Monday, March 18, 2013

marriage and the NICU

When I entered the hospital in the fall of 2011 Heath and I had been married a month shy of 3 short years.  Our relationship was on a pretty predictable path.  We met in college, graduated, traveled, started jobs, traveled more, got engaged, bought a house, got married, traveled even more, adopted a dog and then got pregnant.  In our 6 year relationship our biggest decisions had been where to take vacations and how to make career changes and our biggest challenges had been living far from our families and negotiating holidays.  This all changed in September 2011.

When I entered the hospital at 22 weeks pregnant with our first baby my biggest fear was for the life of our baby.  My second biggest fear was for my marriage.  In the best case scenario we were looking at 2.5-3 month stay on hospital bedrest and worst case we could be leaving the hospital in days without our baby and with only a memory box and heavy hearts.  I truly worried that this situation could literally break our hearts and our marriage.  I later learned that my fear was very much justified, many marriages are tested and break under similar situations.

What transpired were days, weeks, and eventually 5 months of love, patience and faith in one another and in our baby.

Our marriage survived by:

Communicating-   We communicated facts without emotion and emotion with disregard to facts.  We let ourselves get emotional about being in a crappy situation and get teary, irrational, angry and sad but we were sure to make decisions and talk about specifics without emotion when possible.  We also somehow knew when each other needed a break and needed to talk about something ... anything other than medical talk.

Taking the serious seriously and not taking anything else too seriously -  A little humor (at the appropriate times) was truly the best medicine for us.

Engaging our support system - We had so much support.  By being able to talk, vent and get advice from  friends and family  helped accomplish the 2 items above.

Our marriage thrived by:

Despite what seemed like chaotic schedules we had a surprising amount of quality time together - We spent alot of uninterrupted time together in the car and at Virginia's bedside.  There were no phonecalls, computers, ipads, iphones or tv's to distract us from being present with each other and Virginia.  It really was so much quality time, something that is rare these days with so many different screens that can stand between all of us.

Time to ourselves (together) -  Heath and I have always liked to eat out.  We took Virginia's 4 month stay as an opportunity to eat at many of New Havens fabulous restaurants and food carts.  Afterall, we had to eat sometime, so why subject ourselves to bad hospital food?  We ate at dive bars, hole in the walls, and fine dining alike.  We were always anxious to get back to Virginia's bedside, but those dinners became a vital part of working together as a team, communicating, and keeping things in perspective.

This is not to say that the challenges ended when Virginia came home from the hospital.  Like many other parts of our journey the finality of the hospital stage solidified that like parenthood, marriage is a marathon.  We made it through an incredibly challenging time but it was no time to rest.  Our Marriage was tested and certainly isn't perfect but is in a better place because of Virginia.


  1. Wow this hit home to me! I never thought about it like that! Especially the part about the quality time we spent by our daughter's isolette, with no interruptions. Very well written! Thanks for sharing!

    1. isnt it amazing that during complete life chaos you can have some of the most rich moments together?

  2. Very well written, with so much truth! Marriages are tested when routines are interrupted. We had two full term babies and encountered tough times. But you are right in saying it takes communication, compassion, and patience. Add add in a five month old who doesn't sleep and it can still be tested. If you made it through this, you can make it through anything!

    1. It has certainly prepared us for whatever challenges lie ahead. I hope you start getting some sleep soon!