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Quarantined From Our Healthy Child

We prop the phone up near the play kitchen her sister plays with here at home, and they “prepare meals” together, sometimes for as long as an hour.

I read a story this morning about a family who welcomed back their college age daughter from Europe at the beginning of the lockdown, only to discover that she had fallen ill with Covid-19. They had to quarantine her in her bedroom while they banded together to feed and comfort her through a closed door.

This put our own current predicament into perspective. As my wife wrote earlier, we are in the throes of adopting our second daughter and are currently banned from visiting her in person due to the lockdown here in Romania. In many ways, it feels like we’ve been quarantined from her. But thankfully, she’s not sick, nor are we; she’s taken care of by her foster mother and her own daughters, who adore her; and due to modern technology, we are able to see her through the small screens of our phones every day.

The hardest part though is understanding the level of comprehension a three-year-old can have. She has already been abandoned by her birth mother, and lives with that trauma, as all adopted children do. We were able to visit regularly for a month, bringing her home for the day even, before our plans were abruptly interrupted. How do you explain to a toddler who has abandonment issues that you still love her and want her to be with you, when you can’t be with her physically without warning?

For our part, we’ve tried to emote a sense of normalcy on our calls, chatting with her and listening to her toddler dreams and ideas over the phone. Sometimes, she hides from the camera and refuses to chat, which is hard, because we know that it’s her way of processing the fact that we’re not there. She often says “I’ll come home the day after tomorrow?” Two days in the future for a toddler must seem like the furthest point that they can think of.

The bright points though are when we play with her. We prop the phone up near the play kitchen her sister plays with here at home, and they “prepare meals” together, sometimes for as long as an hour. Or when Mami or her sister read her a book while I record it for later or just point the camera at them as she watches.

We continue to bond with her through our tiny window, and pray for the lockdown to be over, even as the president extends it another month.

In hindsight, we’ve gone through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

For the first week, we tried to justify driving to her foster family to bring supplies that they needed, thinking that if we only connected with them, we’d all be safe. 

Then, as the lockdown order was given, and roadblocks were put up, we couldn’t do that. Our anger turned toward the Social Services department that wasn’t prioritizing adoptions. Though now we recognize that they are overworked and must prioritize other, more pressing needs or people in more dire straights than us.

We tried to ask questions and offer solutions and ideas to our case manager, her director, and even the president, and in the process likely made them less willing to talk to us.

As the president recently extended the lockdown, we had been beginning to accept that we really have to just be patient and trust the system, as broken as it seems sometimes. It was a blow, but there’s nothing that we can do except reassure both our daughters (and ourselves) that it will end someday, and we’ll all be together.

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