This pandemic has been an 18 month gestation period.
Getting my second shot the other day, I planned for my post-shot symptoms like I did when I was giving birth, with different accessories. Instead of a packed bag with my clothes and those for my bab(ies), music for the delivery, contact information for family members (this is before the internet, folks!), and the desperately craved chocolate bars, I planned around being sick for three days. I stocked up on ginger ale, crackers and bananas; put the “puke” bowl near my bed with a washcloth ready to catch edge-of-mouth vomit, brought the ice packs to the top of the deep freezer for ready extraction, and had my husband (God love him) clean the base of the toilet so gross smells didn’t trigger more puking.
Quick note; people who pee standing up should be responsible for wiping down the base of the toilet. Your aim is not THAT good.
My daughter had gotten a bunch of symptoms the week before after her second shot. I had a good idea of what to expect. And if I didn’t get any symptoms, at least I had bananas and ginger ale.
My second-shot symptoms hit precisely 25 hours after the shot. Body aches, fatigue, a headache that wouldn’t quit. It was the chills that told me the moment had arrived, like two-minute labor pains. I ran a low-grade fever and felt like pureed dog shit.
Being able to plan for a period of illness with a finite timeline and a known positive outcome is so like preparing for birth, I got to thinking about my pregnancies and the isolating feeling of waiting that also occurred during this pandemic. And maybe, along with my introversion, that’s why quarantine has felt so familiar, so quotidian. Here’s what you can do, here’s what you can’t. Take it easy on yourself, you’re going through a lot right now. Why don’t you get some comfy clothes, since your body shape is going to change? Oh, and let’s adjust how we interact with the world, because it’s not safe to do some of the things we once did.
And someday it will all go back to normal, and normal will be completely different.
When I was pregnant, I felt like I was in a bubble. My body felt new and wholly my own, and my world was just me and that little boy, and then that little girl. Everyone else was out beyond the reach of my knowing, and it was safe and warm where I was. I had license to care for myself in the most lavish and insensible ways; sleep, food when I wanted it, stretchy and comfortable clothes, swimming whenever I could — which felt somehow like carrying a fishbowl under my swimsuit as I pretended to be a fish in a larger bowl — and listening to what was happening inside of me.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been following the popular guidance to care for myself in lavish and insensible ways; long hikes in the forest, food when I want it, sleep, extraordinarily comfortable clothes (I’m wearing a long, soft pink sweater I ordered from Macy’s for no other reason than I wanted something cloud-like and pink touching my skin and keeping me warm), books on books on books, sleeping as much as I can (not always easy), and listening to what is happening inside me.
What’s risen to the top in those months of introspection within introversion is deeper understanding of my behavioral and emotional origins, a compassion for Tim and his origins, and a profound desire to connect with the people who have shown an understanding and acceptance of who I am. In a period where connection is at a premium, I’ve been selective in whom I’ve chosen to stay tied to, and the meaning of those relationships is now clearer. I am more willing to actively cultivate those relationships now than I was before quarantine. Being separated, as I’ve said before, has really kept some of us together.
And I’m curious. I want to hear what has happened inside for everyone else going through this gestation period. What did they find out about themselves? How will we collectively be changed because of our individual adjustments?
Getting the vaccines is only protection for about another eight months. There’s talk of needing a booster shot, which I will get, if the CDC recommends it. Just like I did for my children when they needed immunizations, which prevented them from getting all those deadly diseases. I know this isn’t the end of the danger from covid, and I know that for the next two weeks, I’m still vulnerable, and Tim will be for another week after that.
We staggered our shots so we could care for each other, which was my daughter’s idea. She’s a unique combination of intellectually intelligent, street wise and emotionally gifted. Having her bring me ibuprofen for that splitting headache in my worst hour was a sweet moment of kindness I will always remember. The patience and concern on her face, her reassurance that it would be over soon, moved me. These small things, the quiet things, I am grateful for.
My fever broke at midnight, about seven hours after it had started. It woke me up, like my labor pains had when my daughter was approaching delivery, and the relief of knowing that I was on the upswing was like dawn breaking in my brain. Here we are, almost out of this waiting period, the end of our expected days of confinement. I wiped the sweat from my brow, slugged down more ibuprofen with half my water bottle and went back to sleep.
Not many more sleeps, as we used to say to the kids, before we are all reintroduced to each other in person again. Our expected date of confinement — what they used to call the due date — is approaching.
That, too, will change our lives in ways we can’t see yet.