4 Rules My Husband and I Set for Ourselves During Our Child’s Hospitalization

In the beginning of our daughter Wendy’s hospitalization, my husband Michael and I arrived at the hospital at different times. I had first flown with Wendy from our home in Vermont to a hospital in New Hampshire. Then a few hours later when it had been determined that Wendy was in kidney failure, she and I were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Massachusetts. Michael and my mom followed later in the car.

After we had both arrived and had gotten settled, one of the first things we did was go down to the coffee shop in the hospital. We knew we were in for a long haul. Suddenly we were two states away, our parents were arriving, and we knew things were going to be really tough medically, emotionally, financially, all of it. In a whirlwind of chaos, we knew we had to set down some guidelines for communication, and stick with them. We were both horribly scared, but we knew we had each other, and we had to keep our lines of communication open.

We agreed to some ground rules:

1. Be kind with your words. “Don’t ever say anything that you can’t take back.” You know those words, spoken in anger, using absolutes like, “You Never” or “I Always.” Those aren’t helpful. We are a team, and we will act like a team.

2. Be honest with your emotions. Just saying your emotions out loud makes you feel better because you’ve put a name to them. “I am scared” is a powerful phrase. Don’t expect to have the other partner know how you are feeling; you need to state it.

3. Say when you need a break. Sometimes we need to take a step back, get a cup of coffee, walk outside and breathe a little fresh air. We would feel overwhelmed at some point in this journey. Those few minutes where you can separate and regroup your thoughts can help you in the long run.

4. Start the day with I love you. Michael and I would say, “I know today is going to be hard, so I want to say I love you now in case I forget later.” Honestly, it’s sounds corny, but it sets the tone for the day. We had this in place already, and have used it before trips, buying a house, or other stressful days.

Wendy spent the next seven weeks in the hospital and has been an inpatient for over 200 days in her lifetime. We still use these rules, and I honestly believe it has strengthened our marriage.

Communication and affection are so important. Michael’s strength and sense of humor have saved my sanity many times.

That is what love looks like.

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