Manitoba·First Person

While isolating over Christmas waiting for COVID results, I saw how lucky my family was

Robyn Brown's family spent the holidays in quarantine, but "it didn’t take long to realize how incredibly fortunate we were to shelter this way," she writes.

It didn't take long to realize how incredibly fortunate we were to shelter this way

Robyn Brown spent the holidays waiting for COVID-19 test results: 'Ultimately, we came out okay.' (Submitted by Robyn Brown)

This First Person column is the experience of Robyn Brown, a Winnipeg mother who recently spent the holidays in quarantine with her husband and young family. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

Like many new parents who celebrate Christmas, I looked forward to creating memories for my daughter's first holiday season. 

Just shy of her first birthday, I was excited to watch her with wonder as she got to open boxes with her big brother, play with paper and shiny ribbon and try a turkey dinner surrounded by our close family, in our own home. It played out exactly as I hoped.

Just kidding.

We actually spent her first Christmas in isolation, as we awaited COVID-19 test results. 

A baby and an older child with a compromised immune system means we don't take medical advice lightly. We immediately shut 'er down and battened down the hatches on Christmas Eve as instructed, calling family to cancel our plans and reassuring everyone that we were in a good position to handle this newfound quiet time together.

We spent Christmas alone, but we had technology to connect with family.- Robyn Brown

We had movies to watch, a humidifier and Tylenol on hand (just in case), and plenty of food to eat — including the seven kilogram turkey that we had already begun to thaw for the 10 people beyond our household we were expecting the next day. We could stay put comfortably — and hopefully get results soon. 

But as the narrator would say: 'they did not get results soon.' 

Time dragged on, but we watched Netflix, read books and ordered the odd dinner delivery. We were literally sick and tired. 

But it didn't take long to realize how incredibly fortunate we were to shelter this way, and how eye-opening it was to think of the alternative scenario for vulnerable people in our society. 

Case in point: we started our isolation by driving our family vehicle to a testing site that took appointments. We waited for 15 minutes before being swabbed through the window and then drove home — we did not have to choose between standing in the cold with a sick child and getting tested. We did not have to come up with bus fare, or hope that no one came too close to us while we were riding (or walking) to the test site. 

In the days after being tested, we spent Christmas alone, but we had technology to connect with family members and our children were blessed with new gifts to keep them occupied. 

Though it wasn't the way my husband wanted to spend his holidays, our isolation period coincided with his time off — which meant he was not one of the people using up sick time as he anxiously awaited test results, or worse, going without pay at all. 

Be the friend who drops off a coffee and waves through the window.- Robyn Brown

We filled our bellies with turkey, and when we needed more food, we had a computer and a credit card to order groceries to be delivered. We had Wi-Fi to check for our results online multiple times a day, every day, and a working phone to call Health Links when my husband's result still wasn't posted after day 11 (spoiler alert — it's still out in the universe somewhere at the time of writing this piece). 

Ultimately, we came out okay.

I may not know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes, but I think it's safe to say at this point that we all know what it's like to feel scared and defeated. This pandemic doesn't discriminate when it comes to that. 

Though the type of help you need right now may look different from mine, there are some forms of universal kindness that someone out there is wishing for. So, if you're able to help someone else by being the person that you would have needed, please do it. 

Be the neighbour who offers to help source a rapid test to a parent with a sick child at home. Be the family member who picks up some extra groceries and leaves them on the doorstep for someone who is isolating. Be the friend who drops off a coffee and waves through the window. And most definitely, be the person on the other end of the line when someone is feeling hopeless, drained and tired of this all. 

I would like to think that things will start to get better in our province as we all continue to weather this storm. Some days may feel like we are on the struggle bus without a driver, but we are still in control of how we show up for one another. So, if we are looking for the light at the end of this tunnel, we can create some on our own. 

Bring the light, shine it for others, and I promise you, they won't forget your kindness. 


Robyn Brown is an early childhood educator, family centre co-ordinator and parent in Winnipeg.