SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
Someone recently asked for my advice on the topic of marriage and NICU life. I was a little surprised that someone would ask me, of all people, me, about my marriage. It kind of threw me for a loop because I never really dug deep and thought about how my marriage is. It was just….. there. I mean, don’t get me wrong… we have an awesome marriage. But I just never thought “about” it. And the question she asked me was, ‘How did yours survive?’
“God.” I replied. Without thinking, without hesitation, without any kind of wonder, “God.” HE is our foundation. We established that when we first started dating… for the second time. Here’s a little back story on our marriage…prepare yourselves, it’s an interesting story that I won’t elaborate on in this post…but here goes…it starts back in 2000-we met, got married, had 4 daughters, divorced, he got married to someone else, had a daughter who passed away at 2 wks old, they divorced, (we were always friends because we had kids together) we started dating again, found our church home and dedicated our lives to Christ, got engaged, got re-married, got pregnant, had preemies, and have a son who is critically-ill and needs dialysis 4 days a week and…. now here we are.
So back to the question… how did our marriage survive? Well, the other answer is easy… because we said it will!!
The night we were given the awful news about our son, my husband and I sat on our bed and made an old fashioned pinky promise. We didn’t discuss our twins prognosis, but instead we made a pact. That no matter what happens, we were going to stick together. No matter how angry we get, no matter the problems we face, no matter what the devil has to throw at us, we were going to make it! Separation… divorce… not options. We were going to make it through this TOGETHER.
We both learned the hard way about divorce. He is twice divorced. He is divorced after an infant loss. I never thought about it until about a month after our twins were born, that he has had a NICU journey already. He already knew about the busy days and long nights. He has had a much worse experience than I will ever have… his baby girl passed away in his arms. So he knew what to expect before the NICU was ever a thought in my mind. He’s stayed at the Ronald McDonald house before… he’s walked the hospital halls alone before… he’s sat with a sick baby that he wasn’t able to hold before… he knew all along. He knew what it was like before I had ever heard of the word NICU. He knew what to expect…
I didn’t know one thing about the NICU… maybe just what the NICU meant…. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. That was it. The week of our twins surgery (the first in utero surgery) we were given a tour of the NICU. We were able to speak with the neonatologist and a NICU nurse. We were given permission to see a baby in the NICU and were explained what everything meant. We took it with a grain of salt. Like, okay that’s that… that’s that… and that is that… okay… cool. Our twins will be good. I understand. Thank You. But we were never explained the emotional trauma that WE, the parents, would face. We were never told about how devastating and hard and scary our twins NICU stay would be. No one told us how to handle it. No one told us that our faith, our family and our marriage would be put to an incredible test. No one told us. We had to go through it and figure it out on our own.
So as we went through it, my husband and I only had each other. I was fortunate enough that my husband took his role in this. He is usually the kind of man that kicks back and never stresses. I am usually the woman that takes control and makes the game plan. But not with this. I was a mess. My head, my heart… completely shattered. There were days where I couldn’t physically move. My husband….. he took the lead. He gave me words of hope and faith at the perfect times that I needed to hear them. He helped me out of bed on the days that I needed to move. He let me rest on the days that I could stay in bed all day. He helped with the kids, the house…. and me. It was odd to let him “do everything”. But during our NICU journey, I needed him. And he was there for me. I don’t know how it was that he stepped up to his role. I can’t say what clicked in him to jump in and take over. I will ask him one day, for the sake of knowing. But I am grateful he did.
I think it is important to communicate with each other throughout your NICU journey. You must understand that your baby is fighting for life… and you and your spouse are fighting with your baby. You are on the same team! You fight WITH each other, not AGAINST each other. You have to remember that there will be days that you just need prayers..days you just want to cry…days you just want to be angry…days you just want to be completely left alone and days when you just don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I know, I have had plenty of these days. And you and your spouse need to UNDERSTAND that these days will happen.
I was speaking with a NICU mama last night after our support group and she stated perfectly, “At the end of the night when we are in bed together, I look at him and he looks at me, and I tell him that I appreciate him. I tell him that I love him. I tell him that I am sorry for yelling at him or being a B**** earlier. I just want him to know that he means so much to me.”
I thought that was perfect. That was right on. It takes understanding and communication to make a marriage work while you go through the NICU journey together. Understanding, communication and a whole lot of JESUS!!
Hope this helps someone.