Having a kid in the hospital is nothing like on TV.
Homeschool Mom: My daughter's recent stint in the hospital did not pull our family together and make it happier; it added stress financially and emotionally instead.
My kids are really beautiful and funny and smart and engaging and all those things that movie kids are. Two of them even have an awful genetic disease that adds some drama to their lives. So you'd think that my life would be like a Hallmark movie. Wouldn't you? Hmmmm? That my husband and I would be attractively rumpled in our hospital scenes while we wait for news from surgery about our child. We would sit quietly holding hands, holding each other up, and looking meaningfully into one another's tear-filled eyes. Cut ... No. That is not what real scenes from the hospital look like. I'll tell you what they look like. They look like hell, and they are.
A hospital stay with our child means sleepless nights, relentless worry, and a child that vacillates from bored to terrified to demanding to uncomfortable ... Believe me, as soon as they are able to sit up and function, kids do not want be confined to a 3' x 5' space. My husband and I barely saw each other because we have two other kids to care for, so we had to take turns shuttling back and forth trying to meet all the kids' needs. After days without adequate sleep, and trying to coordinate regular everyday duties and hospital duties, and figuring out insurance and child care help, and how to feed ourselves, and how to pay for astronomical hospital costs, we were not melting into each other's arms; we were yelling into each other's faces. That is the reality of sick kids.
The Journal of Marital and Family Studies has been trying to see how to best help couples like my husband and myself who have a chronically ill child. Divorce rates are much higher for couples with children who are ill. It is easy to understand when you take into consideration what you fight about in your own relationship. The most common arguments couples have are about money, how to raise kids, job division, power division. Add to those normal stressors a whole load of financial burden, emotional upheaval, difficult life-and-death decisions ... and I think you get the picture. You don't find too many Hallmark cards that read: "Sorry I bounced a lamp off your forehead last night when you made me repeat one more time what the doctors had said in the hour-long conversation I had to have with them while three kids brawled in the 3-foot office, because you decided to work late ..."
So, how do couples stay together? I don't think that anyone knows. We do it by sheer tenacity, because both of us realize that if we did divorce, we would never be free of making decisions about the kids' health, and we would be shouldering financial and emotional burdens probably well into their adulthood. So we do our best to say we're sorry, and respect and love each other. And we understand that this is not a Hallmark movie and we don't have a heartwarming soundtrack to go with our emotional upheavals, and our children's problems are not going away anytime soon. We have each other, and we are the only two people in the world who would surely give up everything for these little people God put into our hands. So maybe we can be a little heartwarming, but not while we are in the hospital.
|Homeschool Mom: Pam Heilman is a California Credentialed Teacher who once won some body lotion in a raffle at the Y. She is currently residing in Southern California with her husband Eric, and homeschools their three children.|