Mark has been back at home, taking care of things around the house, for the last five days. I’ve been on my own at the hospital, aside from the occasional break from family members to run back to our room for a quick shower. I miss him and I’m feeling a bit burnt out but I realize how lucky I am that I’m not alone.
When I walk the halls in this pediatric unit, I see the familiar worn-out faces of parents and grandparents who have been here for at least as long as we have, some without relief. In the quiet of the night, I see the same single parents in their slippers and pajamas who face another night of this journey alone.
I recently read that married parents who have lost a child or have a chronically ill child have an exponentially higher divorce rate. And, when we returned to Timmins, our pediatrician and social worker warned us that in situations such as ours, they’ve seen the dissolve of marriages with some of the strongest couples. It’s not surprising that marriages are tested during times like these. It’s easy to see how most relationships fail, some exist and even fewer excel.
This is mostly attributed to different grieving and coping methods between partners and differing opinions on medical treatments and interventions for the child. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that we’ve had and will continue to have some difficult moments. Mark and I are different people and not surprisingly, we grieve in different ways. And, we’ve had and will continue to make challenging decisions about Theodore’s care – decisions no parent should have to make. Thankfully, we are always in agreement but that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier.
I’ve been told of the strength that I’ve demonstrated over the last two months but it’s Mark’s strength that humbly carries me when I can no longer stand.
It is Mark who sleeps in the pullout chair at the hospital, insisting that I return to the room each night so I get some rest. It was Mark who first returned to our home in Timmins and tearfully packed away Theo’s toys because he knew it would be painful for me to see when I returned. It was Mark who sat in on rounds each morning and would meet with one of the many specialists bombarding us with more disappointing news, when I couldn’t bear another conversation. It was Mark who made the flight from Timmins to Hamilton alone (while I flew with Theo who was in critical condition at the time), not knowing if his son would still be alive when he landed. It is Mark who lies next to our son when he cries out in pain each night, rubbing his head until he falls asleep.
I’m thankful for the strong husband and father with whom I face each day. We are not naïve, we know this journey will test us but I have to believe that our vows are indissoluble and our strength will carry us.