Tuesday, May 29, 2018

15 Years Married: Part Survivor, Part Fear Factor, Part Reality Show

May 17th marked 15 years of marriage for my husband and I. (Go ahead and applaud if you want.)

The day we stood in a church to say our wedding vows, neither of us knew what life had in store for us. We had dreams and hopes for the future like anyone else. Most of these were ordinary ones- securing good jobs, owning a home, taking vacations, having children, and always getting along. We never pictured all the good and challenging things that would actually occur.

For the past 12 years of our marriage, we have navigated a world we never anticipated. When Jaycee was born and subsequently diagnosed with Down syndrome and a heart defect, we found ourselves in a new place in our lives individually and together. For 12 years, we have had to make difficult decisions about her medical care, therapy, and schooling. We've parented a child through surgeries, multiple hospital admissions, medical tests, and daily home medical interventions.

At times, I have felt like my husband and I have been on some strange combination of Survivor and Fear Factor. We've been in a hospital room for days and weeks at a time, sometimes in the Intensive Care Unit, wondering what her outcome would be. Her illnesses dictated our lives, and no matter how much we all wished to be home, we had to wait for her to get better. We have rushed her to the emergency room for true medical emergencies. We've seen her go through lots of scary tests, pokes, and interventions. We've genuinely worried for her life and future. It's challenged us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

We've experienced cliff hanger moments in the hospital like you see on reality television shows. Sometimes, it was a doctor giving us a worst case scenario which thankfully never happened but caused great trepidation at the time. Other times, things projected to occur did-both bad and good.

I have jokingly told others before: "If you want to know what your marriage is made of, have your child hospitalized in the ICU. Have a doctor tell you some frightening things about your child. Feel an enourmous amount of stress and worry from everything happening. All the while, you are sleep deprived and coping in less than ideal living conditions (public showers, hospital food, little personal belongings). Then add in to the fact that you and your spouse are sharing a small hospital room with your child for most of a 24 hour period. You'll find out what your marriage is made!!"

I say that as a joke, but it is true. The hospital situations have brought out the best and worst in our relationship. We found out pretty quickly that stress contributes to some arguments and attitudes. We try to give ourselves grace in these situations and know that we both may say and do things under the strain and pressure of our situation. We know we both have the same end goals and that plan involves each other- even if we snap at each other after being up all night with our daughter in ICU.

Whatever contest you want to say that our marriage has won or survived, we know enough to celebrate the victory. Last year, we started dreaming of a trip for our 15 year anniversary. For our 10 year anniversary, we went back to the place where we honeymooned, Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. This time, we wanted to go some place new. With Jaycee's health issues, we decided to wait closer to our anniversary to plan the trip.

Then the illnesses started. She spent over a week in the hospital around Thanksgiving. Weeks later, she landed back in the hospital in January. She went home on oxygen at night and was still recovering when she went back into the hospital again in late January. She was sick the entire month of January either at the hospital or home. Things were a bit rough even into February, but then things started looking up.

In mid-April, we bravely purchased plane tickets to Niagara Falls and planned our trip just 4 weeks away. Then Jaycee went back to the hospital for a week. During the hospital stay, I wondered how long it would last and what sort of shape she would be in when we went home. I doubted the trip would happen. We can always reschedule, I told myself with a sigh. Thankfully, Jaycee made a quick recovery, so we could keep our plans. The kids went to my mom's for 4 nights while we were on our trip. Four nights may seem like a short trip, but we were grateful for any amount of time away.

On the trip, we had adult meals. I went outside my comfort zone and tried meat with chimichurri sauce. I'm not an adventurous eater. My husband was proud. We had some regular meals too like a good, well done cheeseburger.
Hanger Steak with Chimichurri Sauce...So fancy! 

We explored the Niagara Falls National Park and some visited other fun sites in the area. It was a beautiful place and a wonderful trip. We missed our kids, but we did FaceTime every night. The first night, Jaycee asked, "Mom work?" Nope, I'm on vacation girl! 

We loved every minute of our trip. We know we have overcome so much together, and we know it's important to take a few days as a couple to recognize that. 

When our daughter's diagnoses were given, I remember fearing what would happen with our marriage. We've stayed strong, and we've stayed together. We've haven't been perfect, but we have made it through tons of crazy scenarios that would have been great made-for-tv moments. Yet, this is real life. I'm glad we still choose each other and can work together through everything. 

Now...where should we go in 5 years? 

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