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  • Writer's pictureDustin Kacaba

Our journey to the new normal: experiencing life-altering trauma during the pandemic

It's hard to believe only a year ago, our most significant concerns were the first steps of a new pregnancy.

Apart from routine daily projects associated with running KCC, our stress came from figuring out how to announce to family and friends, schedule doctor's appointments, and count down the days until our lives changed forever.

Little did we know in penning the initial KCC posts in early March the scope of the impending change to our lives.

As entrepreneurs, we're chronic planners. We made arrangements with the local midwives and OBGYN. We packed hospital bags and discussed the birth plan in great detail as early as six months out. We spent our free time preparing the nursery and creating playlists for the hospital as we kept an eye on the rumours of an impending pandemic. We were hopeful we'd make it safely home from the hospital before it reached our community.


encountering fear

Unfortunately, suggesting our journey didn't go according to plan would be an understatement. Within 24 hours of entering PRHC for a standard procedure, our first moments as new parents became more chaotic than we ever could've expected. We nearly encountered the gravest fear any parents could imagine in Selah's delivery journey, and we couldn't be together in our first days as a new family.

To top it all off, it happened as Ontario was in the process of enacting the full force of the lockdown procedures.

embracing fatigue

In our final weeks pre-parenthood, friends warned us of how we'd long for sleep in adjusting to life with a newborn. In hindsight, we could only wish to be embraced by that experience of fatigue.

Like many new parents, our first day began after hours of hard labour. However, instead of holding our baby after 18+ hours of and traumatic delivery, life compounded our trauma. In the early hours of day one, the pediatrician had to break the news to us of Selah's fragile state. Just as we thought we were approaching the time to catch our breath, we set out on a marathon in which we'd embrace the realities of fatigue.

Reality dealt us a stress-filled, isolated recovery as Tara had to remain a patient at PRHC before being discharged home with a reduced ability to travel, and Dustin made the daily trips of +400 km to the NICU. At the same time, the pandemic concerns were intensifying, creating harsh limitations on hospital visitors and extreme restrictions and problems related to travel and the accessibility of amenities on the road.

enduring pain

Although we had confidently prepared, we faced a nagging truth. We could never prepare for the pain of childbirth. Yet there was a common hopeful talking point through the classes and in conversations with other moms.

The pain was all worth it when I got to hold my baby.

The harsh reality of that truth is how exponentially the pain grows in waiting for the first embrace as the waiting grows from minutes and hours into days and weeks.

In our time at SickKids, God introduced us to the dichotomy of hope and pain. As we waited with bated breath for Selah's recovery, we had the opportunity to witness as other tiny patients and their parents made their way through the adjoining beds.

It didn't matter that we were all focused on our own families. Their temporary closeness provided a sense of comfort in knowing we weren't the only ones going through this, and a sense of hope in seeing the unique strength of infancy. It was amazing to see these tiny humans recover from the brink so rapidly. However, it also renewed the pain we endured each day as other parents advance to holding, feeding and transferring home as all we could do was pray.


encountering hope

Amid our trauma and the pandemic at large, we discovered the hope that set the foundation for our recovery as we watched miracles happen day after day.

With her medical team's aid, Selah fought from touch-and-go on day one to coming home by day 15. Although each day was a struggle for us, we were given hope in each fighting breath even when she couldn't take them alone. We had to lean into the hope of small victories as each day, she slowly responded to the treatments requiring slightly less support.

embracing support

For Selah's recovery, she had to embrace her supporters.

For our recovery, we had to lay down our pride and do the same.

We've always been the type of people to do our best to be in a position to offer support rather than asking for it, so we were in awe of the support we received from our family, friends, church and some clients throughout our crisis.

On day one, we had supporters doing their best to find ways to help us within the height of the pandemic restrictions. The help came in a variety of ways,

  • We had family respond to fill the void In Tara's care as Dustin travelled to Toronto while she remained a patient in Peterborough.

  • We had friends coordinating and offering options for safe harbour while on the road as restaurants and hotels were turned into no-go zones to ensure we could have continued access to the NICU.

  • On top of that, we had extended family and church family respond to help ensure our financial needs would not overwhelm us as we focused on bringing Selah and ourselves back home.

enduring uncertainties

We thought we had prepared a foundation suitable for the uncertainties of life with a newborn, but we couldn't have anticipated the circumstances we'd have to endure. The compounding fears starting from the first moments of her life and continuing through her false-positive SCID diagnosis.

The uncertainties bled into our summer as we got back into the swing of running KCC. Between Selah and the realities of the pandemic, our capacity to serve clients reduced this summer. And our uncertainties will linger on as we wrestle with the pandemic's lasting impact going into the winter.

Selah's growth and development are now critical indicators for the status of her recovery. And with the pandemic entering wave two, it seems we've arrived at a cliffhanger of sorts.

Still, with every cliffhanger, there's an opportunity for hope. And we hope that through sharing our journey, we can give others the hope to endure the uncertainties in their lives.


Six months ago, before our trauma and the pandemic's outset, we began sharing our thoughts on embracing a better life. We intended to enable and encourage others to do the same through our vulnerability. In spring, we were preparing to thrive over the summer and have an opportunity to share. Instead, we found ourselves once again focusing on survival.

As we find ourselves looking back at our chaotic and exhausting summer, the hard truth we've encountered is after the chaos, after the trauma, after the change, there is no returning to life as it was. It's time to adapt to life as it is.

We could get lost in lingering on what could have been or what should have been. Instead, we need to look ahead to the future and ask ourselves what it can be.

As we continue to establish our family, our business, and our community, we want to be mindfully striving to develop healthy habits to prepare for the future challenges life throws our way.

As we settle into our new normal, we look forward to going back to the roots we first planted in March to discuss and explore the importance of:

  • self-care/relationship-care & improvement

  • keeping focused on what motivates & inspires

  • learning, exploring, and playing around with food & drink

  • being mindful and engaged with our county and community

We hope you'll come along for the journey with us in the coming days, weeks and months. While this is a process we're excited to undertake for ourselves, we hope it can be something you can engage with, learn from, and contribute to as life moves ahead.

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