Sunday, February 13, 2011

You keep me searching for a heart of gold...

...and I'm getting old.
Keeps me searching
for a heart of gold
and I'm getting old.
-Neil Young, Heart of Gold

I'm thrilled to participate in Stefenie's blog event, talking about how CHD has impacted relationships in my life. But I must admit that I've struggled writing this post. Since becoming a mom and entering the CHD world both happened for me at the same moment nearly 3 years ago, it's really hard to define what changes are a result of parenting a heart baby, and what changes are just part of becoming a parent.

So what's changed in my relationships? The biggest relationship change for me is that Derek and I have learned to lean on one another in a way we never did before kids, before our lives moved into medical mode.

I've come to see just how incredibly smart my dear hubby is. Did y'all know he was *this* close to doing veterinary cardiology, instead of large animal medicine? In reality, HE may never have been so serious about it, but his professors tried convince him that he'd be a good cardiologist, and I know they are right. He can talk surgical techniques with the experts, and then explain it to me in a way that is simplified but not simplistic. He asks good questions. His confidence in the medical realm is so reassuring, and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

But more than just getting a peek into his medical expertise, I've come to appreciate his quiet strength. This summer when we experienced the most stressful time of our lives, we never once got frustrated with one another. That seems unbelievable, even to me, and I'm sure my dear readers are saying "Oh sure. Your relationship is so picture perfect that you never fought? Not even once? Not even getting snippy with each other? Oh gag me." But it's true - we clung to each other when the world was spinning off its axis.

That's not to say we didn't get frustrated with those we loved - we were snippy with our parents, with Luke, even with Jay. I remember one night when we'd been trying to coax his meds down for over an hour, I shouted "Just take the medicine dammit!!" Not really my finest parenting moment. But Derek and I always came to one another for that place of comfort. I can't tell you how much it meant to know there was someone who was always on my side, holding my hand through the hard parts.

I wish I could explain why other couples raising children with major medical needs find their relationship strained, while ours has grown stronger through the trials. Part is that our marriage is rooted in friendship, and we genuinely like each other and enjoy being together. But part is that we have no illusions of marriage being all wine and roses and romance. Let's take a peek at our "day of romance" yesterday, shall we?

For Valentine's Day while I struggled through work and class with the early symptoms of the flu, Derek stayed at home with Luke who has pinkeye. Just for a special Valentine's day surprise, daycare called him to get Jay because he had spiked a fever. About that same time, he realized that Luke also had a fever. Of course he has a fever and pinkeye - he's supposed to have surgery the next day. So off to the pediatrician with both kids at 5pm. No ear infections and the flu tests were negative, though they were suspicious enough of the flu that we did get the coveted Tamiflu and Tylenol for Jay. Unfortunately, our star medicine taker was no where to be found, but after about 20 minutes of wrestling in the peds office he got it all down...and promptly puked it all back. They then had to kill 30 minutes while the pharmacy compounded the Tamiflu into a liquid, so it was now almost 7pm and he had two tired, hungry, and sick kids crying in the back seat.

Once at home, Luke was quickly appeased with some goldfish, and he readily took his Tylenol. Jay, on the other hand, would have none of it. First try with Tylenol at home, he spit half of it out and got so upset he peed on the floor. The second try required holding him down and forcing it in his mouth. Next, we need to check his INR, since the last time he got sick it skyrocketed to 3 times what we wanted. He promised to be brave for his finger sticking. He was brave, up until he saw the sharp needle headed for his finger. So it was holding him down for the second time in an hour. INR was low, not ideal, but better than sky high.

Now Luke is out of goldfish and crying again, so back to find some more food for him. While he eats some cheese, Derek decides to tackle the Tamiflu. It's grape flavored and doesn't seem to taste too bad, but Jay will have none of it. So, he goes to sit in rocking chair while Derek finds Luke a legitimate dinner. After he eats and gets sent to bed, Derek checks back on Jay, and he has fallen asleep in the chair. He wakes him up, and Jay falls apart again saying, "I'm not a big boy Daddy, I'm not a big boy." Since it's probably pretty important he get his Tamiflu, Derek has to hold him down for the third time.

After that, Jay settles down, and eats dinner. After dinner, more medicine. It's time for Jay's usual enalapril and coumadin. He willingly takes the enalapril...

... and pukes all over the floor. So in spite of the low INR, he didn't get his coumadin. He was quite ready to go bed by this time. After getting both to bed and feeling like a horrible dad for getting so frustrated with Jay when he was feeling so sick, Derek found the Valentine's day card Jay had made for us at school, and pretty much fell apart.

Meanwhile, I'm getting sicker and sicker during class. I'm wearing my coat indoors, in spite of the fact that it was 65 degrees outside. I'm shivering, hot, and starting to feel achy all over. By the time class is over and I get to the car, my hands are shaking so much I can hardly open the door. This is clearly no good when we have 2 suspect flu cases at home and my symptoms sure are a lot like the flu. Oh, and we're still thinking of surgery in the morning! Geez.

So when I got home after all this, you can bet there were no wine, roses, or romance on Valentine's day. We canceled Luke's surgery, crawled under the covers, and tried to decide whether this was the worst Valentine's ever. We laughed about the Valentine's day when our car got towed, leaving us stranded downtown. The one where Derek got called in for some llama emergency before we even got to the restaurant. The one we spent all night trying to make the dog puke because he'd eaten half a bag of chocolate. Yeah, we've had some winners on the day of love.

But you know what? I don't think this was the worst. I had the people I love most with me. My awesome hubby was willing to handle all the sickness so I could work and go to class. I have a husband with a heart of gold, and even on the worst of days, I am so lucky.


Stefenie said...

This post made me chuckle. Oh how I can so relate to your thoughts on romance during those crazy filled days! Thanks for joining my blog event!

Anonymous said...

As corny as it may seem to the outside world, we all agree that you and Derek do make the perfect couple - we are thrilled you found each other. This Valentine's Day will be another one to add to your list of laughable moments - once you get well enough to laugh again!!! Hope you all feel better soon....LYTB, AJ

Sush said...

Jen...the best love in the world is the kind that faces adversity and is not only still standing, but somehow smiling. You and Derek 'get' it and are amazing...together! And again, I love your writing.
Merci Buckets!

Amy said...

Jen, First let me say how very, very sorry I am that you and your sweet boys are sick. Now, I must tell you that I absolutely lost it when you got to the llama emergency. My computer and everyone around me had better be glad I wasn't drinking anything at the time! Maybe after you publish your first book based on your "Expecting Torquil" blog posts and then the sequel based on your experiences with Jay's heart, you can lighten things up a bit with a "Valentine's at the Fosters" book. Or maybe you can send this in to Reader's Digest? Love you lots! (And I really am so very sad that you're sick.)