The Limits of Our Protection

When my kids were doing remote learning last year, it felt like an impossible choice between their physical health and mental health. I knew that the odds of my kids getting very sick or dying from Covid were slim; I was almost more worried about Ger or I getting sick and something happening to one of us. So we followed every rule and isolated our family from other people for more than a year.

Then in the spring of 2021, the kids returned to the classroom. At first, it was hybrid and then they went back to full days. Parents could opt to keep kids at home, so the rooms were still half-empty. Which was fine, since social distancing measures required a lot of space between desks anyway. Then Ger and I got our vaccines and we watched new cases in our area fall.

Our school district announced that Fall of 2021 would be a full return of all students to the classroom. Obviously, this meant more bodies in each room. We opted to drive the older kids to and from school rather than having them take the bus, removing one more point of potential exposure. As soon as our oldest son turned 12, we got him vaccinated.

Autumn is 4 years old, and in preschool. Her classroom is very large and only has 17 students. The teachers are all vaccinated.

Yet on Friday, I got a phone call that her teacher had tested positive for Covid. Autumn was identified as a “close contact” so has to be excluded from school for a period of time. She’s already had one series of tests—rapid antigen and rapid PCR—both negative. We’re wearing masks at home as an extra precaution, especially since 9-year-old Quentin is not yet vaccinated. She’ll have another set of tests later this week.

If it had been November of 2020 instead of November of 2021, I would have been very fearful. I would have thought it more likely that she had contracted Covid from her teacher, and we would be taking extraordinary measures to isolate her in the house—which would have been difficult given her age. I would be terrified that coming in contact with Covid meant that our entire family was exposed.

But given the circumstances now, I’m not too worried. In addition to being vaccinated, the teacher and students in her classroom were masked. Three out of five people in our house are vaccinated. I took Quentin to get his first dose of the vaccine today.

Yet at the same time, I’ve thought about how hard we’ve worked to keep Covid at bay for the past 20 months. And despite all of our efforts, we still managed to brush up against the virus.

Perhaps it was having been through loss and Autumn being a rainbow baby, but I’ve had irrational fears of something happening to her. And I know they’re irrational; I know that it is unlikely that she would get very sick, even if she contracted Covid. Still, in the back of my mind I thought, “Well if anyone were to end up on the losing end of luck, it would be us.”

Like with pregnancy loss, I feel like there is nothing I can do to keep my babies safe. That what’s happening around us is outside of our control. And to a large extent, it is. We did everything possible to insulate ourselves. I can’t control the choices that other people make, the increased contagiousness of the variant, or the sometimes random way that the virus affects people.

I can’t do anything other than wait a few more days and hope that Autumn’s second set of tests will also be negative.