My sister and I were reminiscing the other day about things that happened in our childhood and as she talked I realised that I hadn’t thought about these events – big events – for years. I had never thought “what was that like for everyone else?” I started to see them a new light and it made me wonder what our history with Bartters and chronic illness was like for my husband, J.
The mystery of : what was wrong with our child? The emergency caesarean. All the hospital drama (our very own Greys, but without any of the hook ups). The years of intensive care and so many near misses.
I know what it was like for me.
But dear J, what was it like for you?
What is it like for a man when he finds out that his wife might lose her baby? His baby?
What’s it like to see the business end of a cesarean; cuts through seven layers of her body, edges pinned back while they put their hands in to pick up your little baby saying “grab the other leg”?
What’s it like to leave your wife on her own, barely able to walk to the hospital to visit F, because you need to go back to work? (just to clarify, I wasn’t walking all the way from home, that would be heartless! I was at the Ronald McDonald house next to the hospital).
I do not know what that is like, I can only imagine. I do know this: when you are sick or it is you that has had the baby, everyone knows what is wrong, they know they need to express sympathy of some kind. They do not expect you to come to work.
But the husband? They expect him to come in, be focussed, do their job. Carry on as normal.
Because while they understand the terrible situation you are in and have sympathy, there is still a job to be done. They give you a day or two of leave and that is supposed to be enough. You might use some of your vacation days too but there is only so much extra leave that you can take before employers start to feel that they cannot rely on you.
So, husband with the wife who needs you and the child who is fighting for her life, what do you do?
You can’t do everything and someone is always going to be disappointed. Rock and a hard place, that’s where you are my friend.
Here are some suggestions, from a woman who has been on the other side, noticing what you have to deal with.
- Accept: you can’t do everything. And that’s ok.
- Breathe. Deeply. You get cranky and uptight when you do that shallow, upper chest only breathing. If your belly is expanding when you inhale, you are breathing well.
- Sleep: take naps. Lack of sleep really compromises your decision making abilities. It just messes up your thinking. I know you are trying to get those extra things done but just tell me you need to sleep and I will make sure you don’t get disturbed.
- Choose: don’t do it all. Let some things go. Choose what feels right for you. Make choices you can live with. We (the wives) may not always agree or understand your choices but you can escape us, at least for a while. You can’t escape yourself.
- Talk. Man, I don’t know how to stress this enough. Talk to your boss. Talk to us. And when talking to your wife: use simple language (especially at the beginning). We may look calm and rational on the outside but inside we are freaking out. We have no idea what we are doing and are scared. So don’t ask us to figure out what you mean, be obvious and clear. But don’t patronise us because then we will bite your head off. (Ah, there you go back to that rock and hard place)
Finally, why do I have the #HeForShe tag on this? Well, this post is also about feminism – the equality for both men and women. When we talk about babies and their illnesses, most of our thoughts go to the mothers and how they deal with it, what support they have. But what about the men? What support do they have? I hope this post highlights that we need to think about them too.