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QUARANTINE DIARY: How we survived 14 days, in a tiny hotel room with a 16-month old.

After two unsuccessful attempts, my partner Joel, our baby girl Quinn and I were granted an exemption to enter WA on compassionate grounds as my dad is unwell. 

This is my account of what it’s like to spend 14 days locked in a 29sqm hotel room with no fresh air or physical contact with anyone on the outside world… whilst both trying to work (me running a PR company; Joel being one third of the band Eskimo Joe and a professional song-writer/producer) and above all, keeping our baby girl happy and healthy.

Watch: A thank you to masks. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Day One: Great expectations

During the three and a half hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, Joel and I chatted about which Netflix series we should get stuck into during our 14 day forced vay-cay and how we should definitely order a bottle of bubbles as soon as we arrived. This naïve optimism came crashing down when we were greeted on the tarmac by the federal police who ushered us through for medical checks and an entry interview.

The interrogation, combined with having an 11kg restless toddler Baby Bjorn’d to me and a surgical mask digging into my face, made me break out in a sweat, making me anxious I'd fail the temperature check. 

Thankfully, we got the all clear and a police escort took us to our hotel. 

The armed security guards. Image: Supplied.

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We were soon within the four walls of Room 814. My first impression was that it was nicely appointed, and super clean and bright (thanks to the three large, non-opening windows). 

We’d been in the room no more than 15 minutes when Joel rang down to reception to see when we were allowed to go out for a "fresh air break". The answer was, "in 14 days, Sir."

Day Two: Feeling the love (and the nasal swab).

Quinnie woke up at 6:15am which was pretty good considering the two-hour time difference with the East Coast. 

Like most people who live in Melbourne my first thought turned to coffee. Joel rang down to order two proper coffees, only to be told the café didn’t open on weekends. 

WHAT…THE…ACTUAL…This had to be some kind of sick social experiment to see how far you could push a Melburnian? Being the Perth CBD at 6:20am on a Saturday, McCafe (via UberEats) was our best option. 

Breakfast (in the form of sugary baked goods, yoghurt and the interesting choice of Coco-Pops for a toddler confined to a tiny room) got dropped at our door, followed by a call to say it was there around 7:30am. 

Both of our phones were lighting up with messages from friends and family offering to drop off toys, food, creature comforts, alcohol (which was contraband!) This detail made the experience feel more like detention and less like the Holiday Inn. 

Looking at the empty Mini Bar and reading the paperwork saying no alcohol was allowed to be ordered online or dropped off in care packages made it hit home that this was no holiday. 

Whilst unpacking some of Quinnie’s toys and attempting to make the room as homely-yet-functional as possible, we received a call from the nurse to say she’d be coming past in the next two hours to do our first COVID test. 

The test was way more tolerable than I was expecting, but it was traumatic holding Quinnie while she had hers done. 

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Quinn after her nasal swap. Image: Supplied.

After a few tears, followed by one Kit-Kat finger, we’d overcome the first major hurdle towards COVID-free(dom)!

Day Three: Our big fat Greek feast.

Quinnie is LOVING hotel quarantine life. 

She’s been her usual happy self, playing with her toys all day long. 

My cousin messaged to say she was cooking up an authentic Greek feast for our dinner (lamb shoulder, tsatziki, Greek salad… plus, a bonus apple crumble) and would drop it to the hotel around 6pm. 

This was the good news we needed today! Food is the biggest thing we’re really struggling with in here. Three times a day, a mystery brown paper bag is dropped at the door, and it’s potluck as to whether it’s something you would or could actually eat. 

Happiness levels fluctuate depending on the contents of that brown paper bag. I don’t often complain but the kids menu is not appropriate for a toddler

So far it’s been either mushy pureed baby food which Quinn is too old for, or adult meals like curry or noodles which she doesn’t eat. 

Simple toddler staples like cut-up fruit, toast or hot chips haven’t made an appearance yet and there’s SO much sugar in everything, she’d literally be climbing the walls in here if we gave her this stuff. 

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Our feast. Image: Supplied.

Day Four: Getting creative.

Today was a pretty challenging one for me and any work I’d planned on getting done went completely out the (non-functional) window. 

