Planning for the Worst

The reality is that our lives are going to be altered.

an abstract watercolor illustration of a stark and dreary hospital room
Image created via Midjourney

When I was pregnant with Autumn, I had a hospital bag packed.  It wasn't the typical "If I go into labor early, this is what I will grab as we rush out the door" bag.  It was the "If the doctor tells me that my baby has no heartbeat, this is what I will tell Ger to grab for my stay at the hospital" bag.

For both of my hospital stays in delivering Nelle and Iris, I had to send Ger home to grab things for me.  I am sure that I mumbled something to him about what to put in the bag, but he didn't really know.  A change of clothes that I never would have chosen to wear "coming home from the hospital after my baby died."  A pair of glasses, but no container or solution for my contacts.

So from very early in my pregnancy with Autumn, I packed my own bag.  It sat, day after day, in a corner of the master bedroom.  I grabbed the bag one time when I was 30 weeks pregnant and certain that she was not moving enough so we headed to the ER.  All was fine, but I remember putting that bag into the car thinking, "this is it."

Only the day before we went to the hospital for my scheduled c-section did I repack the bag.  At that point, I knew that the hospital stay would be four days of recovery from the surgery, instead of 1-2 days in delivering a baby that had already died.  I also needed to pack a bag of baby items, something that I also avoided until the last minute.  Diapers.  An outfit to bring her home in.  I didn't even buy a car seat, because I still did not believe that she would be coming home with us.  I waited until we were in our Mother-Baby room post-delivery and she was asleep next to me before placing a large online order of baby items.

I now have a hospital bag packed again but for a very different reason.

Ger and I talked this week about "What if one of us gets coronavirus?"  The disease does not discriminate, and while we know that our age category means that we are less likely to die from the disease, 20% of people in our age category require hospitalization, according to the CDC.

We have done everything in our power to socially distance, but COVID-19 has been described as "sneaky."  Surfaces of delivered items, passing people quickly in the aisles at the grocery stores... while these have varying degrees of risk, there is still a risk.  Ger and I had to talk seriously about what we would do if one of us gets sick, following guidance from the CDC.

We talked about where to quarantine a sick person in our house (master bedroom, with the attached bathroom).  A read anecdotal stories on Twitter from people who were very sick from the virus, but still managed to stay at home and ride it out.  Keeping a log of temperatures taken.  Tylenol for the fever.  Humidifier and Vick's Vapo Rub for the cough/lungs.

Any types of disinfecting cleaning supplies are nowhere to be found in the stores.  I normally use natural cleaners, some laundry sanitizer, and only have one spray bottle of a disinfecting surface cleaner and two containers of disinfecting wipes from when we had influenza in our house.  Ger made another trip out yesterday to look and found nothing.  I made him take off his clothing as soon as he walked in the house and throw it in the washing machine, then immediately shower.  We had to make a decision to conserve what we have in the event that someone gets sick.

Hospital bags include a change of clothes, phone chargers, snacks, water bottles, Tylenol, face masks, and gloves (that we also had on hand from before this all started).  I read that an at-home pulse oximeter could help identify if O2 stats were too low, warranting a trip to the hospital and managed to order one online.  But we know that a sick parent in this house is basically on his/her own, as the other parent will need to care for the kids.

We talked through the scenario of a trip to the hospital and knowing both that visitors aren't allowed and that the other parent would need to continue to care for the kids.  Ger said, "You know that we would have to die alone?"  I told him not to say that: it took the harrowing scenario one step too far for me to hear the words spoken out loud.

The mechanics of planning for the "worst case scenario" are one thing.  We can plan all we want, but actually being impacted would be quite another.  The reality is that our lives are going to be altered, likely for a long time.  In order to achieve any kind of herd immunity, many people will need to become infected.  All we can do is try to prepare and brace ourselves.

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