‘Daddy will be better soon, I promise.’ I cross my fingers. I hope so

Covid Stories: Isolating with three young children and a husband sick with Covid-19

There is an infestation of ants in my kitchen. I sit at the table eating my porridge warily watching another tiny black body scamper towards the crumbs on the tablecloth. This is the last straw. Another mini crisis for me to deal with on my own as my husband self-isolates in a bedroom upstairs.

We are now on Day Eight. The sun is beaming in the window. My two-year-old is screaming “Mammy, Mammy!” from the hallway where she battles with her four-year-old sister over new twistable crayons I gave out yesterday in the hope of gaining five minutes’ peace.

My five-year-old daughter sits at the table with me, spooning her honey carefully over her porridge. Her large blue eyes have yet another question. I can see it coming and I am thinking I don’t have the energy to give her the thoughtful, considerate, age appropriate answer she needs.

“How many people are dead in Ireland from the coronavirus?” she pipes up. The radio is blaring in the background with the presenter calling out the latest numbers on confirmed cases and deaths. The noise of my toddler screaming had drowned out the figures for me, but my five-year-old had tilted her head and I knew she was listening intently.

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“I don’t know,” I cautiously reply, not wanting to upset her. “But Mammy, how many are dead, I need to know!” her voice raises a pitch and tears appear at the corners of her eyes. “I hope my daddy won’t die,” she adds sadly, and continues spooning honey onto her now cold porridge.

I catch my breath and look at her. I stand up and turn off the radio.

I have nothing left to give. I am on duty, day and night, confined in my home with my three small children who cannot understand why Daddy is upstairs and not coming down to them to read them stories and play with them.

I put on my facemask and gloves, and prepare his meal. Tea and toast is all he can stomach. My second daughter sees me with the mask and she asks can she have one too. I tell her I will be back shortly.

They run after me as I carry the tray with the minuscule breakfast on it towards the hall. “Can we come, can we come,” they plead. I picture my husband lying in the bed, the dark room, the frequent trips to the toilet, his exhaustion, his fear of passing this virus onto his much-loved little girls. “No”, I reply, trying to be patient, to be tolerant, to be kind, “but soon: Daddy will be better soon, I promise”. I cross my fingers. I hope so.

I rang the doctor on call yesterday to ask for advice. “Be careful”, she warns. “Even if he looks like he is getting a little better, it can suddenly change between day seven and day 10. Watch out for difficulty breathing.”

I listen carefully to this advice, my mind in a whirl. He could have a seizure in the room upstairs and I might not know as I am pulled between the demands of three little voices wanting and needing my full-time attention now that their certain world is no longer stable.

“There is no treatment,” the doctor continues patiently to me on the phone, her voice worn out from repeating the same messages. “Stay at home, doing what you are doing. If he gets worse bring him to hospital.” The knot in my stomach tightens.

I am so tired. My toddler wakes frequently during the night and I am called from my bed to calm her terrified screams. She has sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils and can stop breathing momentarily, which frightens her into a frenzy of high pitching screaming.

Multiple night wakenings have left me exhausted and there is no one to share the load with. Her planned tonsillectomy and regular sleep for the household has been abandoned since Covid- 19 entered our world.

A neighbour walks past our house alone. I wave from my window. I would like to talk to someone, anyone who I can share this with. I am not sure who I can tell. WhatsApp group messages fly frequently in to my phone. There are pictures of friends who are parents with their children enjoying this unexpected family time, gardening and playing with bubbles on their lawn. Do I text back with details of my misery and burst their pleasure? I put the phone down and text nothing.

My children run around the kitchen floor, nappies hanging off. A pool of milk is running across the counter from an upended carton. There is silence from the room upstairs. I wonder is he sleeping now?

The ants are busy, carrying their find of crumbs back to their nest. I spot a crack in the floor tiles where they are appearing in multiples. Clusters of tiny little moving bodies. It reminds me of the virus. I breathe. I stand up. I can do this. It’s one more day.

I walk towards the utility press to find something to stuff the hole with.