Joel was working, writing a song with a well-known Australian musician, so I had to get creative with how to entertain Quinn without making heaps of noise. 

We played blocks, learnt flashcards and I set up an art station in the shower so we could paint and make as much mess as possible, then wash it down the drain. 

Quinn's Art station. Image: Supplied.

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Joel’s writing session was done by about 3pm and it went really well despite all the distractions. 

Day Five: A very sh*t day.

I was woken up today around 6:30am not by sound, but by smell…. given the fact Joel was on the toilet and only a sliding door separated us. 

This was an indication of how the rest of the day would roll. Quinn didn’t sleep well because she’s cutting her two-year old molars and we’re now six days deep into constipation. 

Joel had both a writing session, and also speaking engagement to music students in Tasmania (which he forgot to tell me about until half an hour prior). 

The tiny room felt cluttered and dirty. Quinn was whinging and asking for toast (which was impossible to make for her because electrical items were banned in the rooms due to the fire hazard). 

We were down to the last few baby-wipes and my head was pounding. When I checked the date on my phone, I realised my period was due at any moment which explained why EVERYTHING was annoying me. 

I text a girlfriend who works close to the hotel to see if she could drop off some wipes for us and half an hour later, the most thoughtful care-package arrived at our door… wipes, sheet face masks, chocolate bullets and toddler snacks. 

God, I love my mum friends! A few hours later Quinnie did a monumental poo. And then we both had a day sleep and I woke up feeling happy again.

Day Six: My boyfriend saw things he shouldn't have.

I thought before we embarked on this experience, 14 days with minimal human contact (& no make-up wearing) would be the perfect time for a complete skin overhaul ahead of seeing all of my friends and family in Perth. 

I pretty much packed the entire bathroom cabinet and today with my skin feeling hormonal, I decided to do a deep cleanse and Enzyme Mask. It did not go well. 

The effects of the mask. Image: Supplied.

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Day Seven: Oh, we're halfway there.

It’s pretty amazing how quickly time passes and how you adapt to living in this unnatural state – we’re already halfway through!

We’ve learnt to break-up the day by sticking to a routine, largely based around when the meals come and when the baby sleeps. 

New bed sheets and towels were dropped at the door, so I did a big clean through (which took no more than 20 mins thanks to the room size). 

The family photo - bathrobe included. Image: Supplied.

Day Eight: The slump.

I woke up feeling a bit flat, with the realisation that whilst we had made it through seven days locked in this room, there was still seven more left to endure. 

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I spoke to mum who lifted my spirits like she always does. She said that she and my 38-week pregnant sister were cooking up a storm for us and on the menu was crumbed chicken and spaghetti, fresh-baked bread, salad and sausage rolls for Quinnie. 

Our delicious italian dinner. Image: Supplied.

The care package that came later that day was not only my favourite dinner – but also included a box of new games and activities to keep our baby girl entertained. 

The toddler care package. Image: Supplied.

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I decided not to give them all to her at once and instead give her something new each day so she didn’t get bored. Today it was BUBBLES!

Her whole face lit up with absolute joy when the room filled with rainbow-coloured prisms as the water hit the light. My whole face lit up with joy when I saw that crumbed chicken. And realised that in less than I week, I’d be able to give my mum an actual hug. 

Image: Supplied.

Day Nine: Our big night in.

Today was a pretty standard day in quarantine. 

We woke up around 7am, had coffee/breakfast/vitamins. Did some light exercise. We watched the news, Quinn watched Little Baby Bum and the Wiggles. 

But then… we got an unexpected call in the afternoon to say there was a care package at the door. 

It wasn’t a meal drop-off time? And no one had text to say they were delivering anything? We raced to the door to find a beautiful cheese platter and selection of alcohol ordered from the hotel to our room, by our besties.

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Our big night in. Image: Supplied.

It was the weekend, so to celebrate a solid week of working and parenting our butts off – it was time to let off some steam! We made some tipsy Zoom calls, ordered the fanciest UberEats we could find, got out the guitar and had a sing-along and went to bed feeling like we’d had a big night out.

Day Ten: Depresso quarantinis.

