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My Newborn and I Battled the Coronavirus—Here's What I Want You to Know

And four crucial things I wish someone had told me.
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Hi, everyone! I'm Jill, an illustrator, writer, mother and lifestyle blogger based in Dallas, Texas. Before having kids, I worked as a stylist but I can honestly say that being a full-time mother maxing out every single minute of the fringe hours with my passions—I'm truly living out my dream job. I have been reading Cupcakes and Cashmere since 2010. It was part of my morning routine and is the only blog I still read from my then seven-blog lineup. Fun fact: C&C is what inspired me to start a blog of my own. What an honor it is to be writing here today. 

If you would have told me my third pregnancy would be spent 'sheltering in place' in our home because of a global pandemic, I would have thought you were describing a bad Hallmark movie. When my newborn and I tested positive for the virus, it confirmed my theory. And yet it wasn’t an overly dramatized movie—a few weeks ago, it was my real life.

In the first week of March, my husband and I took our 5 and 3 year old on a road trip to 30A, a scenic highway in Florida with access to beautiful beach towns, for spring break. I was 30 weeks pregnant and we wanted to celebrate our last spring as a family of four. Maybe it’s my Enneagram 6 personality but even in January, I had my ears perked up to this “Covid thing” and halfway through the trip, my discomfort grew. Despite the fact that no one was taking it seriously in Florida and there were lots of memes rolling around saying things like “Climate change needs Coronavirus’ publicist," I just had a feeling this would end up being something more. It certainly was.

The day after we drove home to Dallas from our trip, shelter-in-place was declared for our city. Our preschool sent an email with a very conservative break period of just two weeks until the kids would be back in class. They, of course, still haven’t returned.

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As someone who has battled anxiety that is especially severe in the realm of illness, this was my worst nightmare. I have an autoimmune disease and I was pregnant—two ticks in the “high risk” box. I’m also half Black and my husband is Nigerian—Covid data let us know that was one more tick against us. Because of this, we went absolutely nowhere. My husband only left the house to grab groceries and I only left the house for appointments to see my midwives. We were incredibly careful with takeout and groceries and would visit the rest of my family by standing by our car and communicating over their front yard. We simply couldn’t risk my husband not being able to be at the birth or me not being able to deliver in the birth center.

It was lonely. It was long. It was bonding. It was beautiful.

We finally made it to May and our sweet girl was born. I was still as careful as I had always been, washing my hands so much they were raw, disinfecting every box and grocery items that entered our home, avoiding stores and keeping everyone on top of their vitamins. I was, however, postpartum. Three weeks of false labor every night before birth and life with a newborn left me absolutely exhausted.

Two days into being one month postpartum, I woke up with a brutal headache. I figured it was from lack of sleep and put on some frankincense oil. The next day, Wednesday, I had one of the worst migraines I’ve ever experienced along with allergy symptoms. I instantly did that thing we all have done way too many times in the past few months—I Googled “Covid symptoms” and panic-read the list two times over. I never had a fever, so I sighed a breath of relief.

The next few days were a battle. I prayed constantly, did a whole lot of self talk, and tried my best not to panic. I attempted to rest, ordered a bunch of Zinc and Vitamin C, and stopped hugging and kissing my husband and kids just to be safe. The thing is, I had never heard of anyone who had Covid without a fever so I tried to calm myself by calling it coincidence. The morning of Day 5, I went to the fridge to take a sip of a LimonCello LaCroix and realized I couldn’t taste it. I grabbed random bottles of spices and oils and basically jammed them into my nose. Couldn’t smell a thing. And there it was—I had COVID-19.

Just when I finally felt myself exhale for the first time in nearly three months, I had to hold my breath again because one of the worst parts of the Coronavirus is the waiting. Waiting to see if it will get worse, waiting to see if your loved ones also have it, waiting to see how much longer you’ll be in pain. The waiting is brutal.

On Day 7 of symptoms, I noticed my freshly five-week-old daughter wasn’t herself. She didn’t feel particularly warm and she wasn’t behaving much differently than normal, but maternal instinct kicked in and I trusted it. I took her temperature to ease any doubt and was shocked to see it read 101.0. I thought most babies were asymptomatic—how was this happening? My pediatrician reminded me that anything over 100.4 in an infant is a fever and I immediately needed to take her to the hospital. I loaded my kids up into the car, called my mom and asked her to meet me there to take them and, with my heart beating out of my chest, carried the carseat into the emergency room.

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They let me know that because of her temperature and her age they had to test her for 31 different infections which would require a catheter, a nose swab, and an IV. My precious little baby somehow felt even smaller lying there on that table hooked up to monitors and I wished more than anything in that moment that my husband would have been allowed to be by my side.

The results took four hours in total. Thirty came back negative, one came back positive: my one-month-old had COVID-19. It was her diagnosis that finally made me certain that, although I never got tested, my symptoms had to have been from COVID-19 as well. The week that followed consisted of trying to lower her temperature, working to keep her comfortable, and lots of saline and Nose Frida and homeopathic remedies, once we could leave the Tylenol behind. A body that teeny fighting a virus that big was incredible. I am so proud of that girl and thankful every day that her respiratory symptoms weren’t severe.

As for myself, I was and still am abundantly grateful my husband and two older children were asymptomatic. We all quarantined in the house together for twenty days after the baby’s first symptom, which was almost thirty days after mine. I had been warned it could be two steps forward and one step back which was certainly true, but now, a whole month later we are both back to full health with just a couple symptoms lingering. I couldn’t end this without sharing these crucial points:

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I was more careful than anyone I know and still caught the virus. I disinfected everything. I wore a mask. I went a total of four different places in the span of nearly four months. I washed my hands until they were raw. I still ended up battling this thing and it absolutely blows my mind. You don’t need to live in fear, but you do need to live in wisdom.

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In the news, I only heard of cases where people wound up in the hospital or were completely asymptomatic-there wasn’t any in between. I was the in-between. I wanted to share my story because, while the timing was absolutely the worst case scenario as a newly postpartum mother of three and for my sweet girl who hadn’t developed her immune system yet, we were so blessed to not need to be hospitalized. My most uncomfortable days were only days one to seven. If you battle anxiety around illness just know that there are many cases that are right there in the in-between just like me. Yes, it was very uncomfortable and scary at times, but manageable—I hope that encourages you.

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I don’t know where or how I got it. Maybe it was from my sister who was congested for three days. Maybe it was our first and only takeout experience from a restaurant that later announced it was closing because the staff members tested positive for Covid. Again, I was as careful as could be which made actually accepting that I had it very difficult. 

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My kids and my husband were asymptomatic aside from my son having a fever for a couple hours and my daughter having a cough or two literally once a week. In some cases, entire families carry on this way with almost no symptoms at all for their entire duration with the virus. Please, wear a mask. We have no idea who will contract it and how they will be affected until it’s too late. The simplest act of loving your neighbor is caring for them in this way.

Lastly, being pregnant and giving birth during this pandemic can be just plain hard. Being postpartum often feels isolating in even the best of circumstances, and it’s amplified ten-fold right now. It requires proper grieving for the pregnancy and postpartum experience you were anticipating and lots of reflection for all that we have to be thankful for. Caring for your friends and loved ones walking through this season in ways as small as sending a text to ask how they’re doing and as big as dropping by a meal will absolutely mean the world. I guarantee it.

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You can see my list of symptoms and the day they arrived right here, and my Coronavirus care kit by age group here.

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