Submitted by the Bri Henke & Family: Andrew, Bri, Otto and Odin
Thank you Henke Family for sharing with us!!
Sixty days of sharing 900 square feet with a very tall husband, a very energetic 6 year old, a very snugly dachshund and a very charming 6 month old.
We closed on a tiny home the day we found out that our family of 3 would soon be a family of 4. That family of 4 was soon a family of 4 plus oxygen tanks + cannula tubes running through said tiny home. And then that home became the only place that this family would be for months as they try to keep that baby safe during this fragile newborn time. And right as the baby was getting strong enough to kick the O2 and meet the real world, he was sent right back to his tiny home and into quarantine … with no end in sight.
We are all feeling it – the pain of this quarantine. Whether it is the fear of getting sick, or the fear of losing our jobs or the fear of not having anything to wipe with in the bathroom … the fear is real. Nothing feels safe and nothing is guaranteed. What a wild thing to experience: To not be able to believe myself when I tell my 6 year old that it “will be okay” is a very scary thing for a mom. Especially when the ground of Utah starts shaking every 3 days in a series of Earthquakes that still have my son afraid to be outside by himself. The only thing I can control right now is the lack of licking jungle gyms as we sit here everyday in the same 900 square feet we sat in yesterday and the day before and the 58 days before that.
Another scary thing for a mom: to not be able to help her own child. I could not wait to start therapy with Odin, as it meant that we were doing our part in giving him the best that we could give him. We started with our amazing therapists at 4 months old and I loved watching them challenge his body and his mind: They would manipulate him in ways that I thought would really ruffle his feathers, which they did, but then he would kill it in the new position that allowed his head to wobble just a little less. We had a good thing going every other Wednesday … for a few Wednesdays, at least. We only had 3 in-home visits before we were sent directly to the computer – do not pass Go; do not collect $200.
My first thought was “how am I ever going to be able to help Odin now?”. We had just been introducing him into the world after being at home connected to Oxygen since November, and now we were shut right back in. I had done quarantine and I was over quarantine. I was convinced that therapy was done for him until the world opened back up but, alas, technology to save the day! Our therapists were really on their game, and by his next appointment we were set up on Zoom to attempt this virtual PT session. If I am being honest, it felt as if we were puppet masters to this adorable almond-eyed puppet and our therapist was a puppet master to us – strings everywhere! She had us bending him this way and scooting him that way and putting him in the basket one way and adjusting his pelvis another way. As an Architect and a Sales Director, my husband and I are not trained to provide any therapy services for our children besides the typical parent-child-lecture circuit when they use our Pottery Barn blanket to clean up their rock painting or sneak candy into their fort. But at this point, I would like to add Physical Therapist / Child Development Specialist / Nurse / Pulmonologist to my resume under “special skills”.
During the session it seemed so chaotic with our questions and her suggestions and the ever present delay in Zoom audio. This continued to happen every other week, and we continued to put on our fanciest therapist hats for that hour. Odin didn’t love every second, but I have learned now that that means he was being challenged … and that that is a very good thing. The beautiful thing about Early Intervention is that you never have to leave your home and your child still gets their services brought to them. This quarantine has forced us to have 5 PT sessions, 3 Nurse appointments and 2 meetings with a Child Development Specialist without leaving our home AND without anyone being brought to us. As chaotic as that first session was, it taught us what to do. It taught us how to move him and why we are moving him that way. And the session after that taught us what to do with his right arm when his left arm does that funky thing. And the session after that taught us how to help him pivot on his belly while wearing his cute little mermaid shorts after our PT dropped off his Hip Huggers on our porch from a safe 6′ distance.
I wouldn’t say that we have learned more by being one of the puppet masters, but I will say that we have learned differently than we would have if life was like it was in the old days [and by “old days”, I of course mean before March 2020]. We had to be the one to feel him resist the first time he was put in a position he wasn’t used to and then relay that to the therapist on the screen and wait for more directions. We have a connection to the practice that we wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance to experience. The lack of human connection we are going through is being replaced by another type of connection to humans: One where we have to listen more and then act. We see it in all these new ways that we are communicating with people – in his therapy sessions, in our work circles, in our client meetings and even with our family across the country. Being able to tune into the Gigi’s LMNOP classes and Brittanie’s Fine + Gross Motor Skill workshop from our jammies have been huge assets to Odin’s development. If we were in person, I am sure Brittanie would take Odin and show me how to do it with him. But, now it is all on me to watch what she is doing on the screen and then put his tiny little fingers around the stick and help him bang them together. I fought the technology, but the technology won.
It is not how I planned to start our relationship with his life-long therapy needs, nor how I wanted his first 6 months of life to go without being able to share him with the world. But this is the beginning he was given, and with that we have to march on. Working full time out of the LaundrOffice [you know, a Laundry Room Office] + attempting to homeschool a social Kindergartner + a newborn with Down Syndrome’s therapies … the sitcom really writes itself. And us, the actors, are having to adapt and pivot every single day. And, you know what, I think it will turn out to be a really beautiful thing.
On to Day 61 …