The Impact of Isolation

Like so many others, we recently made the decision to isolate our family for 14 days. It wasn’t an easy choice – it certainly wasn’t mandated due to recent travel. Our decision came at a time when the information available was mixed, and we weren’t really sure how serious this virus was.

Prior to having made this choice, we celebrated Robert’s 6th birthday. Before those feelings of uncertainty penetrated our lives, Robert was surrounded by a small group of friends and celebrated by a room full of people singing “Bonne Fête”.

He blew out the candles on his giant pull-apart cupcake-cake, and devoured his favourite flavour, ‘show-co-lawt’.

Birthday pull-apart cupcakes

He laughed, was loved, and had the best night’s sleep following his Little Gym party.

The following day, we went over to my parents. It was the beginning of March Break, and Robert was going to camp “Grandmaman et Pépère” while Mom & Dad worked. Just days before, news had come that schools were to be closed for 2 extra weeks, but we had only learned that day that the daycare was closing. Everything felt surreal – was this an exaggeration? A knee-jerk reaction by our government?

The plan was for us to return on Robert’s birthday. We would celebrate as an extended family, watch him open a few gifts, sing his favourite song (“Bonne Fête”), and after cake, we’d take him home.

As the week progressed, each day seemed to bring with it more uncertainty.

I’m sure you all felt it.

One day, you wake up thinking “ah it’s just a bad cold or flu, we’ll be fine if we get it!” and the next, you find yourself obsessively washing your hands, cleaning everything, and physically avoiding people you pass on the street. Then you find yourself looking at the Government’s symptom checker, convinced that the tickle in your throat and the fatigue you feel is caused by this novel virus, and not the fact you are a full-time parent who is simultaneously hopping on conference calls, prepping meals, walking the dog, and scrubbing down doorknobs.

That uncertainty you felt? We did, too.

That feeling led us to make the decision to isolate. We would not leave our home or yard except to walk the dog.

We stopped bringing the littles to the playground at the local school and the nearby parks.

Days later, the City announced all public parks were closed.

The feelings of unease continued to grow.

We were waiting for the news to give us answers, to tell us when to expect normalcy to return.

All that came was more uncertainty.

That uncertainty led to our decision to stay home and isolate ourselves.

This meant that we would not be picking up Robert until those 14 days of isolation were over.

It meant we’d kissed our 5-year-old for the last time. The next time we saw him, wouldn’t be on the day he turned 6, but weeks later.

Since this is a global health-crisis, we understand why we aren’t able to be with him.

We, the adults, made the decision together. Our big boy is with two people we trust implicitly. He is loved beyond measure, he is well cared for, and, boy, was he celebrated on the day he turned 6.

And though I worried about how Robert would feel without his family party on his birthday, I admit, I never thought to consider the impact that this would have on Sullivan.

But recently, that impact became so glaringly obvious.

The other morning we walked the dog to a near-by wooded area, with the kids in the double stroller. Our dog-walking tradition has become one where Sullivan gets out of the stroller when we get to big paths or wooded areas. He loves nothing more than being able to “cours vite! cours vite!” (run fast! run fast!) in the wooded area.

He is so excited that he doesn’t know where to look as he runs along, occasionally falling down as his feet try to keep up with the momentum caused by his level of excitement.

If you’ve never watched a 2 year old run in the woods, giggling, you’re missing a truly joyful sight.

Exploring with Sullivan ©

On this walk, as he was running along the path, we came by a woman and her toddler playing on the forest floor. Seeing us, they moved off the path to let us pass.

As Sullivan ran past them, he cried out “LES AMIS! LES AMIS!”. He was so thrilled to see other people, and another small child.

I realized in that moment that with daycare being closed, not only was he not seeing his daycare friends, he wasn’t seeing anyone but his mom, dad, and baby brother. He must be feeling so alone.

Later that same evening, after Sullivan brushed his teeth and put on his jammies, we began the bedtime routine.

As part of the bedtime routine that night, we read books, then I rocked and sang to him, as I told him I loved him and thanked him for a fun day.

When Robert first went to Camp Grandmaman & Pépère, Sullivan would ask to sleep in Robert’s bed. Sullivan and Robert, you might remember, share a bedroom. But these past few nights, he began to choose the comfort (and security?) of his crib instead. Not only that, he’s started to insist on sleeping with his bedroom door open.

That night, I ran my fingers through his hair as I spoke about how we’d get to spend time playing together the next day. I whispered good night, told him I loved him, and left his room.

