by an anonymous mother
When news of the new coronavirus outbreak came, I was busy preparing for Chinese New Year while taking care of my daughter. She is almost two years old and enjoys playing outdoors. News of the outbreak was spreading widely and I was anxious about the unknown risks. How serious is this new disease? How will it affect me and my family?
On the evening of Chinese New Year’s Eve (24 January), my partner and two-year-old daughter and I went downstairs to set off firecrackers. We wanted her to experience our childhood thrill of chasing Spring Festival fireworks! Our splendid firecrackers attracted several other children who came around to watch and I took care to keep my daughter a safe distance from the crowd. When we finished, the three of us got into the elevator to go upstairs, and then another child came in behind us. Curiously I asked him, “Hello, my friend, you look unfamiliar – which floor do you live on?” As he replied, he mentioned that his family had recently moved in from another part of Xiamen.
Four days later, an ambulance appeared and picked up someone from downstairs. My partner soon received a phone call from the property management office and answered their questions on the health conditions of our family members. He asked if we had had any close contact with the new family downstairs. My mind immediately went back to the elevator ride four days ago, with the child from that family. None of us were wearing masks back then.
The disease prevention and control office required our family to be isolated at home for 14 days. A community worker came to take our temperature twice a day and provided us with other necessary assistance. The presence of a confirmed case in our building made us feel that the danger was literally on our doorstep, so staying at home felt like self-protection rather than being grounded. At the time our neighbour’s case was confirmed, there were only 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Xiamen.
My partner and I are both doctors. I am a mammary surgeon and an IBCLC. Usually we go to work early in the morning, almost every day. Those days of isolation at home enabled us to spend hours with our daughter and we did many things together: brushing our teeth, washing our face, reading books together, etc. My daughter particularly enjoyed her father’s company and wanted her dad to sit next to her when she was playing, reading or drawing and even as she was breastfeeding, as if to compensate for his absence during her early months.
As her father kept her company, I had more free time during my home isolation and joined an online breastfeeding support meeting, where I chatted with other mothers and shared information. Towards the end, we were invited to share our current situation during the outbreak. I told them that my neighbour was one of ten confirmed cases in Xiamen (although it turned out to be only a suspected case on that date), and it was a coincidence that they lived so close to me. Being able to share my experience helped my nervousness flow away, and having the other mothers listen helped to calm me down.
After 14 days of isolation at home, the COVID-19 outbreak was still severe. Our family did not go out immediately; in fact, my daughter and I did not leave our apartment for one month. She was so happy to have to whole family beside her as she constantly invited us to join in her games. I think she rescued us from the fear of the epidemic and helped us to join in her world of joy. We made bread and cake together, did housework together, read books and drew, and all these innocent activities let us feel quite happy during the COVID-19 outbreak.
We kept breastfeeding all the time, and she enjoyed the fact that my milk was always available. In February, I volunteered to support breastfeeding mothers in Hubei Province and Hefei City by answering questions in temporary chat groups as a breastfeeding medical specialist.
When my daughter, herself a breastfeeding toddler, heard that some babies needed help getting their mother’s milk, she became quite willing to play by herself for a while to let me have some time to help others. It seemed that because she felt satisfied with her own breastfeeding, she wanted all other babies to enjoy breastfeeding as well!
For my daughter, the COVID-19 outbreak obstructed her desire to play outside. However, her mood did not suffer. On the contrary, she received more attention and was well nourished by more warmth from her family pouring into her life!
Close to the Heart Vol. 21, No. 1 (Early- & Mid-Year 2020)
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