By Heather Lesoine-
I have been putting off writing this post, because I feel guilty for not saying these things sooner…for assuming that he already knows how much I appreciate him. I do remember while I was still pregnant, I was lamenting with a friend about how I figured I’d miss my husband once the baby was born. While I may miss my husband, I am sure glad to be spending time with the father of my little man. Jeff is a quiet guy, for the most part. I worried about that when we met, because I’m a talker and I come from a family of talkers…loud talkers. We were married for over 3 years when we got pregnant. Jeff was still quiet, but I learned pretty quickly how important that quiet would be. For all this time, talking about what has happened to our family is often too difficult to express, and the quiet was exactly what I needed and often still do. So, during the last 2 years of this journey, Jeff has taken on my heartache and pain, quietly, of course. And he may not have always said the things I’d like to hear, he DID things that are so much more important. He was there for me and for our son, and has never made me doubt that he will continue to be.
When I entered the hospital with severe preeclampsia, Jeff wasn’t there…at first. He was on a well-deserved guy’s trip, but returned home just a few hours after he left. In the 4 days before Jack was born, I don’t remember Jeff not being there with me. I’m sure he took a break or two, but my memory is of him always there. He wore a hooded sweatshirt most of the time, despite the August heat, because I was “on fire” from the magnesium sulfate and had the AC turned up as high as it could go. He made an attempt at keeping things quiet for me, to keep my blood pressure under control. He was there in the operating room, even though he’s the type who needs to lie down after giving blood. He slept on a cot beside my hospital bed, from admission to my discharge. Once Jack was born, Jeff managed to be there for both of us. I always felt so heartbroken, for myself, that I wasn’t able to see Jack for over 24 hours. But I felt great comfort that Jeff was there to assure Jack that he was loved. He went to rounds in the morning, to check on Jack and speak with the doctors, and he came back to encourage me to keep pumping for our little guy. It wasn’t something we ever discussed, but it was obvious that Jeff cared as much about Jack’s health as I did. Jack spent 112 days in the NICU and if Jeff missed a day visiting, I sure don’t remember it (and I’m sure Jack didn’t either). He would go straight from work, stay for 3-4 hours and come home to dinner after 9pm most nights. Once Jack came home, I was full of anxiety and overwhelmed. Jeff was there. He stayed home the first week so that we could get a routine and figure out how to navigate life with a medically fragile newborn…multiple meds, doctors’ appointments, oxygen concentrator, feeding pump, NG tube, breathing treatments, and therapies…along with the usual baby stuff, like diapers and formula. The night before Jeff was to return to work, I broke down and threatened to run away. It was too much. He didn’t say much, but he stayed home one more day, which was just what I needed to feel comfortable with taking care of Jack on my own. And every day, as soon as he got home and showered, he took over Jack “duty” so that I could take a short nap before my next shift. (Jack had to be fed every 3 hours for many months after he came home to help him gain weight, so we had to take shifts for each of us to get enough sleep. We never did get enough, though, and Jeff often took naps in his car during his lunch break at work.) He was supportive of my choice to stay home with Jack and was more sure about that decision than I ever was. Because of Jack’s fragile lungs, we spent a lot of quiet time together at home. While I continue to enjoy the boisterous family get-togethers, I’m now just as appreciative of the quiet time at home with Jeff and Jack. Here we are, two years later and with a much less fragile little one, and Jeff is always there to put Jack to bed, change his diaper, take him for walks, play and to care for him while I get out of the house. I still have no doubts that he will always be here for our family, and now Jack knows it too!
Soon after Jack was born, we had both heard the statistics about marriages that typically end in divorce because of trauma or kids with special needs. We didn’t say more than was necessary, just: “Thank God we’re not normal.” We both know that this journey has been and may continue to be difficult at times and aren’t putting too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect or have a perfect marriage. What’s important right now is that we are both there for each other and for Jack. We don’t talk about it much, because we both know we are on the same page when it comes to protecting Jack. I feel like this post could go on and on about how Jeff has been there for me and Jack. But I have to be honest and say that I feel awfully guilty, because I can say for certain that my focus the last two years has been on our little guy and I may not be there for Jeff like he is for me. Jeff and I don’t talk much about how he felt during the NICU stay or since. He’s been quiet on that subject and I’ve let him stay that way; because as much as I’ve healed, I’m still not ready to take on someone else’s heartache and fear. Knowing that his pain is as deep as my own, or even deeper because he faced the possible loss of his wife and his son, may be too much to deal with for me at this point. (I’m tearing up as I type this). Knowing that this wonderful husband and father, who has been quietly strong all this time…may have felt more pain than I did is almost too much for me to handle. And that’s a post for another day, I suppose.
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