It’s been 2 years since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. We’ve been through multiple lockdowns. Fear and uncertainty have become an unfortunate norm, especially for those of us who are of the vulnerable population, or with loved ones who are. I was pregnant in 2020 and gave birth mid-2021 so I was constantly worrying about getting sick, and then worrying about my newborn getting sick. After 2 years of making sure we took the best precautions, and with the disease getting closer and closer to us, I started feeling like I was playing dodgeball with COVID-19. I also started feeling like it was only a matter of time before we did get it.

 

And then it happened. I received a text from a relative that we had just had dinner with, that they had tested positive. I was worried, for them as well as for us. My husband and I began our close contact quarantine with our then 7.5 month old baby, Leila. We monitored our health daily and tested every two days. On the third day after exposure, I felt a tickle in my throat and started coughing. On the fourth day I did my test. I squinted hard at it. Yep, there it was. Incredibly faint, but unmistakably there. I tested Leila with a lollipop test, and she was negative. My husband was negative, too. We figured it would be best to get tested at a clinic just to be sure. In the meantime, I still had to breastfeed directly, as Leila had never taken to a bottle. The official advice was that I could continue to do so and, in fact, was encouraged to breastfeed, as my body would begin producing the antibodies needed for my baby to stay healthy. I masked up and made sure to wash my hands and sanitize before breastfeeding. All other times, my husband would be with her.

 

The faintest line ever on my test (below), while Leila's showed negative (above)

 

We went to Klinik Anda in Kota Damansara. The PCR tests there cost RM150, while the RTK tests cost RM50. We were told that the PCR has a 99% accuracy in detecting COVID-19, while the RTK has 96%. We did the PCR tests and confirmed that I was positive, and, my heart sank, so was Leila. My husband was negative but despite our best efforts, he would later test positive the day after I finished my quarantine. *facepalm*

 

We went home and began our isolation. We updated our MySejahtera app with our test results and it turned red only late the next day. My isolation period was 7 days as I was vaccinated and boosted, and 10 days for Leila who wasn’t. Day 1 started on the day we got our tests done. I was keeping my hopes up, as so far, she hadn’t shown any symptoms. I prayed that she would remain asymptomatic. I was still only dealing with a mild cough, although my wisdom tooth and gums began to give me grief. I’m not sure if this was a separate issue that just chose that time to come up, or if it was related to COVID-19. The first two days passed by uneventfully. I wasn’t feeling better, but I wasn’t getting worse. I updated my health status by answering the questions on MySejahtera daily. Leila seemed okay. I kept monitoring her closely.

 

 

Yay for being asymptomatic! Or so I thought...

 

On the third night, her fever started. Her temperature spiked up to 39 degrees. I gave her the suppository paracetamol (PCM) and it helped to bring it down to around 37 degrees. I tried sticking the fever patch on her forehead, but it kept coming off, so I settled for sponging her forehead with a wet cloth instead. As any mama would be, I was extremely worried. I also wasn’t sure whether to bring her to a hospital or not. I called the hospital that she was born at, but they said that since she was COVID positive that we would have to go to Sungai Buloh Hospital. I called Sungai Buloh hospital to ask if I should bring her in, and the person I spoke to on the phone said that if she was ‘stable’ I could wait until morning to go to the closest Covid Assessment Centre (CAC), but that if I was really worried, I could bring her in to the Emergency Department now. I didn’t exactly know what ‘stable’ meant but she wasn’t having any breathing difficulties or any other symptoms as far as I could tell. I figured we would be fine to wait until the morning. I didn’t get much sleep that night, but she slept most of the night except when she woke up as she normally did for her night feeds.

 

Kesian anak mama. 

 

The next day she was still burning up, so I gave her more PCM and had a lukewarm bath to help regulate her temperature. Her appetite seemed fine, and I was offering to nurse her every hour, sometimes even every half an hour, which she always took. Around noon I called my closest CAC as I still wasn’t sure if I should bring her in. The lady I spoke to on the phone sounded very warm and caring, and she ran me through what I should be doing for myself and for Leila. She said that I should be fine to manage her fever at home with baby PCM according to the prescribed dosage every 6 hours. She told me to watch out for difficulties breathing, a decrease in appetite or a noticeable decrease in energy. If these happened during working hours, I was to head into the CAC to be assessed and if needed, referred on to a hospital. If any of these happened after hours, I was told to go to any Emergency Department of the closest hospital. I was worried that not every hospital would take us in though, due to our COVID positive status, as I recalled the first hospital I spoke to said I should go to Sungai Buloh Hospital instead.

 

Porridge, the ultimate 'sick' food. 

 

The rest of the day passed, and Leila nursed well and ate her solids. She played hard with her toys and took her naps. I could see that she was unwell, but she was still so energetic and hungry so, as worried as I was, I trusted that the fever was doing its job and burning the virus away. I sponged her down often and kept her in light clothing. I knew that sleep is an important tool for recovery, so I gave her another suppository for the night so I wouldn’t keep waking her up for syrup PCM.

 

She needed lots of cuddles that day.

 

The next morning, she still had a fever, but it had gone down slightly. We took another lukewarm bath first thing after waking up, then had some oat porridge for breakfast. I was still offering her breastmilk as often as I could to make sure she stayed hydrated. She had been having diarrhoea the last couple of days, but I wasn’t too worried as she was nursing lots and having plenty of wet nappies. Sometime late afternoon I was sitting in her playpen with her on my lap when I felt her whole body cool down. Where she had been burning up, she suddenly felt very cool to the touch. I checked her temperature and saw that her fever had finally broken. I was so relieved. Besides diarrhoea, she wasn’t really showing any other symptoms of illness, so it felt like she was on the road to recovery.

 

Starting to feel better, yay!

 

As for myself, the cough and sore throat were almost gone. I was exhausted from worrying and caring for my baby, and the lack of sleep, but so glad that we were nearing the end of our COVID-19 experience. I was so thankful that our symptoms were mild and manageable with the usual cold and flu remedies. I felt well by Day 7 and tested negative on the RTK test. MySejahtera turned blue again automatically the day after that.

 

If you are going through the same thing or are worried that you or your baby might catch COVID-19, it’s good to be prepared with an essential COVID-19 at home kit. You can find plenty of recommendations online on what to have in this kit. The things that worked for me and were useful throughout the whole experience were:

 

  • Betadine throat spray
  • Betadine cold defence nasal spray
  • Paracetamol, baby syrup/suppository paracetamol (make sure to follow dosage instructions carefully according to baby’s age and weight)
  • Thermometer to monitor temperature
  • Pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen saturation
  • COVID-19 self-test kits (I find the nasal ones to be more accurate)
  • Masks
  • Sanitizer
  • Sanitizing spray

 

I also took some of the usual natural remedies that I always do whenever I have a cold or flu, which are:

 

  • Pure ginger juice to help ease sore throat and phlegm
  • Tamarind juice to help with fever and for extra Vitamin C
  • Warm lemon water with honey

 

And of course, drinking lots of water to stay hydrated, and getting as much rest as possible.

 

Here's hoping we can all stay healthy and safe, and I hope that if you or your baby are going through the same thing, that it will be over quickly. Hang in there, Mama! You and your baby can do this!

 

If you'd like to share you (or your baby or family's) experience with COVID-19, feel free to join our 24/7 Mommy Hotline Telegram Group and share your experience with other mommies who might be facing the same thing. 

March 24, 2022 — Irena De Filippou