Almost a full month into the confinement and whenever I bend my left arm there is a touch of pain. Some tasks are becoming hard, like lifting the stroller through the doorway at the entrance to our building. Or reaching for a new box of baby formula above the refrigerator. I have a bad elbow.
It doesn’t make sense. I haven’t worked out seriously during the crisis. I do some push ups occasionally but nothing else. Before I was body pumping multiple times a week as well as doing some lifting. I didn’t have any issues with my elbow at all.
Then I realized what it is: I am lifting something now, and I carry it around almost constantly in my left arm. It wiggles and hangs on and my arm is twisted to hold it. I took it into the bathroom to see in the mirror how it was straining my arm. It doesn’t take an orthopedic surgeon to see that holding the baby for major amounts of time throughout the day is damaging my arm.
I switched him over to the right arm, but it doesn’t feel right. The habit is in place and it dates from the first kid. Already I have to pay attention to my back when bending down to pick him up (knees knees knees). Heavy usage plus age is taking its toll.
Given the coronavirus situation I can’t go to the doctor to get it checked out. And what would she say anyway? Your arm hurts when you do that? Stop doing it! Stop picking up my infant son? Come on. Even if I could go to a physical therapist to see if some way to alleviate the damage exists, they are all closed.
Women know all too well about what having children does to their bodies. Constant parenting has real physical effects too. Picking up and holding is only one example. The kicks to the stomach when changing diapers. Biting. The back-bending contortions to place their sleeping selves into the crib. The bruised knees from playing on the floor and crawling on tile. Dry heaving after taking a football to the nuts. Parenting is assault and battery.
Working, somewhere else – anywhere else – limits the exposure to risk. During the weekdays the time spent with the kids is much calmer. The mornings are an orchestration of preparation. Evening play is brief and coincides with cooking – an extra shield. Story time is the safest part of the day. Weekends are short bouts that are peppered with activities and distractions.
One month of confinement has pushed me to my physical and mental limits. With no office to which to escape, the battle royale is never-ending. I was already worried for my mind and gaining weight during our sedentary lifestyle. Now I have to worry about permanent bodily harm too.
Never have I had more respect for childcare professionals. Their energy, their resilience. Especially the professionals who are parents themselves. Spending the day caring for our children then going home to care for theirs. It takes a special soul. One I do not possess.
It’s Easter weekend. Monday is off. Normally we would be in Brittany or somewhere to celebrate the holiday. The US designated the Easter Bunny as an essential employee (glad to see where their priorities are). Kids will still get candy – though I will not get my favorite Easter treats, Cadbury Cream Eggs. But it might as well be a random Wednesday. Every coronavirus confinement day is the same. We could be celebrating Easter everyday with the amount of chocolate we wolf down after dinner anyway.
We did discover a family activity on Day 26 that does not take a physical toll on my body: paper airplanes. I racked the old noggin for a few designs and started pumping them out. Google helped for a few of the more advanced models. We stood in the courtyard in the warmth of the end of the day and had a competition for which airplane could fly the furthest. One advantage of being almost entirely closed in: no wind to disrupt paper air traffic. The planes flew well. I’m going to print out a few more designs and milk this activity for all it’s worth. Maybe I’ll hide a few of them in the plants so my son can have a paper airplane hunt on Easter morning.
Here’s to hoping that the next major holidays won’t be affected, the 4th and 14th of July for the Americans and the French. Maybe we can even walk the streets listening to music on the 21st of June for the Fête de la Musique.
If we are still in confinement then, we will have been pushed beyond all knowable mental and physical limits. The damage will be severe.