(I am going to write more frequently over the next few months, which might mean my posts will be shorter, more on point, and not the long, rambling essays you are used to reading! An old camp friend encouraged me to get back to blogging with these words, "Sometimes what speaks to people isn't just the wisdom you understand. When you invest in collecting and recording life and love, there is just something to it- more and more. You don't have to know where it's going to discover a lot that is worth finding." So I am going to quiet the voice inside me that always likes to know exactly where something is headed, and just get back to writing.)
After we moved to Birmingham, but before Wills and Eliza were born, Findley and I were struggling with how to pass the time, especially on the weekends. Virginia was not like other babies who could just fall into the routine of the family. She screamed constantly, wasn't supposed to be around a lot of people for two years, and arched her back so intensely that there wasn't a stroller that would hold her. Our lives really revolved around trying to keep her from screaming.
My counselor at the time (for whom I still have great respect) told me that Findley and I should divide and conquer on Saturdays and Sundays. He suggested Findley have until noon to do whatever he wanted, I have from noon to 4, and then the rest of the day we could do something as a family.
The divorce rate for couples with a child who has a severe neuromuscular injury is above 90%. I am 100% certain that we would be in that group if we had adopted the 'divide and conquer' strategy.
Our situation was all hands on deck for a long time, and it took everything we both had in order to survive. Findley took every single call from me at work because he knew I was heartbroken, scared, and had been listening to my baby scream for hours that day. I didn't meet him at the door when he came home from work and pass Virginia off so I could go on a run or meet friends for coffee. I understood how hard it was to watch your child suffer, and I knew it was better if we did it together.
We still don't take shifts at night. It is usually both of us holding and comforting her when she is struggling to sleep. Sometimes it is still sad, and being in the midst of the darkness together has strengthened and protected our marriage.
Either one of us is certainly capable of handling all three kids for a few days alone, but everything non-essential has to cease. We stay close to home, Virginia doesn't get a bath, we order take-out....you get the idea. Obviously there are times when one of us has to be gone at night or on the weekend, but it wouldn't be healthy for any of us, especially Wills and Eliza, if that were the norm for our family.
I feel an occasional twinge of jealousy over the (physical) ease with which other families go through life. Meeting another family for pizza or going to church doesn't wipe them out for the week, and taking a guys' weekend trip just isn't a big deal. But that isn't our story, and for now, if Findley takes a guys' trip, it's probably going to be with Wills.
When you have a Virginia in your life, you have to focus on what is most important, because you don't have the energy for much else. As Virginia has become happier and more content, we are able to do a little bit more than we used to undertake. But we always have to be willing to drop anything extra because the rug can get pulled out from under us again in an instant, and we are right back to the basics of keeping her alive and calm.
Our world seems to demand a lot from us daily, most of which is inconsequential. Don't worry about what you are missing, worry about taking advantage of what you already have.