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Pandemic Living: She Swaps Homes, Leaves Fiancé With Her Mom

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Michigan lake
Danielle S,

“It was definitely getting to a point where it was a test of our relationship. I don't think anybody in their right minds would ever ask their fiancé to live with their mother for four months straight just out of nowhere.”

Pandemic living; house at nightTheir wedding was planned for July 25th, 2020.

Danielle had always dreamed of having a big wedding. They anticipated 200 to 300 people. Her fiancé’s relatives were going to fly from India to join them. She had bridesmaids flying in from other states. The venue had an indoor and outdoor option. She had an appointment to try out her nails and hair. They were just about to order their invitations.

In February and March, signs of the pandemic started showing up, threatening their plans.

Danielle has a family of nurses and doctors. Her fiancé is a nurse doing night shifts on the cardiac floor at a hospital. Her mother is a dialysis nurse at a different hospital in Detroit. Both her fiancé and mother were at a high risk of being exposed to Covid-19, and that posed a serious danger. Her father was a cancer survivor, which made him immunocompromised. Danielle was immunocompromised as well.

Even before the pandemic, her fiancé had always been conscious about bringing home some horrible bacteria or the flu. Likewise, it had always been her mother’s greatest fear to bring home a disease and transmit it to her father. Both her mother and her fiancé would be very meticulous about showering and washing their scrubs. However, Covid-19 was a different kind of virus that they could not risk taking home.

“When this happened, it was my fiancé and my mom being on the same exact level like: ‘Neither of us are playing games with the loves of our lives.’”

Danielle’s mother knew that the nation’s healthcare infrastructure did not have any way to contain the virus at that point, so she felt that it was just a matter of time. It was her mother who led the decision for Danielle and her to swap homes.

The plan was laid to keep Danielle and her father safe. Her mother would take the guest bedroom at Danielle’s place and stay with her fiancé; Danielle would move back into her parents’ home to stay with her dad. Her mother had her bags packed long before Danielle was ready. The Covid numbers continued going up, and the day came to make the move.

“However, once we’ve been swapped, I was under the impression with my dad that this is going to maybe be three weeks and then over. I think my fiancé had a certain sense, too. I thought, OK, you know, like once we get a handle of what’s going on, then we’ll swap backwards after we’re out of this initial stop everything, freeze just in case. Let’s move. It turned into four months very quickly.”

At Danielle’s house, her mother was working day shifts and her fiancé was working night shifts. Both found themselves working with Covid-positive patients. Detroit was getting hit really hard, and testing was all over the place. At her mother’s facilities, her dialysis patients were not being honest about whether they were positive or not, and she ended up working with some patients who were positive and having to tell them that she could not dialyze them because of the risk they were putting other patients at risk.

Her mother’s facilities also did not provide enough personal protective equipment, and her mother had to order masks on Amazon in bulk so she could distribute them to her hospital. In a twist of irony, her mother’s hospital demanded to see a receipt to know that she hadn’t used hospital funds to buy PPE. It was not a good situation.

Her fiancé’s hospital was also in the hot zone. When the number of Covid patients started increasing, the hospital set up an emergency step-down floor with ventilators. They trained her fiancé to put patients on ventilators, and in the middle to latter part of April, he was heavily treating Covid patients. It was a heartbreaking experience, and when Danielle tried to talk to him about it, he told her he was sick of hearing about Covid after working around Covid all day, and he just wanted to talk about something else.

Plans for the wedding were also falling through their fingers. Fortunately Danielle and her fiancé were a little behind on their planning. Much of what they had started could be cancelled fairly easily. They hadn’t picked out their cake yet. Her trial run on the hair and nails was easily canceled. She had her dress being altered, but she had never gone in for the final fitting, so that was canceled as well.

At that time, her fiancé was still holding out hope that the wedding could happen because everything had been hitting so hard in March and early April. Maybe it would die down. The state’s Covid numbers were getting better since the governor had been locking everything down.

Danielle’s dad got her to think realistically. Some friends wouldn’t be comfortable with making the flights. Her fiancé’s relatives likely would not be able to come. They had seniors who wanted to party, but Danielle had a responsibility to look after them.

