Stranger than fiction – Viv Covid

So it’s been awhile, and we have some big news. On February 9, 2020 we welcomed our fourth child, a little girl, Vivian Christine. She weighed 7lbs, 14 ozs and was 20 inches long and was born healthy and screaming. She’s 12 weeks old now and is doing great, and her brothers love her – Joel said she’s “his favorite person.” And we’re so beyond thankful to have her here!

Vivian’s pregnancy was scary for me, as all pregnancies have been, but because Fredrik’s pregnancy went relatively well (meaning it was less of a shitshow than Joel’s, which isn’t saying much) I thought I had a roadmap for success – follow the Freddy plan that I developed with the help of my therapist. But what’s the old saying? “Man plans, God laughs?” (I kid, I kid – I don’t believe this is how it works – that God laughs at our plans and ruins them…)

Anyway, besides a maternal fetal medicine doctor busting into the ultrasound room around week 24 to tell me I might die of a placenta accreta I was ultimately found not to have, my pregnancy went swimmingly until about week 33 which started on about 1/1/2020.

Here’s the timeline of dramatic events that ensued shortly thereafter…

1/4/2020 – Became sick with respiratory illness.

1/10/2020 – Recovered from said respiratory illness.

1/15/2020 – Experienced a focal awareness seizure (a seizure with no loss of consciousness) – my first seizure ever while pregnant.

1/16/2020 – Began coughing here and there. It felt like I had a breadcrumb in my throat, and I told people, “Don’t worry. I’m not sick. I have a breadcrumb stuck in my throat,” after coughing all over them.

1/19/2020 – Spiked a 103 fever. For the next week I took Tylenol every 4-8 hours, basically anytime my fever hit anywhere close to 101, to make sure baby was protected from ill effects of fever.

1/20/2020 – Went for ultrasound in the morning. Couldn’t breathe as I walked across the parking lot. Thought it was because of the cold weather. Visited labor and delivery that night, tested negative for flu, and was sent home.

1/22/2020 – My birthday! Went for another ultrasound. Told everyone I was feeling better, but was back in urgent care that night. Was given IV antibiotics and a nebulizer to treat suspected pneumonia. Fever never came down.

1/24/2020 – Went for another ultrasound, started using valet parking because I could no longer make it across a parking lot, cried my eyes out to everyone in the office because I couldn’t breathe despite having normal oxygen levels. Staff instructed me to go to the  emergency room, but I ultimately decided not to go because I knew my oxygen levels were good and I had tested negative for flu, so I didn’t want to expose myself to flu.

1/25/2020 – I just knew I was getting better! I went 8 hours without needing Tylenol! Mark’s aunt Shari, a doctor, told me to monitor my oxygen levels using my pulseox and to go to the hospital if levels started consistently hitting 92.

1/26/2020 – I wake up, and my oxygen level is 92. Mark and I agree it’s okay to stay at home because it “isn’t hitting 92 that often.” Mark goes to church with the boys and tells some of our friends I’m on the mend, but when he gets home, I’m not okay. My oxygen levels are dropping, sometimes down into the high 80s. I get out of bed to go to the bathroom and almost faint. I perhaps get my only real taste of a normal mom experience – that dramatic moment you see in the movies, “Honey, it’s time to go to the hospital.” Except I’m not having contractions. Instead, I’m fearing that I might run out of oxygen and die.

Mark drops me off and goes to park and I stumble to the front desk of labor and delivery and burst into tears and manage to say, “Help. I can’t breathe. My husband will tell you.”

They take me back and test me for flu (negative again) and then do a chest x-ray and diagnose me with bacterial pneumonia and tell me if the antibiotics don’t work they’ll do a CT scan and check for a pulmonary embolism. They put me on 4 liters of oxygen, and everyone is wearing full PPE and joking, “Are you sure you haven’t been to Wuhan?!” I’m fixated on a pulmonary embolism and start crying and Mark leaves the room and comes back and says, “Do you need a distraction?” I tell him yes, and he says, “Kobe Bryant died today in a helicopter crash. His daughter died too.” I cry even more. We turn on the television and there’s images of helicopter wreckage and people wearing hazmat suits in Wuhan. “Are you sure you did not go there?” they ask. (They know given my history I have not ventured more than seven minutes from this hospital.)

