I am tired.
My son Rory was born in November 2018. He is 937 days old. This week he had a positive Covid-19 PCR test following an outbreak of Covid-19 (Delta/Brexit Trade Deal variant) at his nursery. Assuming the ‘official’ start date of the pandemic is March 23rd 2020 (“we’ll turn the tide in 12 weeks” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/11/in-12-weeks-we-can-turn-the-tide-now-we-can-ask-was-pm-right), 450 days ago; I have spent around half of his life trying to protect him from a preventible disease that “doesn’t affect kids” whilst living on an island after leaving the world’s largest free-trade, freedom-of-movement-of-people bloc in the world.
I have failed him. 937 days into his life.
For those of you not familiar with what a nursery is — it’s basically like a gastro-pub but for kids: your mates are there, there’s board games and organic food and a decent session will set you back the best part of 100 quid. During a pandemic; sending a toddler to a nursery is a bit like asking them to pop out to a Gregg’s shop to fetch you a cheese and bacon slice hotter than the sun and fresh from the oven but also is on the other side of a motorway which they have to cross on their own. Twice. It’s fucking insanity.
Now Rory has Covid (and he’s part of this weeks 11,007 Wednesday cases), not only is he a statistic, but also now at risk of Long Covid “UK estimates 1 in 5 at 5 weeks and 1 in 10 have symptoms have even 12 weeks after initial #COVID19 diagnosis.” (https://twitter.com/drericding/status/1355640837540032516?s=28) which can cause heart palpatations, fatigue, dizziness, ‘brain fog’, heart, lung and liver disease, neurological damage. Obviously, scientists don’t yet know all the facts, but here in the UK they just set-up 15 clinics to deal with cases. How will this affect him short-term? Dunno. How will this affect him across his whole life? Dunno. But certainly potentially much worse than if he hadn’t caught Covid in the first place. Will it affect him? Dunno — but looks like I need to spend the next 12 weeks trying to contexualise ‘brain fog’ with him so he can tell me if he’s experiencing that whilst bingeing Peppa Pig (him, not me).
Had the Tories been able to send Covid packing in 12 weeks, Id’ve continued much as we all did — my wife and I both working full-time juggling days and evenings plus looking after Rory. I certainly wouldn’t have thought about quitting my job to be a full-time daddy day-care. But … maybe because we didn’t send the virus packing to “save Christmas” (https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1340212/coronavirus-news-Christmas-uk-lockdown-boris-johnson-COVID-19-testing) — when people exited London in their droves ahead of Tier 4 restrictions (we stayed put because, we discovered, Rory’s childminder actually had Covid that very week) — maybe then I should have quit my job and kept him home to protect him. Or when India started to burn and we just kept letting flights in but kept Polish HGV drivers out. Or even after May 17, when I stomped round my flat cursing the inevitable outcome of relying on the Brexit voting public to exercise ‘common sense’ around a subject they are ignorant to all the facts of — maybe THEN I should have decided to stay home to protect my son.
But I didn’t. Because we have to work. We have bills to pay. Our lives aren’t condusive to take sudden long-term absences from the work place and be able to continue to pay bills. We have no local free childcare. Our nearest family are over 100 miles away. One set (mine), lunatic right-wing God-bothering anti-vaxxers who drone on about The Great Reset and think lemongrass cures cancer (just like Steve Jobs did) — are clearly unsuitable to look after my son, least of all because they’ve previously threatened to tell him, if he asks, that Father Christmas isn’t real. And the other set (Rowan’s) — with whom we have weekly Zoom meetings through which we are experiencing the Long Goodbye of her mother’s dementia — hardly able to accommodate an extremely active 2.5 year old who’s suprisingly adept with a football and can already name all the parts of a car.
So how do I feel? Angry. Angrier than I’ve ever been about anything my entire life. Rageful. I think of my friends (with one shot in their arms) — out playing golf once a week, having barbecues with their friends and neighbours and even going on stag-do’s and I can feel it in my chest. I can taste it. I can count the number of times I’ve left my postcode in the last 400 days on two hands. I have not cut my hair for nearly 10 months. The last time I sat “in” (in the garden) a pub was for a single pint, alone, on my 40th birthday in August last year. I feel hopeless. I am full of regret. For not taking action. For putting Rory in harms way 4 days a week. For trusting people. I am fearful — the next 12 weeks I will spend every moment watching him like a hawk: is he more tired than usual? Can he still count to 20 without prompting? Does he still recognise people? Does he feel ‘off’? Is he experiencing pain all over his body? Can he still name all the animals in the opening credits to the TV Show ‘Dino Dana’ (hint: they’re all dinosaurs.. apart from the Mammoths..) Will he continue to flourish and make jokes and learn things really quickly? What about the things I literally cannot see — his heart, his lungs, his kidneys?
How will I react if I sense he’s starting to develop Long Covid? I am 168 days sober. Will I simply pull my duvet up over my head and drink myself to sleep, or worse? How will I react if I overhear someone telling a friend that Covid is a hoax and the positive test results are randomly selected because they read it on Facebook and will I just drive my fist through that persons face, or worse?
At work, I am told, that if I’ve sought ‘Mental Health advice’ within the last two years, it’s considered a pre-existing condition and won’t be covered by our private health provider. Really? Because I’m feeling like the anxiety, stress, boredom, rage, helplessness, lack of control and recent failure to protect my son against a deadly disease might be distinctly separate from the last 40 years of my life where I’ve prospered mightily against the daily presence of a black dog roughly the size of a Irish wolfhound. In fact, lads, I think we might all have some PTSD: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms/
This isn’t cathartic. I don’t know how to conclude it. After 15 months of both Rowan and I full-time working, doing our own childcare when nurseries were closed, not seeing family, including at Christmas 2020, not travelling outside the Borough, not going to the shops, not getting my haircut, not going to the beloved pub or using public transport — our child catches Covid at the place I pay professionals to care for him. Everything is broken. I think I am too.