoms.
I’m happy to report we are back to normal and relieved to be through our bout with omicron.
We joke that my daughter put her mouth on the shopping cart at the hardware store a couple days before she came down with Covid – but it could have come from anywhere.
We aren’t particularly social people to begin with, but we have been very cautious about social gatherings because babies are so vulnerable to more severe forms of illness.
However, we also want our daughter to experience life as normally as possible, so we still go into stores, attend toddler story time weekly at the Richland Public Library and get together with friends and family in small groups.
It hasn’t been without risk, obviously, but I’d like to think that over the past two years we’ve all become more sensible and conscientious about safely attending work, events and get-togethers.
As we enter the pandemic’s third year, I am grateful we haven’t lost a loved one to Covid, that my husband has remained employed and that our baby has been healthy and happy. I know not everyone has been as fortunate.
Today, as I watch my pandemic baby crawl across the house, pull herself up on every piece of furniture and smile big with her seven little teeth, I find my challenge all along has been savoring all the special moments and finding balance amid continuous change. That’s life in a pandemic, right? But really, it’s life every day. Let’s savor it.
Laura Kostad of Kennewick has been a freelance writer for the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business since 2017.