So, Danielle coordinated a walk through a local metro park with her fiancé. They both had their masks on and stayed socially distanced. But it was like they both just knew what the other was thinking, and they talked.

“Okay, babe, we got to be real about this. We got to really think about the risks and benefits.”

It was heartbreaking. At that point, they only had save-the-dates and a website. It was easy enough to postpone. But after they made the decision, at least they got to enjoy nature.

The wedding is postponed to July 24th 2021. They are realistic, though. Even by next year, they won’t be able to expect everyone to take the vaccine. The postponement gives them more options to really figure this out, to think about spacing and how they will do the social distancing. 

Weeks passed and became months. Nobody really wanted to talk about the passage of time. Her Dad and she would watch the news and see the governor talk about the different levels of lockdown. They’d listen to the experts, but they’d have to turn off the TV because it was so overwhelming.

It wasn’t always easy living with her father. They’re very similar, and Danielle felt as if she were living with herself, which was hard. It was so easy to get irritated by little things over time.

However, the time with her father ended up being a bonding experience. She had never lived with her father alone with him without her mother. The last time she had lived with her dad that long was right after graduating from college, but then she moved into an apartment. It was bizarre. She found that her dad and she reacted to things very similarly. They were both prone to see something on the news that made them emotional, angry, or repulsed. And they both seemed to decide to be the balance for the other.

Early on, Danielle realized that they needed an outlet, a place to go to get out of the house so they wouldn’t drive each other crazy or have that one blow-up argument. They got metro passes for the local park, and it became their ritual to take a very long walk every Saturday, around five miles or so, to see nature, to see the budding of flowers in the spring and see the trees waking up. It was a time to get off of social media, not watch news, just relax, breathe, and observe as life found a way to keep on moving.

Later her dad and she started bike riding during their lunch breaks. They both had similar jobs. He’s a video editor, and she’s in marketing. They’d be on their laptops all day.

“Around 11:00 or noon, he’d be like, ‘OK, kid, time for a bike ride.’ ‘OK, Dad.’ And I would get on my bike, the same bike I’ve had since I was nine. Luckily, I didn’t grow much taller. Dad would get on his bike. We would go for about 20 minutes really, really hard up a bunch of hills, come back home sweaty, breathing, like, ’Hey, I got something out. I feel a little better.’”

Pandemic living; Early morning bike ride

Her father and she would regularly call over to her fiancé and her mom. While her mom overshared her personal stories about Covid and who was getting sick, her fiancé was the opposite. He internalized it, and Danielle could tell he was being affected by putting so many patients on ventilation. Ventilation is typically a last resort. People were dying without their families next to them. Nurses are often the last person someone sees before they die. It was awful. He was just burying it all inside.

“We had many, many fights. I’m going to be really candid throughout this. I think a lot because we had completely upended our lives and we were living in a way we had never lived before.”

Around June 25th they decided to move back home. Her fiancé had gone back to the cardiac floor and had not been exposed to a Covid patient for a month and a half.

“It was definitely getting to a point where it was a test of our relationship. I don’t think anybody in their right minds would ever ask their fiancé to live with their mother for four months straight just out of nowhere.”

They had decided on living in separate homes out of good faith, but the way it had ended up rolling out was really, really hard. Months had passed. It was not easy at all. But it was probably the best living arrangement that they could have had. It is very interesting how similar her mom and dad are to Danielle and her fiancé. Her mom and her fiancé are nurses, and she and her dad are just so alike. It was an arrangement made to keep loved ones safe.

Covid is still around and there are talks about the upcoming flu season being bad. Danielle hopes that the flu season will be better than what it had been in the past just because of the sheer fact that most people have been wearing masks and social distancing. They have had a lot of family discussions about this. Swapping places again is not off the table necessarily. It depends on whether Covid cases spike again, specifically within her mother and her fiancé’s hospital. However, pandemic living requires flexibility; they would swap homes again if it were necessary. 

Read another family story about how a mom grieves for her job. Or watch more stories on fuconomy’s youtube channel.