Covid didn’t care that we were careful

We’ve been so cautious for two full years.

I was sewing face masks before anyone was wearing masks — before you could even buy masks. There were days during the Omicron wave where I made our daughter wear two child-sized surgical masks, layered, because Covid was sweeping through her classroom. (And she did it, without complaint.)

We went months on end without seeing even close family. We missed two Christmases with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — all because the gathering limits changed and we wanted to respect the rules. We once wore masks to a family gathering because someone was unvaccinated.

And, oh, the vaccines! Was there anyone more committed to tracking news on vaccines and obsessively stalking the site in order to book first doses, second doses, booster doses, and the kids’ two doses? I helped dozens of other people secure their own doses, too — calling, texting, DMing to let them know about availability. It was my own little public service. My desperate attempt to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

In our family, all four of us had our doses on the first day it was humanly possible for us to receive them. With each new dose, it felt like we’d crossed another hurdle. ‘Well, at least we’ve got one dose. That’s something.’ ‘Okay, we’ve made it to fully vaccinated. Now, if we were to catch it, we’d be better off.’ If the government were to have announced a fourth dose, a fifth, a tenth, I would have happily rolled up my sleeve.

There were many times we said no to playdates and sleepovers because “Covid is too bad right now.” Even when the kids argued that it wasn’t fair because their friends were doing X or Y, I put my foot down. They begged to go to the arcade and the indoor trampoline park, but I said no. Those places would be too germy, I told them. It’s not safe yet.

For a long time, it felt like our hyper-vigilance was working. We weren’t catching Covid. We were winning.

So when I crossed the kitchen floor, glanced down at the test, and saw those two lines, I couldn’t have been more shocked.

We’d done the test as a precaution! Not because we thought it would be … positive. Not because I actually thought it would mean our streak was over.

The rest of us tested immediately and were all negative. I couldn’t stop staring at those double lines on the first test.

In a cruel twist, our family found out about its first positive case on the anniversary of the first presumptive case of Covid in Nova Scotia. Two years, exactly, since our lives were turned upside down.

In the same way that I tend not to bother watching a popular TV show until it’s not even popular anymore, Covid caught up with our family right around the time it was supposedly “over.”

I felt betrayed.

We’d followed every rule. We’d made sacrifices and missed out on fun. We’d gone through three lay-offs and continued fighting through the hardest months. We’d done everything we possibly could to keep Covid away.

I’d spent the last two years feeling like I was constantly disappointing my children in the name of “staying safe.

Our reward should have been to avoid it, but Covid found us anyway.

Of course, contract tracing was only a thing back when Covid was new and interesting, so it’s been a DIY project to figure out where it came from. We’re confident we’ve traced it back to school — a classmate who tested positive had been sitting next to our child, right before they found out and started staying home.

No one’s at fault, of course. The kids were masked, except for when they drank water or ate a snack, at most. So now I’m especially glad the government has decided to keep masking in schools past March 21, instead of scrapping the mandate after March Break like they’d planned. (If our child caught Covid in schools while masking was mandatory, just imagine the sh-tshow it would be if masks weren’t required. No, thank you.)

And yes, of course, what you’re all wondering is how they felt, how “bad” it was, etc. because I devour these kinds of first-person accounts regularly, nervous to see what it’s been like to actually have the thing I’ve been dreading for two years.

I’ll be forever grateful that they’ve been just fine, with symptoms so mild (almost undetectable) that we almost got through the whole case without ever knowing they had it. If it hadn’t been for an appointment they had scheduled for that day, and my decision to give them a rapid test “just so I can tell them you’re negative, if they ask about your stuffy nose,” we truly never would have known.

It’s crazy, really, to think of how many people have Covid and never know. I think about it often. Have the rest of us had it, at various points over the last two years, and not realized it?

The shock was hard on all of us. We were scared, especially at first. Covid was the boogeyman we’d been running from for so long, and now it was here, in our house.

I’d always thought I would absolutely LOSE IT if Covid closed in on us, since my track record for Covid freak-outs is … well-documented. And I think that if our child had been sick, or shown ANY signs of needing medical attention, I would have gone off the deep end, so I’m thankful we didn’t end up at that point.

Sure, I was anxious. (Still am.) Yes, I sometimes felt my chest tightening and wondered if they’d spread it to me before we even knew they had it. But I tested, and tested, and tested again, until I decided I was probably still negative, like the results showed. (EDITED TO ADD: I tested again, while writing this post. Still negative. I don’t know when I’ll feel “out of the woods,” but it hasn’t happened yet.)

It was strange, all of it.

Strange putting labels on the bathrooms so we didn’t accidentally use the wrong one. Strange seeing masks inside the house. Strange digging out the juice boxes I’d panic-bought ages ago. (“In case of Covid, break glass straw through wrapper.”) I’d spent so long expecting it to strike, and when we finally thought we might make it through without getting it, it arrived.

The fact that we found out on March Break sounds like a huge bummer, but because we’d been so cautious about Covid, we didn’t have ANY fun March Break plans to cancel. Ho hum.

So no one had to miss any school, and I let them have lots of extra screen time. (As an added bonus, I didn’t have to feel guilty about the screen time because it’s not like they had many options. They were even able to play “together” via video chatting from different rooms.)

They played outside in weather that was just starting to feel like spring. We baked a double batch of chocolate-chip cookies with different fillings, like mini marshmallows, and ate them all within 24 hours (including cookies for breakfast, which our treat-obsessed daughter will be talking about for the rest of her life). We watched shows and movies. My husband and I worked as usual.

In “normal” circumstances, I would have felt horribly guilty for such a dull March Break. But since Covid took away any expectations of bowling and playdates and outings, I think it was a pretty good break, considering.

Come for the Covid. Stay for the still-warm chocolate-chip peanut butter marshmallow cokies.

When the kids go back to school after March Break, they will be wearing masks as usual. Even though the mask mandate is lifting elsewhere, I will continue to wear mine anytime I leave the house (which is, admittedly, not very often). Just because it struck our house once doesn’t mean it can’t — or won’t — strike again, especially with these changing variants.

Whenever one of us leaves the house, there’s a chance we’ll bring Covid back in with us. So while our child is officially “over” Covid, as far as public health rules go — and the rest of us are still testing negative — I don’t feel like we’ve dodged a bullet. One of us could test positive an hour, a day, a week, a month from now. Covid is still circulating in our communities. Nothing is “over,” even if masks start coming off.

Covid didn’t care that we spent two years being exceedingly careful. It found us anyway.

But at least it found us as two triple-vaccinated adults, and two double-vaccinated children.

It found us armed with two years of knowledge on how to find information online on isolation, testing, PCRs, tracing, notifying close contacts. Protected by two years of science-backed knowledge about how the virus affects us and when medical attention might be needed, plus actual medication available should one of us need it.

I don’t regret two years of being careful, two years of saying no, two years of doing everything we could to avoid it. Because at least when it did arrive, we were ready for it.

So what do you think?

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