This post originally appeared on Preemie Babies 101 in December 2013.
So, you started isolation. Cue: hissing and booing. You made it through the first 2 months and by most accounts, it went rather smoothly. You really wanted to take your little pumpkin, or lion, or princess out for trick or treating but you held tight. You’ve loaded the pantry with the isolation artillery: Clorox wipes, masks, hand sanitizer, Lysol. You barely leave the house. Make-up has become optional and by “optional” I mean, never. You’ve become fast friends with the computer, your only link to everything happening outside your bubble. You probably just roasted the smallest turkey ever because you couldn’t go to the big family Thanksgiving gathering. Yoga pants for mom and warm up pants for dad have become the family uniform. You and the family have settled into an isolation friendly routine. Limited trips in public, shoes off at the door, 2 minute hand scrubs, Lysol sweeps every few days and radar ears for any cough or sneeze within a 30 foot radius of your earshot.
And now? It’s the holidays.
Holidays that are usually spent with lots of family. The season of festive parties with friends and co-workers. Gift shopping in crowded malls. Cookie swaps and gift exchanges . All things that now, you only see through the internal calculation in your mind of “how many germs does that equal?”. You’ve done the calculation and you know. You know that this year, the holidays will be quieter at your house. There won’t be the festive hustle and bustle. There will mostly be sanitizing and spraying. Sigh.
Last year, Tucker had been home from the hospital four months when holiday season hit. We had already given the sad news to our families that there would be no road trips to visit them for the holidays. We wouldn’t be hosting our normal Christmas Eve soup fest. And no, we weren’t bringing the pies for the holiday family reunion. Isolation takes some getting used to. Especially during the holidays.
So you might be surprised to learn that the first Christmas season we spent in isolation? It was one of the best holidays ever. There was something sweet and perfect about our small new family celebrating with gratitude and humbleness the miraculous gift of life. Just the 3 of us. In our bubble. With one isolation holiday season behind us and one more to go, I thought I would share some of the things that made last season in isolation not only bearable, but actually pretty great. Some of these may work for your family and some may not. Just know that whether it’s your first or last isolation holiday, there are lots of families out there who are going through it with you. So here you have it, my list of ways to make it through holidays in the bubble.
Top 7 Things to Make it Through Holidays in Isolation
- Thankful Cards: This is a great time to reflect on some of the thoughtful things that friends and family did for you while you were in the NICU or after you came home. Take time, while you’re in isolation this season, to write personal notes of thanks for the meals prepared, or lawns mowed, or cards sent or kids watched while you were at the hospital with your preemie. Let people know that you are thankful for their gestures and can’t wait for them to meet your little one after isolation.
- Hello, Amazon: The internet has a lot o’ stuff, people. During isolation last year, we did a ton (almost all) of our Christmas shopping online at Amazon, and other sites. There are even certain upgrades to Amazon that will get you free 2 day shipping (warning: it can be addicting). So if you’ve never done Christmas shopping online, maybe give it a try this year while you’re in the bubble. It can save you time and lots of germ encounters at the mall.
- Holiday Drop and Run: I love to bake. But there’s only so many cookies a 3 person family in isolation can eat during the holidays (or at least, so says my husband). But you can still spread some baking cheer with friends and family even though you can’t see them in person. We did it last year and it was totally fun. We baked up a storm. Then packed everything up in disposable plastic containers, tied up with a festive bow and a note from Team Hucks. We bundled up, loaded the goody packs and monitor-toting Tucker in the warm car, turned on the Dolly Parton Christmas music and set out. My husband was the get away driver and I was the dropper (and runner-whew!). I dropped the package on the doorsteps, rang the doorbell, ran to jump back in the car and watched from the back window as we drove away (and sanitized my hands). It was great fun and a tradition to be continued even after isolation. If you love to bake, it could be a good isolation-friendly option.
- Hold Your Ground: I am very grateful that our family understood the importance of isolation and what it meant during the holidays. They did not complain and thankfully, did not try to undermine any of our wishes during isolation. I know there are, however, family members that may not understand your situation. They may push and lobby to get you to lift your restrictions during the holiday season. You know your situation best and if you don’t feel comfortable with something, hold your ground. Isolation is not easy. But it works. Hang in there.
- Skype Caroling: While we were not there in person, we were able to do some Skype sessions with our family while they were all together for holiday gatherings. Tucker got to show them his newest tricks and we were able to catch up with everyone even though we weren’t in the same room. It was a good substitute for not being there face to face. If I can get my husband on board, we might do a twist on our Skype sessions this year. Set up the time you’re going to Skype-when your family picks up the line, launch in with your favorite Christmas carol. If you have other kids, it could be a really fun way for them to learn about caroling and you can dress them up in some holiday gear.
- Holiday Movie Marathon: All those Christmas movies you love but never have time to watch? Make it happen this year. Hot cocoa, cuddling with your sweet little baby, It’s a Wonderful Life. I mean, please. It doesn’t get more perfect.
- Live Streaming Services: If you usually spend some part of the holiday participating in some sort of spiritual service, check to see if there’s an option of live streaming the service so you can watch from home. Our family was able to watch the live Christmas Eve service from our living room. Sure, it’s different but it was nice to have the option.
- Celebrate: No doubt about it, isolation during the holidays is hard for you, your spouse, your other children and for all the people who want to see your face in person. But don’t dwell on the few things that are missing this season. Celebrate the gift of life in this sweet baby, who got such a rough start. Embrace the opportunity to spend intimate time as a small family. Celebrate how far you’ve all come in this year.
Reflecting on our first holiday in isolation, we realized that it was actually pretty great. It was nice to have close family time with no hectic schedule, no frazzled trips to the mall and no long road trips. I know you want to share your little one with family and friends, in their adorable holiday outfits. There will be a time for that, I promise. It is coming in just a few short months. Given a choice, none of us would probably choose to spend the holidays in isolation, but it doesn’t have to be terrible. You’ll want to look back on this time and remember a cozy, happy season with your miracle baby. So hang in there. If this is your first isolation season, you can do it. And you’re not alone. Put red bows on all your bottles of hand sanitizer and let’s do this.