Without thinking, I closed his door as I left.

He cried. And not just the cry of protest, but the sound of heartache.

When I went to check on him, I asked him if he missed Robert. He nodded. He calmed down in my arms, I told him I loved him, and put him back to bed. As I left the room, I was sure to check that his door was open behind me.

It was this moment that it hit me.

In that moment, I truly realized how difficult this isolation is on Sullivan.

As adults, we sometimes forget that our littles are acutely aware of what is happening around them. We forget how they observe, and try to process and absorb change.

I was guilty of this with Sullivan. I assumed that to him, this wouldn’t be much different than a long weekend, or Christmas break. He’d be able to run, play and cuddle with us every day.

But this boy, my little firecracker, feels things so deeply. I should have known he would notice. That Sullivan would feel a void in the place his brother holds in his heart, in our hearts, and the spaces he belongs in the house.

He misses his daycare friends. He misses his routines. Most importantly, he misses his family – his aunts, grandparents and his big brother.

We are doing our part, and it comes with a huge sacrifice of being separated from our son. We ask that you please do yours.

The sooner Canadians get on board, the sooner this will be over and the sooner our family will be back together.

We are all feeling the change and the challenges. The grief and the uncertainty. Your experience with these emotions might be different than ours, but we are all feeling it.

© Lace&Lavender Photography #FrontPorchPhotos

Please give yourself grace, give your neighbours grace, and most importantly, please #StayTheFuckHome.

Grief & Gratitude

November 2019, you bring with you so many emotions.

Today, my baby celebrates 7 months on the outside. It brings me back to the day he was born. 7 months ago, my godmother came over for a quick visit. I love when she stops by. She’s a woman of grace, intelligence and beauty.

When she came by, I knew I’d be having my baby that day. I was overdue, partially dilated and very uncomfortable. I was waiting for a call from my midwives to move forward with the next steps. I was so ready to meet my new baby. A visit from my godmama on that day was just icing on the cake for me, an extra special moment shared between us.

While our visit was so lovely, she brought with her some sad news. My Oma, who had been ill for several years, was clearly declining. She didn’t have long left, but no one knew what that meant : days, weeks or months? I knew that once I had recovered enough to travel, I’d be making a trip to see my Oma with my new baby, her freshest great-grandson.

2 days after Alistair was born, my Oma died. I’m told it was peaceful. I’ll never know. I wish I had known that last time we spoke, the last visit we had together, that it would be our last one. Our last hug. Our last I love you.

My Oma was special. After Robert was born, she didn’t really know what to say. She wanted to comfort me, but she wasn’t sure how. She told me how ‘those people’ could do ‘great things’ and lead ‘normal lives’. None of that was said in a condescending way. She was so happy to tell me that she knew someone with Down Syndrome who led a happy and fulfilled life. She was trying to comfort me, and tell me not to put limits on our new baby boy. I could tell she was trying to carefully choose her words, not to offend or say the wrong thing. After all, she grew up in a time where people with Down Syndrome were given up for adoption, hidden away in institutions, and not spoken of. She knew our precious gift would be loved and shared with the world, but she didn’t have the vocabulary needed to express that.

Alistair’s birth story and Oma’s death will forever be linked. One a memory of the other. Each milestone in his life represents another day, month, and soon, year that Oma is not with us.

LuckyMama as a baby with her beautiful Oma
LuckyMama as a baby with her beautiful Oma

November adds another layer to the grief. Today, as I celebrate my baby being a part of our family for the past 7 months, I know it means that 7 months ago, Oma only had 2 more days with us. On Wednesday, the 7 month anniversary of Oma’s death, I will be celebrating Sullivan’s 2nd birthday. I wonder what her advice would be if I asked her how to be the best parent to this wild and loving boy? She met Sullivan and yet, even though we spent a morning together, I barely remember that visit. Sullivan did not sleep. He suffered from colic, and he was a baby who needed to be held. I was sleep deprived, and I didn’t know how to host my Oma that day. I wish I could remember that visit better. I hope she felt that I loved her and I was happy she was sitting with me.

As we celebrate milestone birthdays of our two youngest, I am reminded that Oma won’t be celebrating her birthday next week. The day will pass, and the hearts of those who knew her will mourn her.

I am grateful that I was able to know my Oma. That she took me to get my first pair of jelly shoes on our trip to Florida. I am grateful for the love she showered on me, for the kindness she imparted on me, and for the patience she showed me.

November 2019: You bring joy and sorrow all wrapped in one.