At some point in the coming weeks, I may be forced to choose between living with my daughter Freya, and my own health.
I have Cystic Fibrosis and have been on a self-imposed lockdown since before most people were even contemplating staying at home. When news of coronavirus first began to ramp up I knew I would have to do everything in my power to avoid it, and I quickly realised that could mean having to live separately from my little girl.
I have already had to endure nearly three weeks of being apart from her, as before the schools closed, someone at Freya’s school came down with the virus. She was at her dad’s for the weekend (we are separated) and I realised she would need to stay put. I couldn’t risk her bringing it home to me.
She was there for nearly three weeks, while the rest of the country went on lockdown. Every day I went back and forth about whether or not she should come back to live with me, but I reasoned that if she and her dad didn’t leave the house, and neither exhibited symptoms, there should be no reason for her not to come home after a couple of weeks. I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her for months - though I now realise that if the lockdown were to be lifted, and she returned to school, we would be facing the same conundrum again.
As things stand, she has been back with me for a week. But we have had to keep our distance, which has been very hard (try telling your eight-year-old she can’t cuddle you). I want all this to be over, but the idea of the lockdown being lifted while there is still a risk is terrifying, too. I would be faced with the choice of sending her back to her dad’s, for who knows how long, so she can go to school, or keeping her at home with me and putting my health at risk.
If we had to live apart, I would be devastated. But I also need to stay alive. How am I supposed to make that call? Here, her dad can come by and chat to us from the street below our balcony, but we can’t go out.
Freya is coping admirably. She has grown up knowing her mummy’s health is fragile. I occasionally have to spend a couple of weeks at a time in hospital, often with little notice. What for most people would be a minor bout of flu could be catastrophic for me, so we have always had to be careful and I’ve been honest with her about the risks.
Having a mum with a genetic disorder makes you more aware than most children about the realities of life, but I wish we didn’t have to deal with this particular one. At first, she was anxious about coronavirus. She asked her dad, “what happens if we get it?” and he said we would be fine. Then she asked, “what happens if Mummy gets it?” He said I could be very sick - he didn’t say “she could die” but he didn’t need to. “Right,” said Freya, “I’ll stay here then”.
As told to Eleanor Steafel