Now I realise why alcohol is not easily accessible in this place. 

Excessive consumption makes you feel bad on the outside world, but it makes you feel like HELL on the inside world. 

We have a teething toddler to contend with, so I don’t have enough mental bandwidth for a diary entry today. 

But let’s just say, Emma and Lachy Wiggle did a great job of co-parenting with us today.

Image: Supplied.

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Day 11: Dadda day care.

Dadda was in charge today because I had two teleconferences and a stack of emails to respond to. 

At home, Joel usually takes Quinn to the beach across the road from where we live or to a playground for at least an hour every day, but today he took her on the “bus” (the swivel chair in our room) and for “sleigh-rides” (a box from one of our care packages pulled along by the cord from his bathrobe). 

We felt like a real team today and I love them both so much. I think I’ll look back fondly on moments like this and feel grateful we experienced this once-in-a-lifetime bonding time of just the three of us.

Day 12: Nasal swab 2.0.

It was time to pull out the doctor’s kit again for a temperature check and faux nasal swab ahead of the nurse’s second visit later today. 

When the knock came, Quinn freaked out at the sight of the poor women dressed in full PPE – but we negotiated (this time with half a Milky Way) and she was totally fine. 

Then I had a horrible thought…what if one of us actually caught COVID on the plane and our second test results came back positive? 

We’d have to stay trapped in this room until we all got the all clear, which could take weeks. 

The nurse told me that it was possible to develop symptoms as late as day 14 – so until we get that signed medical release form anything was possible. We took a double-dose of vitamins today and are praying we stay healthy.

Day 13: Wednesday 26.

It was another day of going through the motions in here, but with the finish line so close, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. 

I started sorting our dirty clothes, packing away things we wouldn’t need in the next 24 hours and even laying out Quinn and my ‘release’ outfits in preparation. 

We got text messages from WA Health to say thankfully we were all COVID negative, so it was now just a waiting game until our release. 

After declaring he could not physically tolerate any more quarantine food, Joel ordered a gourmet burger and chips online. 

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And whilst he’s generally a very measured person – this evening, I saw him reach hanger levels I’d never witnessed before when his food delivery sat going cold in reception for a good 45 minutes before anyone dropped it at the room. 

Day 14: COVID Free(dom)!

We woke up and played George Michael ‘Freedom!’ on repeat, dancing around the room with grins from ear to ear. 

It was actually a very busy day filled with packing and logistics, which made time fly by. 

Around 11am the nurse came for a final medical check; she was the one thing standing between us and freedom and even the slightest sniffle or throat clear could mean an additional test/overnight stay until the results were in. 

After doing our temperatures she went through the final check list: Chest pain? No. Sore throat? No. Fatigue? No. 

We were declared healthy and able to leave the hotel at precisely 2:48pm that afternoon. Quinn went down for her day sleep and despite the noise we were making around her, slept right up until we were due to leave. 

Freedom! Image: Supplied.

As we walked out of the hotel and on to the busy street filled with office workers rushing past us, the upbeat vibe felt so foreign (and overwhelming) after months locked down in Melbourne and the past fortnight in quarantine. 

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It was a glorious 27-degree day in Perth, so we decided to go to the pub for one drink to celebrate what we’d just undertaken.

We vowed to never take freedom, fresh air, sunshine or human contact for granted ever again. 

TOP 5 THINGS TO PACK:

1. Vitamins

You won’t be having fresh air, sunshine or decent food for 14 days – so to help fill the gap and boost immunity, pack Vitamin D, Vitamin C, fish oil, zinc and Armaforce.

2. Diffuser & Essential Oils

With no fresh air for a fortnight, having a scent diffusing that reminds you of home helps to take the edge off the stagnant hotel air.

3. HDMI Cable

Not all hotel TVs are created equal, so to guarantee you can watch any streaming services on the big screen pack a cable that connects to your laptop.

4. Cleaning Products

No one is allowed in your room throughout your stay including cleaners, so come prepared with Spray & Wipe, a sponge, detergent for dishes and soap for hand-washing.

5. Journal

It’s a very strange and at times confronting experience you’re undertaking, so I found writing about it really helped me process the emotions.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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