’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring because we were stuck in the Special Care Unit
at our local children’s hospital fighting a terrible trifecta of pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and gastrointestinal issues. What a vacation, right? Five days of respiratory support, holding feeds, and sleeping on a couch did not really meet our expectations for a Christmas holiday this past year, but it’s where we ended up. It never fails, anytime we’re supposed to be “off”, we find ourselves in the hospital. The last time we were in the ER
, it was Mother’s Day. The time before that, it was New Year’s Day. And although it’s necessary for your child’s health, it’s only natural to feel frustrated to miss out on the family vacation you, your spouse, and your child so desperately need.
While I was in full blown momma bear mode, thriving on pure adrenaline and zero sleep, my husband was fixated on the idea that we’d be headed to the beach in a day or two. You see, sometimes we see what we want
to see rather than what’s actually happening, especially when you are in dire need of a break. I was watching our son’s health deteriorate in front my eyes while a team of medical professionals worked effortlessly to stabilize him. My husband, on the other hand, was dreaming of sipping mojitos by the pool - well, in his mind anyway.
When you are the parent of a medically complex child, your baseline stress level is “high”. All. The. Time. We all cope with it differently, too, including me and my husband. The reality is, neither of us have any experience with these situations, and we’re both learning as we go, coping as we go, and surviving as we go. It’s very easy to forget that these scenarios are as new for your spouse as they are for you, and while I am “Positive Polly” and can feel just as much at home in a hospital setting as in our house, my husband doesn’t see things like I do. Compounded with the stress of seeing your child ill, struggling to breathe, one can easily break. It’s hard on your marriage when you can’t seem to be on the same page about the little things - much less heavy medical decisions. We just couldn’t see eye to eye this time on how to proceed with his care.
After some full blown arguing with each other in front of medical staff (tears and all), we finally came to a breaking point. Knowing that this wouldn’t be the last time we’d end up in an unexpected hospital stay, we had to challenge ourselves to decide how we could do better, as individuals, and as a team. As much as missing out on our long awaited beach vacation stunk, the most important thing for us was to be together as a family. If that means Christmas has to be in the hospital, so be it. Every day is a blessing, and every moment we have together is special, no matter what the setting may be.
We can’t control everything about our child’s health, or our own for that matter, but we can approach our circumstances with grace and gratitude.
This New Year, we can and will do better as spouses, parents, and medical advocates for our son.