I keep seeing people suggesting to “write your account down.” Of course it feels sort of … silly. Are things really that bad?
Yet, they are.
We are experiencing a Pandemic. Our lives will change as we know it.
We are home. We are in self-quarantine. We only go out to get essentials.
So, I thought I would begin blogging about what’s giving us hope.
What’s filling our time. In our little corner of the world.
I’ve been cooking a lot! We’ve made some great Home Chef meals and I’m picking up items to make chocolate chip cookies.
Isabella calls it “siiide.” She stands by the front door and begs to go “‘side.” We walk around our lot. We have gone on a few walks around the neighborhood. She stops and stares at leaves. There are really pretty purple buds coming up in the lawn.
We aren’t seeing any family. We went to see my dad, but only through glass. His wife is in Hungary and he’s been on a work assignment for the last two weeks. It was so strange to talk to him through his front glass door. But, refreshing to see another human. Mom is planning on stopping by at our window today. We facetime with Jutka in Hungary. She recorded her lullaby and I’ve been playing it for Bella. I’ve also been able to do Zoom with Sarah and Jess. That’s been super encouraging. And, of course, texting friends like Aubrie.
I began taking a lovely free course called The Science of Wellbeing from Yale University. It’s on Coursea, a free online platform. I’ve already completed the first week. It’s very laid back, yet informative. I took a few tests to determine by strengths.
When you give birth to a baby that’s 1 lb 7 ounces you learn to wash your hands. Well. Or use hand sanitizer. Well.
You begin driving around with a full sized sanitizer in your cup holder and avoid larger public places.
So, with COVID-19 hitting Ohio I feel pretty prepared. To be honest we’ve been in medical isolation for a very long time now. It’s second nature to our little family of 3. My husband works from home, I stay home, and we don’t take Bella, our now 2 year old, out very often unless it’s warm or if the event is worth exposing her to germs. To avoid making this post about my experience and more about tips, I’ll add a little bit of information that gives me some quarantine street cred. then move on with tips 🙂
Quarantine Street Cred
Bella was born in March of 2018. For months before that I was on moderate bedrest (homebound) and then spent a week in a high risk unit where I wasn’t allowed out but once. We stayed in the NICU for about 110 days. After, we isolated until April of 2019. We ONLY went to needed appointments/very limited family member’s homes. Dustin and I stayed home as much as possible and when we did go out we immediately took our clothes off and showered.
In April/May of 2019 we finally went out, even slightly against medical advice (They would’ve loved her to be isolated until the age of 2!) We explored all summer and into the fall, even going to Disney World. Again, come October we began pulling in the reigns and have been in a semi-medical isolation since. On March 1st Bella turned 2 and this past weekend we went to a kids event at the library. Although this has been extremely hard, it’s also been extremely rewarding and necessary. Isabella has NOT been re-hospitalized since leaving the NICU in May and is thriving. She also received immunity boosting injections both seasons.
Tips That Worked For Me
So, how did we do it? How did we keep from getting stir-crazy? How did we keep morale up and enjoy (Yes, ENJOY) our time in isolation? I studied other families and dedicated my time to personal growth and hygge principals. Here are some tips that helped me.
Recognize That You’ll Be In Isolation & Make A Plan
As soon as I learned I would be homebound and was considered high-risk with my pregnancy, I jumped online. I researched and learned what had worked for other moms in my situation. I learned that having a plan and routine would save my sanity. I also learned that setting up goals and accepting that I would be at home would help.
I grabbed a little basket called my “bed rest” basket and stocked it with medications, a notebook, a Bible, pens, scripture cards, lip balm, lotion, and other things that would be good to have close at hand. I then filled my notebook with things I wanted to get “done”. These things included resuming my goal of watching the Top 100 Movies of All Time, finishing a digital scrapbook, and reading 2-3 books that I had put off.
Again, once we realized we would be in isolation after having Bella, we sat down and wrote 10 goals for the year. A lot of these were limited to our home. Some examples included finishing Bella’s baby book, planning a fun first birthday party, learning about Montessori Education, and organizing my closet. Dustin set out to make money from a blog and learn a song on the guitar.
So, what to do if you’re going to be in quarantine for a bit? Grab a notebook and write out some goals. What are a few things that you have been putting off? Or would like to explore? Once you have a fun guide written down, let it help guide your next few weeks.
Reach Out & Continue To Build Relationships
As soon as I learned that my life with a micropreemie would look very different than other mommas, I made a commitment to continue to build relationships…from afar.
I continued to text/message/facetime others. I learned to be vulnerable online and in my text communications. I also even attended a few gatherings via Facetime/Skype!
To continue relationship building with other moms, I would ask about their kids, share photos, and pray for them. I also joined the digital MOPs (Moms of Preschoolers) group. This helped me as I received weekly emails and other types of encouragement, like texts.
As many of you know, I utilized social media to build relationships and to share about our struggles. This helped me build online friends and also helped me “vent.” Eventually once out of isolation, I committed to having a friend over once a month to meet Bella. It was challenging since I had been in isolation for a year (or more) but very rewarding.
Explore New Hobbies
Exploring a new hobby can sound cliche, but, let me tell you, trying something new can be super fun and energizing! Last Christmas my dad got me a Cricut Explore Air 2 as a gift. Other family members bought me accessories. I was excited to learn a new craft system. The cost of supplies was expensive, but I looked online for discounts and took a few Hobby Lobby runs to pick up paper. (Always using that 40% digital coupon!)
