I’ve been meaning to write this guest blog and as most of you are aware, because of recent events I haven’t had much time to sit down and write. They say motherhood requires a certain amount of sacrifice and I didn’t fully appreciate that statement until I gave birth to Wyatt in 2007. Since then, I developed a profound appreciation for time, not just in a ticking clock sort of way, but in presence of mind and awareness of the moment. This desire to live in the moment grew, not only out of appreciation for the swiftness in which time passes, but in the longing for moments missed. No deeper could this feeling set in, then when I learned Jim had called 911 and was in the ER – he had no feeling in his hands and feet and was unable to walk. No one knew what was wrong and I saw life as I knew it, shift and disappear before my eyes. It was like someone was erasing my chalkboard without filling in the blank spots as they swept across the board. This man I love¸ the father of my children and the person with whom I planned to wrinkle with was sick and to what degree was still undetermined.
When we found out it was Guillain Barre, I felt like I was holding my breath for a long time underwater. For some reason, I knew that I would be triumphant in holding it for a Guinness Book of World Records amount of time. Yes – it would be challenging, but I am one of those people that if I put my mind to it and put on the proverbial work hat, I am calm in a crisis. I felt like Jim was too stubborn, and much too strong to let this illness take him over completely so I stayed in that mindset. Fortunately, my husband was exactly as I expected – too stubborn and too strong to let the illness take him over completely. We saw the illness stall and his recovery begin and Jim’s positive and inspirational voice take us up to the top of water so we could all breathe again.
The reason I wanted to write about my experience through all of this, is to share with others what I learned in the process. I won’t claim to have the authority on how to best support someone you love in crisis, but I do think that our experiences as a family shaped me to be a stronger person and hopefully, in future, shaped us to be a stronger family. When Jim was in the hospital for 28 days, I was 8 ½ months pregnant with a two-year old boy at home who had no idea why he had to “visit” daddy. I knew that Jim would have wanted me to do my best to keep stability in the home for the health of our children, and my health as his very pregnant wife. So, we worked as a team to create normalcy for each other – knowing that life hadn’t stopped around us.
As I mentioned, I put my hard hat on and Jim kept focused on recovery. There were so many moving parts to our lives at the time including: moving into a new home, preparing for maternity leave at work, life in general like fixing cars and paying bills – responsibilities that Jim would have cared for, had he been home, that I needed to take on. There were moments where daily life could have just stopped us in our tracks, but something much bigger was happening to us so we had to let life work itself out. I admit, there were times where I didn’t think I could hold my breath any longer. I couldn’t put the image of Jim struggling to walk out of my head at night and when he went back into the ER from rehab, I thought he may not make it to hold my hand at Olivia’s birth, or be the first arms to hold her when she entered the world. Those feelings hugged my days and hovered over me like a grey cloud and it would make me weary. Sometimes I couldn’t keep it from Jim and I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t hide it better, especially when he seemed to have such a positive grasp on his experience, as challenging as it was. I guess it was during this time that I realized how much I love this man and that my life without him would be devastating. I also learned that I needed to live in his world and rather than feel these very justified feelings, mirror his experience instead. Maybe I didn’t know what he feeling or going through, and he couldn’t know what I was dealing with at the time either. The truth is, neither of us needed to know. It had to be about being his cheering section, his safe place to hide if it got tough and arms to be held in when the loneliness of the hospital sunk in. I don’t know if I was able to provide as much of that kind of “wifely” support, the kind that only comes from a wife and not a friend because I was so focused on keeping the world around me from spinning, but I made it my daily promise to give him some semblance of normalcy. I tried to make it so my actions showed him that he was the most important person and through simple gestures like bringing him a coffee in the morning, just the way he liked it and working with his mom and my mom to bake homemade meals each night so we could eat together as a family, and to sit on his tiny bed until he fell asleep, watching our favorite TV shows, I was hopeful he would know just how much I love him. By maintaining these rituals and the constancy of home life, we all tried to make everything feel like it was a little bit of normal amidst all the uncertainty.
Jim and I have learned to say, “This too shall pass”, but we also made a promise to ourselves to keep from living for the future. We need to be reminded that these everyday experiences shape us, change us and hopefully for the better. I am more aware of myself and my happiness and the need to prioritize happiness in my life too. What a better way to learn a lesson than to witness someone go through it. We should all be so lucky to learn from others and take the lessons out of it, to impart on our own journey. Our family could look at this last year as one of the worst years of our lives – but instead, we plan to look at 2009 as the year that defined us. What I hope you can take away from my story, is to learn it through us and not have to learn it the hard way. Take stock of your life, appreciate how wonderful it is and love it and everyone in it just a little bit more.
In the end, what I’ve taken away from all of this is a deepening of a belief system that started at the onset of parenthood and how I started off this blog – the importance of staying present. Through it all – Jim and I managed to stay present. In rough patches and in times of unimaginable harmony we strived to appreciate the moment. Sometimes, appreciating the moment is allowing room to fail and forgiving the moment itself as we never handle every situation in life with perfect accuracy and intention (another lesson I learned too well through this process). Sometimes, appreciating the moment is to simply live through it and know that time is fleeting. And, most importantly, sometimes appreciating the moment is to relish in it – learning that we all may lose the ability to walk, or run or hold our child again so don’t forget what that feels like every single day. When you feel rushed at night and you hear, “just one more story, mommy”, read one more story. When you feel too tired to pick up the PlayDoh or take out the scissors and paper and crayons, or feel like you’re too tired to get off the couch and play outside, or you’re too mad about the dishes in the sink to give your spouse a hug and kiss goodnight – remember that you could be a 911 call away from losing that ability altogether - that you may not get the chance to do these things, to play with your babies, or to hold your husband through the night. So, in short – lesson learned: appreciate this time we have with each other and do so right now – don’t waste time by doing it later, do it now.
Thanks for listening and supporting us.
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