Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Almost-Divorce

So, I started this blog because I wanted to be honest about the reality of parenting, at least as I have experienced it so far. And the reality of parenting a child with a health issue is that it can be like throwing a grenade into the centre of your life and then helplessly watching the fireworks. Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand that there are far worse health issues for a child to have than reflux. In the grand scheme of things, reflux is a minor problem. But the results of parenting a child with reflux can be major.

As I mentioned in my first post, Baby Taylor spent some time in the hospital because of his condition. During that time, my husband and I spent about 12 hours every day going back and forth to the hospital to feed him, play with him and make sure that he didn’t forget who his parents were. Because the huge sleep debt I was battling and the desperate measures I had gone to in order to get nourishment into him had caused some mental health issues for me, I wasn’t allowed to stay with him because the doctors and nurses on the ward had more than enough to do without having to keep an eye on me too. But I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, so I was always at the hospital by 10am and I rarely left much before midnight. As a result, I barely saw Toddler Taylor during that time and my relationship with my husband took a very definitive backseat to everything else. And, thinking about it now, that is probably where the trouble began.

My husband and I always had a very active physical relationship, but once Baby Taylor was born and his issues began to make themselves known and felt within our family dynamic, I had neither the time nor the energy to engage with him anymore. I had to put my sons’ needs before ours, because that has always been my understanding of being a “good” mother. It didn’t occur to me at the time that my neglect of the person who had brought my children into the world with me would have the cumulative effect that it did.

In early April, on my husband’s birthday, he moved out of our home. Looking back, we hadn’t been communicating with each other on anything other than a perfunctory level for months. Our physical relationship had withered away to nothing. Any time we spent together was on opposite ends of the sofa, watching TV and ignoring each other completely. I had recently lost a close family member and was still grieving, but my husband has no experience of grief, so he had no way of knowing what I needed from him to help me through it. So, with nothing left to keep us together, he packed his bags and went to stay with his parents. It wasn’t as simple as that in practice, and it wasn’t without animosity at the time, but that’s essentially what happened, and it was only then that I realised what we had been doing to each other over the months we had spent trying to look after our poorly baby and utterly neglecting our relationship.

When we first got married, we had only been together for two years. We were wildly in love and almost unbearably happy, and we decided to start having children right away while we were still young, full of energy and before we had had the opportunity to become selfish. Toddler Taylor was an easy baby. He ate well, slept well and adapted to every routine change without batting an eyelid. We had our issues and we argued sometimes, but we still made lots of time for one another. But when Baby Taylor came along just less than two and a half years later, everything changed. He wouldn’t feed, he was sick often and profusely, and he refused to sleep. It was, for want of a better word, exhausting. I battled to breastfeed him, cried more times than I care to remember over the profound sense of failure I felt that he didn’t want to feed from me, and I all but gave up on sleep. I became a monster to live with. I was constantly short-tempered and I lost all interest in my husband because I just didn’t have time to take care of his needs too. Small wonder, then, that we reached a point six months later where we felt like there was nothing left in our marriage worth staying for.

During the time that my husband was living with his parents, he visited the kids often and he and I found opportunities to talk. We slowly realised that we still loved each other and still wanted to be together. We stopped talking about divorce and instead formulated a plan to spend more time together. I knew it would be hard on me to begin with because it would mean that a lot of the early mornings with the boys would be my responsibility so he could go to work at 6am and get home in time to spend a few hours with us before the kids went to bed and we could concentrate on each other. It hasn’t been easy, but my husband and I are now closer and happier than we have been in a long time. It took losing each other for us to realise how much love was still between us and how desperately we didn’t want to end up becoming another statistic.

The bottom line is that it’s easy to forget why you came together as a couple when you’re both exhausted from caring for a poorly baby. It becomes routine to blame each other for every bad day and every broken night. The “I’m more tired than you” one-upmanship can end up being the default setting of your relationship. I’m not one for offering unsolicited advice, but I will say this; if you find yourself in the position of sacrificing your relationship for a child who needs more help than you can reasonably provide – whether that’s extra care or a certain medication – reach out. Don’t try to battle through it by yourselves, because you might end up in the same place we were a month ago and it doesn’t have to be like that. It shouldn’t have to be like that for any parent.

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