Self-Care during Hospitalizations
I’ve learned a thing or two about how to survive Aidan’s hospitalizations and am writing it down to remind myself as much as to help the next person. It’s a lot, that’s for sure, but the more work I’m able to put in at the beginning, the healthier I can remain throughout. This is not a how to post. Let me start with the punch line: Figure out what you need and do THAT.
Here are some of the big topics I addressed and how I handled them:
Pre-Op and Post-Op Appointments
These appointments are long, emotionally charged, and logistically complicated. I always bring a friend. As amazing as Garreth is, I prefer to have a friend with me who is one step removed from the circumstances. I talk to them on the ride to the hospital about my questions and concerns so they can gently remind me to voice them. I’ve had friends take notes, remember to ask for the best blood draw nurse, and whip out a sandwhich in the waiting room. These are the women who have my back at the time I need it most.
Pre-Game with your Partner
This is a big one that Garreth and I haven’t always handled well. We go into different head spaces when Aidan has medical issues. Like a bad country song, we’ve cried in our beers at a bar. No joke. Now we know to talk. What scares you about this? What do you need from me? What do you need from others? What can you absolutely not handle that I need to be ready to jump in for? What/who are our resources?
What is our schedule going to look like? This was a big one for us. I expected to stay at the hospital the entire time Aidan was there, taking short breaks when Garreth was able to visit. I unraveled. It was too much. Garreth wisely called in the troops. Unbeknownst to me he called one of my Pre-Op friends who dropped everything and showed up at the hospital the next day. This is what help looks like, this is what being a team with your partner looks like and at that moment, it was everything. Now Garreth and I take turns. This is not quitting on nor abandoning my child (with his other parent I might add-see how ridiculous that lie is?). It’s a healthy boundary for us. And in this entire process we’re mindful of Liam as well. Of course we are. We’re fortunate to have a community of people to surround him. We talk to him ahead of time and try to remain open to his concerns as well.
I didn’t really think through all the hours of waiting on the days of Aidan’s orthopedic surgeries. I didn’t know what to expect or how I’d feel. There’s a lot of NOTHINGNESS and WORRY involved in waiting. It wasn’t until my siblings showed up, they just showed up, on surgery day that I realized I needed someone other than Garreth, a distraction, to get through the day. I don’t know how they knew. We actually had fun together, strange, weighted fun. It was just right. We were assigned a surgery nurse who called us every so often with an update so there was no need to even sit at the hospital. Garreth needed to be at the hospital and I needed a little room to roam. It worked for both of us.
Some people need to stay as close to their child as possible at all times, and for them they need to make that happen. It brings them comfort and probably gives a sense of control. I battled a lot of guilt when deciding where to sleep when Aidan was in the hospital, figuring that the best moms stay close to their kids. But this isn’t a competition and everyone has different needs. I’m absolutely not functional if I don’t sleep and lack of sleep is a migraine trigger for me so I make reservations elsewhere. I’m up at least once every night and I simply call the hospital to check on Aidan. That works for me.
Since the time Aidan was born, it was important to me to control his medical information. His beginning brought more questions than answers, more rumors than conrete information. Certainly people want to know how he’s doing because they care a great deal about him and us, but medical information is often a moving target. We keep our families informed during medical procedures but probably haven’t made it clear enough that that information is for their ears only until we choose to share it. I know they’re informing their people, sometimes extended family, so it’s up to us to make our expectations more clear about what gets shared to whom and when. We give them more details than we would give others.
I often find myself on Facebook sharing limited information for a sense of togetherness and just as often find myself closing in to reserve energy. I find comfort in the messages of support, the ones who reach out to say, “I’m thinking of you” and expect no response. When people need an update they won’t necessarily get one. I’m responsible for Aidan, myself, and to some degree Garreth in those times and my circle closes in tightly. However, I haven’t really communicated that well beforehand. I can do better.
We’ve survived. We’ve managed. We’ve learned. We’ll continue to do better.
One more thing – I highly recommend NOT scheduling surgery in the dead of winter during a major house renovation where the front of your home is ripped out leaving your bedroom as the only entrance and the only room where your child can convalesce which happens to also be where the construction crew comes in and out leaving a thin layer of sheetrock in their wake. Oh right, and a fairly local terrorist attack. Try to avoid that as well. Just stick with surgery. I think I’m beginning to understand my grey hairs.
I’d love to hear from you what your strategies have been. Do tell….