THE “D” WORD
My 12-year-old daughter had just had emergency surgery. A supposed appendicitis turned out to be Crohn’s disease. A friend of mine and I chatted quietly in the hospital room watching my sleeping daughter who lay there with tubes everywhere.
Suddenly a maniac burst into the room and stated with wild determination that he was going to get her out of there, take her to another hospital, that the doctors here hadn’t a clue about what to do! I rose from my seat, hissing to my friend, “I’m going to kill him.”
Before I could wrap my hands around his neck, she firmly ushered me out of the room and down the hall to the waiting area. The maniac was my daughter’s dad. We left him there to visit with her.
And from the quiet of the waiting room, I reflected that he was just expressing his fears and his need to do something to fix the situation. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be fixed. I returned to the room and found him with our daughter, holding her hand and being the very caring, loving dad that he is. Good thing I didn’t strangle him, huh?
Having a chronically ill child is an immense stress on the parents’ relationship. While we often find we have strengths we never imagined, we also find that, at times, we are tired, stressed and just plain losing it. So, whether you live together or not, these hints may help things run more smoothly.
1. Keep focused. There is a child here whose health and happiness is of importance to both of you.
2. Whose fault is it? While it may be useful to look at our past actions so that we can be more aware in the future, assigning blame seems to me to be a useless task. When my kids spilled milk on the table, my first words were not, “Why did you do that?” or “Now look what you did.” No, I’d say, “Get a sponge.” And that’s my philosophy. Put the energy into cleaning up the mess, into “what do we do now?”
3. Sharing jobs. Often there is one parent who deals with the doctors, hospital stays, medicine, gathering information, etc. This happens because of schedules, economics, personalities, etc. This system can be convenient for everyone. On the other hand, awareness is needed so that each parent doesn’t feel isolated and separated. Information needs to be shared and decisions made together. When one parent is saying, “How come I’m doing it all?” and the other is saying, “Nobody tells me anything.” then it is time to sit down and figure out a better way.
4. In a mom’s house/dad’s house situation, attention needs to be given to continuity of care. Cooperation is needed to make sure that medicine is given consistently. If you are in different states, what happens in an emergency when the child is away from his/her usual doctor? Plan ahead. Make sure both parents have all doctors’, pharmacists’ and any other relevant numbers. If you always thought of your ex-husband’s new wife as a bimbo or your ex-wife’s new hubby as Tarzan, drop the preconceived notions. These people are probably now involved in the care of your child. Have a friendly chat with them and share concerns.
5. Agree to disagree. Ah, my favorite. How many times have you been round and round on a subject, the same subject over and over? It’s time to agree to disagree about this. Then you are agreeing on something. You both feel better. And with agreement you can start to find a compromise, or just appreciate that you will always have different views on this subject instead of bashing heads trying to make the other take your point of view. A working arrangement is much easier when you have an agreement point.
6. Appreciate differences. Often what we admire about our partner is the exact same thing that drives us crazy about them. For instant, my husband is a great problem solver. He zeroes in on a problem and doesn’t let go until he has the answer. Sometimes he is just a genius. On the other hand, he always sees life as a problem and sometimes forgets to just have fun. Then for him, I am a very positive person that often gives him a balanced point of view. On the other hand, he can get very annoyed with my Pollyanna side. The point is to remember the strengths that you admire and let it balance the moments when your partner just seems so impossible.
This list, of coarse, is not meant as a cure-all. It’s just a reminder to give yourself and your partner a little breathing room. This modern world has plenty of pressures that stress relationships. Don’t let dealing with IBD be the last straw. You need each other and your child needs you both. Take a deep breath and give yourself a hug for all you’ve been through. Hug each other. And please accept this hug I send to you.
Copyright 1996 - 2002 Arlyn Serber