A friend of mine noticed what I guess you could call a freudian slip. She noticed that in my “about me” page I listed that I am a mother, daughter, sister etc but not wife or partner. (Don’t bother looking now, I have already updated it)
It was not consciously done (and I’m sure Freud would have a field day with that) but it did remind me of something else that happened when I became a carer.
You see, both my husband and I became carers all of a sudden. We have no medical training but all of a sudden we needed to use needles, figure out how to use a feeding tube without drowning our little baby by accidentally accessing her lungs instead of her stomach, do a physical exam to assess how dehydrated our daughter was etc. We were thrust into the roles of carer and nurse dividing up the days tasks between us.
In the beginning I was at home so I had the day shift. My husband would come home from work and I would hand over, which would go something like this:
“Here, you take her. She’s had her 4 o’clock potassium and needs her next sodium dose at 6 o’clock”. I’m going to the loo then I’m going to get dinner ready”.
I might even have said, “Hi, how was your day?” Far too often I was frazzled, covered in vomit and in desperate need of 5 minutes to myself and just said “your turn”.
I would go to bed early and get up for the 3 am rounds. John would do the midnight and 6 am rounds. We would both get a bit of sleep.
We were like shift workers, doing our bit then handing over the work load to our colleague.
This doesn’t leave a lot of room for a relationship. You just don’t have the time or the energy.
It’s not surprising that so many relationships break down in these circumstances. You need to feed and look after a relationship. Spend time on it, put some energy into it. When your every waking moment is consumed with worry, care and a million things that actually do have to be done otherwise someone will become (more) ill, then it is hard to look after your relationships too.
I was barely putting energy into showering. I really didn’t care what I looked like and dressed in baggy puke stained clothes most of the time (there was a lot of vomiting going on). Did I take an interest in what he was doing? Erm, no.
My focus was: how long can we keep her out of hospital this time? and why did we buy a sofa with a fabric cover? I need wipe clean surfaces – on everything. I’m never going to get that vomit out.
Let me also clarify – did it matter what I looked like? Not to my husband, but it is more a reflection of my state of mind. I didn’t care about a lot of things, I was preoccupied. I didn’t notice me and I didn’t notice him.
We were barely parents, let alone partners in life.
This has changed. It has taken a lot of work and I am thankful that my husband is so stubborn that even when I told him to get lost, he didn’t. It pissed me off no end at the time but I am grateful that he stayed. I calmed down, we agreed we needed to do something about it. That was not what we wanted but we needed to make changes. We needed to remember why we got together in the first place. We need to reconnect as people who loved each other, who had made this beautiful girl together and who were terrified of losing her.
Stress really tests a relationship. Sometimes it is too much. For those of you for whom this has happened, I share your sadness. It hurts.
Sometimes we hang on, clutching desperately, until we start to get closer together again.
So I don’t know what it means, that I didn’t add that I am a wife or partner. Maybe writing that first post just took me into the past where I didn’t feel like a wife anymore. Maybe it’s a sign to myself that it’s getting busy again and that I miss my husband.
Whatever it is, thank you dear friend for mentioning it. I think I’ll go and make a date with John.
Important note: this post is published with the full knowledge and consent of my husband. It’s kind of like the EU – if I mention him, he gets veto rights on the blog.