Earlier this year I gave birth to our second child, a beautiful boy that we named Josiah. His birth was the first real agonizing time that my husband and I faced in our marriage, and we've been married for 6 years now.
When Josiah was born, he had to me admitted to the NICU almost immediately for irregular breathing. Breathing issues are usually a sign of an infection, so for the better part of 10 days our son was was poked, prodded, fed through tubes, and tested for all the common sources of infection: strep, meningitis, you name it. For the first three days of his life our interactions with him consisted of sticking our hands through the holes in the glass enclosure of the special hospital bed they have for NICU babies. But the loneliness I felt in my empty hospital room was nothing compared to the heartache of having to be separated from our daughter for 10 days while I slept at the hospital. To make sure we had time together my husband would come pick me up at the hospital, bring me home for a few hours, then drop me back off at the hospital. On one such occasion our daughter cried as we were leaving and it broke my heart. We were in the car and my throat closed up as I fought to keep from breaking down.
I kept a brave face for my mother and siblings as they called and texted me to encourage me and ask for updates. I wanted to stay cheerful and optimistic because I knew that was the only way I would get through the ordeal with hope in my heart and not despair. The one person that I aired all my feelings to besides God was my husband. I could be completely vulnerable with him. And that's something that I don't take for granted because I know couples who have emotionally distant relationships that remain that way even when they're facing a crisis. so here are some lessons that we learned through this time.
1. Men experience the same emotions women do, they just handle them differently. This is something my husband had to tell me because he kept a calm and composed demeanor the whole time our son was in the hospital. But men cope with situations by being useful to those around them and staying busy. As long as they can be busy and feel like they're being helpful or useful to someone then the things they can't control don't seem as bleak. And men want to stay strong so that their women feel like they can lean on them for emotional support.
2. Love makes you do the unimaginable. When JoJo was in the hospital he was fed through tubes, so I had to pump around the clock to provide milk for him and keep up my milk supply. So my daily schedule actually became very busy between visiting him, pumping, and going home to see our daughter. There were a couple of days toward the end when I was desperate to take him home and the doctors told me he had to be able to eat without the feeding tube for 48 hours before they could discharge him. I was supposed to go home that night because I had to give up the room I was staying in at the hospital for another mom. I was tired and wanted to shower, but I told my husband that I was willing to camp out on the hospital lobby chairs so that I could be at there 48 hours to breastfeed our son and get clearance to take him home. It was grueling but I wanted my family to finally be united so badly that I determined I would do whatever it took. So I slept on armchair and had the nurse call me whenever JoJo was hungry. And sure enough, he came home after that!
3. Invest in an emotionally vulnerable relationship. I can cry on my husband's shoulder and he cries on mine-literally. And it's because from the beginning we committed to being completely honest and open with each other about every little thing. So when we went through this trying time we were able to lean on each other for support and it actually deepened our intimacy instead of isolating us from one another.
I know that there are more tough times ahead for us, but I can only hope and pray that when they come we will keep doing the same thing-leaning on each other for support and trusting in God to keep our family intact on all levels.