Before long, I was creating cards, decor, banners, and more! I was even able to make Bella’s first birthday invites myself. I loved watching Youtube tutorials and learning new techniques. When Bella would nap, I would pull out my Cricut and create little things.
This made me happy and I felt good about learning something new. One of my goals was to create t-shirts. At the end of the season I had made us T-shirts for our upcoming Disney trip AND I had made some for friends. Later, once out of isolation, I shared my love of Cricut with friends.
Learn/Embrace a Hygge Lifestyle
Hygge is certainly a trendy word and concept! Wikipedia defines it,
Hygge (/ˈh(j)uːɡə/; Danish: [ˈhykə]; Norwegian: [ˈhŷɡːə]) is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.
I learned about this concept through Youtube videos and a few books. My favorite was The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. I listened to it FREE from the online Library app Hoopla with Bella. This book challenged me to slow down and embrace being indoors. I hung twinkle lights, layered on cozy blankets, read, and lit lots of candles. Hygge became my favorite thing about being in isolation. I made lots of tea, organized my mug collection, and cuddled our infant for hours. Looking back, this time became very special in my memory and I’m glad I discovered this practice. Learning about it and practicing it can bring much joy and peace.
Pet Your Cat
I’m a crazy cat lady at heart. And in practice. We own 3 cats. Each have their own fun personality. During isolation I learned to just sit and pet them. (The ones that allowed me to).
It’s a strange thing to sit and be still and play or pet your cat, but it’s relaxing and has health benefits! Some nights I’d play with the cats and just enjoy them in our home. I practiced having them sit on my lap/chest and watch TV. The cats loved the extra attention and so did I.
Make Mental Health a Priority
Being isolated and dealing with Bella’s health issues was extremely taxing on my emotional health. I began therapy and upped my anxiety medication. Since 15 I have been diagnosed with Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Depression.
I remember one day sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing. I told Dustin I could’t do it anymore. I’m not sure what I was referring to in that moment, but it was my surrender. I needed additional support. I needed help. Even though money was tight I shared that I NEEDED therapy. I began therapy the next week and continued to go once a month. This hour truly helped me get over the hump of isolation and fear.
I’m not one for taking on debt, but if that’s something you have to do to get what you need to be healthy, do it. We were gifted money so that I could make my health a priority. I’m so thankful we took advantage of the opportunity. Now, I am a much better mother and person because of it. There are many opportunities now for online therapy from home.
Also, continue to take any mental health medications. I have stayed on top of taking my daily dose of Zoloft which has helped tremendously. This also includes staying on top of refills. Ask a relative or friend to help remind you to get your refills on time.
Look For Creative Alternatives To Activities
When the world seems dark or your world seems dark it can help to think outside the box.
We were scared with Bella. Every cough or sneeze could jeopardize her life. We overcame worry with hope. We overcame sadness with joy. We sought out healthy alternatives.
I remember we couldn’t get out for Christmas in 2018. I was crying. I was sad seeing others out and enjoying events and Zoo Lights. Oh, what I would give to go to zoo lights! (We got to go the next year!) Instead, we grabbed a coupon and got coffee. We went in our Pjs and drove around town looking at the lights and playing Christmas music. It’s now one of my favorite memories of that difficult time. I remember we only had a few hours between Bella’s pump feeds but it was magical.
Other fun ideas:
Picnic Inside – Lay out a picnic with a blanket and fun snacks/lunch.
Obstacle Course – Create a fun obstacle course with couch cushions.
Facetime Play Date – Have a virtual play date! Facetime a friend and have the kids say hello and play with the fun filters. * I did this a TON with family. It helped me feel connected.
Learn To Cook
There’s something so calming and cozy about creating a meal. While we were in, I looked forward to creating meals for my family. I would have my husband watch Bella and I would chop, hum, and dance around our little kitchen. My favorite Pandora station was “Jazz Dinner” and I loved filling our home with yummy scents. I didn’t cook every night, but when I did I would double the recipe so we could eat leftovers.
Although I knew how to cook before having Bella, learning to cook new things was a great time investment! I would pick out a few new recipes and try my hand at them each month. I really fell in love with Sheet Pan Dinners and Crockpot Meals all over again! As I worked my way around the kitchen, I saved our winning recipes. I have a great collection of winning dinners that are healthy, quick, and delicious.
Plan A Trip
Eventually we will be able to leave the house. Whether that’s a few months from now, or a year, in our case previously, we WILL get to be back among society. It was hard to plan anything with a medically fragile infant that needed pump fed every 3 hours. We were exhausted and desperate to get out of the house. On top of that, money was tight. How could we plan a trip? Why would I suggest this?
Well, because of HOPE. Investing your time into planning a trip is very therapeutic. Whenever life would feel too hard or I would want to get out of our little home, I’d “travel.” I’d hop on Pinterest or Instagram and indulge my wanderlust. I began saving cool things to do for my bucketlist and had fun pricing out month long trips to Venice, Italy and the South of France.
Although I haven’t done any of those specific trips since being out of isolation…I’ve enjoyed learning about travel and “exploring” from my couch. Later, after we received some unexpected money, we were able to invest in a trip to Florida (and Disney World) as a family. I had so much fun planning every little detail and budgeting toward our first big family adventure.
Begin by browsing Pinterest or Instagram. What countries excite you? Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go? For us, we got to visit Ireland in 2017. We adored it and dream of taking Bella with us again (she was in my tummy while there). I look back on photobooks and also play music from our trip. This keeps my spirits up and gives our family a fun goal.
No matter how long you find yourself in quarantine, there’s hope. We have a God that’s much much bigger than this. He will sustain us.