They eventually admit me and take me back to my room but warn, “Don’t be surprised if you end up in the ICU.” The IV antibiotics (zpak and something else) break my fever almost immediately, but my breathing doesn’t improve. For the next 6 days I bounce between needing 1-8 liters of oxygen support – every time I go to the bathroom or shower or reach for my drink, I desat. I stay in the hospital, mostly alone, wearing a mask, meeting with masked people (OBs, pulmonologists, respiratory therapists), doing non-stress tests (Vivian looks fine through it all), relearning how to breathe, watching my oxygen levels, etc etc etc.

1/31/2020 – I fail a walk study (breathing test) that would have allowed me to leave the hospital, so I’m despondent. I needed 8 liters of oxygen just to maintain normal oxygen levels for a walk down the hall. “Is this normal?” I ask the pulmonologist. “It can be,” he explains. Later I get into a friendly argument with my nurse. She doesn’t agree with my decision to deliver at 37 weeks. That afternoon she tries to angel-of-death me (turns my oxygen down to zero without my knowledge), and somehow I can maintain decent levels on my own.

2/2/2020 – I pass a walk study and, after 18 days of being ill, 8 of which were spent in the hospital, I’m discharged right in time to go watch the Chiefs win the Superbowl.

2/3/2020 – Joel spikes a fever.

2/7/2020 – My cough goes away.

2/9/2020 – Vivian is born! The doctor is barely able to get her out because of all the scar tissue, and my insides are adhered together, and I’m told I can’t have any more kids (wasn’t planning on it).

2/10/2020 – Both boys are diagnosed with pneumonia. (They eventually recover.)

2/12/2020 – We come home!

This week I found out that our local hospital had the Mayo Clinic covid-19 antibody test available. I asked my doctor if I could take it, and she prescribed it, and the results are in – positive for covid-19 antibodies. So that’s what I had back in January – covid-19. Because of course I did. (Interestingly enough, back in the 90s I was the first person in my county in decades to contract the measles despite having been vaccinated so I’m basically a virus magnet.)

The test is supposedly +98% accurate, so I believe this, coupled with my symptoms renders the results fairly conclusive. That, or I’m in the <2% with a false positive (unlikely), or I got covid-19 asymptomatically in March after our trip to an empty Restoration Hardware the day before our city was locked down and life went to hell in a handbasket (also unlikely). I guess my doctor agrees that the findings are legit though, as she has invited me into a registry for moms who had covid-19 whilst pregnant. (I really hope Vivian doesn’t suffer any long-term ill effects from this, but so far she seems okay!)

It goes without saying that we’re so thankful we made it through this and equally thankful we didn’t know what I was battling at the time. Also, we’re thinking of changing Vivian’s name from Vivian Christine to Vivian Covid (kidding, but I have been affectionately calling her “Viv Covid”).

Anyway, hope anyone reading this is staying healthy and safe and sane. I hope to start writing more often, but that’s easier said than done!





7 thoughts on “Stranger than fiction – Viv Covid

  1. Wow, so glad it appears all of you are doing well now and congratulations on adding Viv to your beautiful family. Add this to your list of stories for your kids when they are older. We think of you all often. Sending all our love.



  2. Oh my god Christine… 💔 I’m so glad you’re safe and well. Did you see about the pregnant nurse in the UK? It’s heartbreaking…
    I’m glad Joel & Freddy are okay too. This virus is just terrifying. Can’t wait for this whole thing to be over but I know I’ll never be able to go to a soft play or densely packed place ever again without freaking out more than usual about the kids/me catching something… I just to live in fear of chicken pox, now there’s an actual death virus pandemic 😱😓💔 Sending you and your 4 beautiful children lots of love. Sarah, Freddie, Albert & Florence xxx


  3. Congratulation on the birth of your beautiful daughter Vivian. What a harrowing time you had. I am stunned you weren’t tested for covid 19 when all the symptoms were apparent. They will test in Australia if you present with a sore throat. I wish you and your family good health & every happiness. I hope you have time for updates. My very best wishes, Janice😘


  4. Your strength is unmatched. Thank you for being the most awesome version of you. Love you and your family.

    Continued thankfulness for all health.


  5. Somehow I didn’t read this entry until now, and I know you shared a lot of it with me in person, but WOW!
    You continually blow me away with your resilience (and ability to be so funny when you talk about it).
    I’m SO thankful that you and sweet Vivian are healthy! She is so so beautiful!
    Hope we can hang again soon!


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