The Nocturnists: Sharing my Story as a Nurse and Mom in a Pandemic

The Nocturnists is a podcast that has done incredible work documenting the experiences of healthcare workers from many angles, and in current times capturing this phenomenal moment in history as we endure this COVID pandemic.

I had the opportunity to reflect on the early days of the pandemic as we all began to realize that this coronavirus was to be taken very, very seriously. What was it that made me realize it wasn’t like other coronaviruses I’ve seen in our ICU? My sharing in Stories from a Pandemic: Part II – Episode 7: Remembering a Pandemic starts at 5:57.

In the next Episode 8: A Call to Arms, I share about what it was like to be a pediatric ICU nurse, a new (and overwhelmed) homeschooling mother to two young elementary age children, and a wife of a health inspector before – and then just after – the vaccine finally becomes available. What was it like to go from hoping for the best with only external protection, to finally having some internal protection on board? My sharing in this episode starts at 18:19.

We are living in such crucial moments in history, and as intensely stressful as they have been, I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for the vaccine. I am grateful we have ways to share our stories.

COVID Vaccine: Dose #1

We are living the most wild time in recent history with this COVID pandemic, so I find it important to document our experience as nurses. Here are my reflections on the day of, and day immediately following, receiving dose #1 of the COVID vaccine.

Saturday, December 19, 2020: I received the first dose of the COVID vaccine at my hospital at 0630 before my shift started at 0700. This was written later that morning.


Who could’ve imagined a year like this. We are still in dark, dark times. Just last night I broke down and cried out “I quit!!” re: all things about this madness. But I didn’t mean it. I’m just worn down like we’re all worn down – by a mean virus, awful politics, heartache and anxiety. I grieve that we have lost so many lives to date. It didn’t have to be this way and I grieve that deeply.

But still His mercies are new every morning. The sun rises, hope comes. So I got up in the darkness to get to my 6:30am vaccine appointment on time before my work shift. And this smile is one of deep gratitude for the scientists and workers and yes even the politicians who cut through the red tape and all the bickering to get this vaccine to us.

It didn’t hurt at all. 2.5 hrs in and I feel great, just the most negligible soreness in my arm, but I’m roaming the ICU as Resource Nurse with a grateful confidence that I finally have some protection on board, and more is coming with the second dose. I understand the fears, I do. But let me be your “guinea pig,” I don’t mind. I will be so happy to be a living and grateful example of the relief we can all begin to find from this awful virus. We can rise up in the darkness. We can. The sun rises, and hope comes.

Sunday, December 20, 2020 11:30AM

A day and some change after receiving the 1st dose of the vaccine:

– Arm soreness is mostly gone, some tenderness at the injection site remains. *I will say that after I got the shot yesterday morning, the arm soreness increased throughout the course of the day, to about a level 4/10 for me which is more than I’ve experienced with other vaccines, but I was still fully functional at work.

– Maybe (?) some mild body aches but I’ve been carrying a lot of stress in tense shoulders for weeks so it’s really indistinguishable from my usual.

– Otherwise normal.

I will not sugar coat any side effects I feel, particularly after the 2nd dose when I fully expect to feel worse for a couple days. People deserve a fully informed choice about this vaccine, but they also then need to face up to hard realities of the risks of opting out of it when it becomes available to them, which I will speak up about in future posts.

For now, it is time for hope, and I am glad to be the public’s guinea pig.

A Letter from a Parent to Teachers in the time of COVID-19

The school year started with all the assumptions we make about how life is going to go.

She’ll go to school, she’ll make more friends, the teachers will work their magic, I will have some breathing room for myself, repeat for nine months. At the end of the year, my child will have learned whatever she’s supposed to learn for her grade level and I’ll say thank you to the teachers with a gift card, and see you in the Fall!

Come March 2020 and the notice of shutdown of school campuses due to COVID-19.

I realized in an instant that I didn’t know how to work a teacher’s magic. In fact, I was humbled to learn it’s not just magic. It’s a freaking ton of hard work, tenacity, commitment to the kids, commitment to (and patience with!) the families, incredible flexibility with each child’s unique temperament, iron stomach for politics, creativity, and an understanding of their own worth as powerful shapers of future generations even when the majority of people take a teacher’s job so much for granted.

With all the other parents, I mainly fumbled and sighed and cried my way through the first few weeks of “homeschooling.” But our amazing principal and teachers showed up to our kids and our families with a revamped plan that must’ve kept them up all hours of the night to create (and re-create). Led in that spirit, my first grader didn’t seem to bat an eyelash at all the changes. She never melted down, never complained, only remarked now and then that she missed seeing and hugging her friends and teachers. But her teachers stayed positive, engaged, affectionate, appropriately strict, and very much at the helm.

As painfully long as some of the days were with managing kids at home all day every day with distance learning, I got to see through the Zoom classes how a teacher brings a group of children together in a spirit of hope and community with an unshakable focus on continuing growth and education. I got to know my daughter’s classmates and their parents. I got to know my own child better – how she thinks, how she works through struggles, what sparks her to speak up, what inhibits her, what excites her, what makes her sad. I got to know those things about myself better as a parent as well.

By the last week of school, I finally felt surprisingly settled into the new rhythm, as exhausting as all the demands were. And then it was time to wrap up the school year. There was a winding down of online coursework, but there could be none of the on-campus celebratory end-of-year activities. There was a drive-by the school to wave to teachers and staff, where I went to shout “Thank you!!”out the window and found myself trying not to wail with sobs instead. There was a brief pickup of classroom materials and a side hug with her teacher after asking permission, adjusting her mask and dousing her in hand sanitizer. Emotions were at times muted, at times surprisingly acute, mostly confusing.

Then came the final class Zoom meetings. In a talent show on the second-to-last day, another little girl in class said she had a song to sing about saying good-bye but how everyone remains in each other’s hearts. It was off-key and acapella, but at the end of her song, a little boy then burst into sobs. I looked over at my daughter and she was quietly fighting back her tears. It was her first sign of sad emotion since the quarantine started. I wrapped my arms around her, she turned off her video, and waited to compose herself before getting back into the Zoom meeting. She said they were just happy tears.

Today. The final day of school. The online class talent show finished up, and it was time for all the children and their teacher to say good-bye. They all clasped their hands together and pumped their fists back and forth from their chest to the computer screen, “sending love” as their teacher called it. My daughter stayed on until the last minute, as one by one each little square for each classmate’s face disappeared from the virtual classroom. She was already blinking back tears but as the meeting ended, she buried herself in my arms, and we were both crying together.

This year, our kids lost so much. But in this mysterious, imperfect, painful, beautiful, terrible, magical way, we have also gained so much. And teachers and school staff, I now know that you are the most hard-working and the most magical people I know. We did it, and we did it together, but you led the way with your grit and your heart. Our family is sending you all our love.