Updated: May 8, 2022
*** Read with precaution, as subject matters involve sick children, parenting challenges, and mental health issues. I am sharing my personal story in hopes of guiding other parents who may be facing similar COVID-related struggles.***
This past weekend was supposed to be my son's 10th birthday party. Basketball and VR. Pizza and best friends. A proper celebration for a big milestone.
Instead, he got COVID.
On Thursday morning, he was still in tip-top shape ready for school. Then at pickup, I learnt that five kids were absent from class. It didn't sit right with me so I decided to postpone his party right away and stay out of school for the time being. He wasn't too fond of this idea, but understood what had to be done. Sadly, this is now the reality in which our children are growing up in. That same evening, our 4th grade class chatroom exploded with messages of fevering classmates and positive rapid tests. Nervous, I immediately went next door to stock up on all possible meds, praying it wont be needed as I carried the bags home. That night, neither I nor little bro could sleep, both of us waking up sweating from strange nightmares one after the next.
At 4 in the morning, while the skies were dark and mysterious birds hummed their melodic tunes, I heard heavy footsteps trampling towards my room. With one hand over his tilted head, face flushed in red, he whimpered “Mom, I’m burning up.”
My worst nightmare has come true. My son has COVID.
One of my biggest fears as a mother is seeing my children get sick. Ten years and two kids later, while I know flus are given in life, and can even help build kids' immunity, this particular fear lingers from trauma during my early motherhood years. You see, when Bradlee was 2 and a half years old, he suffered from a febrile seizure that hospitalized him for 2 weeks. While I learnt later on that they're usually harmless, I witnessed him convulse, fall to the floor, pass out, turn stiff and blue. I can't even really recall the order of events, but the roller-coaster emotions of panic, confusion, helplessness, and tremendous fear of the worst-case scenario, still feels like yesterday. It just so happened that my husband was also out of town that week; thank God my mother was there. We somehow managed to get him on an ambulance, rushed to the nearest hospital, where his color and consciousness came back to life. Over the next few days at the hospital, I lost 10 pounds and fell into deep depression as I watched my baby get stuck with needles and fluids. His poor face bloated with sadness and confusion, and me feeling all sorts of guilt and shame for having been such a horrible mother to have let this happen to him. The "blue" image of 2-year-old Bradlee forever stuck with me. Even as I type these words now, I can feel my throat closing up and chest tightening.
I had thought this memory and attached feelings were long gone until this past weekend as I watched his temperature climb into the 40°C-mark (104°F). As he screeched from sharp headaches, blurred vision, with moments of hallucinatory talks, I found myself retreating back to the scared-old-me, breaking down in the bathroom a few times before daring to face him again. There were moments I couldn't even think. Let alone eat. All I could do is clean the house and be on stand by, with ambulance on speed dial. Even meditation couldn't ease me as I found myself following 30-minutes worth of horrifying thoughts that left me more tired than centered. My post traumatic stress took up all of me.
But, despite the fear, what was different this time around was a self-permission to JUST BE. I allowed myself to be all of those things above, without any guilt for my crazy feelings or actions. I allowed myself to break down. I allowed myself to be scared. I also allowed myself to come back around, and be a strong mother again and again for my children. I allowed myself to work hard - to clean and cook and clean and wash, resting only when it felt right. I let myself cry, and postponed all work-related projects till the right time. Most importantly, this time around, I allowed myself to be helped by others - from my husband to my brother to my friends and other parents. Social connection was a game-changer.
There was one particular moment during my son's heightened 24H-COVID journey that I will never forget. As Bradlee screamed in pain of his splitting headache, his eyeballs seemingly ready to roll back into unconsciousness, I found myself panicking, not knowing how I could possibly help him. Then, just like that, my husband came over to my son calmly, and said: "Bradlee, remember what mama has taught us? Don't focus on the headache but slow down and focus on your own breathing instead." In that moment, I snapped out of my anxiety and immediately, with my heart refilled, guided Bradlee into a body scan that allowed him to sleep for another 3-4 hours as I gave him reiki on his head, eyes, chest, and stomach.
I am happy to say that after 24 hours of high-anxiety, his fevers subsided the next day. Now as we move forward to day 4, he's more-so back to being that normal, silly 10-year-old who's longing for basketball with his best buds and already complaining about online schooling.
As I tiredly come away from this weekend which felt like an eternity, I am strangely grateful for this experience. While I would never wish COVID upon anyone, I feel grateful that my kid had only caught the less severe strand of this highly-infectious virus and suffered for only a few days. I am fortunate that our fourth grade class banded together and shared resources during this difficult time as parents, for there’s something about collectiveness that is always exponentially healing. While I wished the kids' vaccinations were out earlier in Taiwan, I feel fortunate that our government and CDC show up everyday collected and grounded as they model how we should approach herd immunization. I am also so grateful for the friends who have reached out and sent over well wishes for our whole family. Your medicines, sweet offers, voice messages, cakes, good energy all played a huge part in getting us through the worse of times. And I am ever so grateful for my partner in life who stood by me through it all, reminding me that we can get through anything as long as we have one another.
Even as a meditation teacher, spiritual coach, and mama of 10 years now, it goes to show that we all still carry shadows from our past that can undo the whole of us. The mindful and meditative lifestyle I lead does not cure all, but what it has done for me over time is akin to vaccination. In the event of unforeseen challenges and triggers in life, my mind-body and spiritual practices have given me the power to experience but not be carried away by pain. It built higher resilience to stress and a faster bounce-back rate to homeostasis. It even made space for positive outlook despite very undesirable circumstances. And the healing effects moved through and beyond me, directly to the ones I love.
How timely that as we enter May, the month of (Maternal) Mental Health Awareness, that I had to relive my most vulnerable motherhood moments. When we take on our mothering and parenting roles, we are no longer a lone entity, but thrown into the formidable responsibility of keeping our babies alive and well at every stage of their lives. From the moment they're born, we become physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually tied to everything that is them, so much so that our own sanity and needs easily become last priority.
Mental Health. Maternal Mental Health. These are real matters. While this may be an uncomfortable topic for many, I am here to talk about this and maybe even help you through it if you need. As I finish up my self-quarantine days with my family, do stay tuned for part 2 of this entry, with tips and thoughts on coping with COVID as a mama/parent. And once more time is giveth, and my soul is recharged again, I will come back online, meditations and all. Here we go.