Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reaching for words

As I shared last week, I took a risk. I put my words out there and entered the writing contest for Children's Hospital Oakland. It is a place we grew to know very well, and I am forever indebted since they brought Makenzie back to life. Literally. Watching her fight and have no choice but take risks daily gave me a greater sense of determination and fight myself.  I've always been a risk taker; but this last year I've taken some risks inspired by Makenzie and Emerson that were intense, nervewracking, and heart palpating. I did them without any idea what the outcome would be. 

Today, I found out I am not a semi-finalist for the essay contest out of the 220 entrants. While bummed, it was an eye opening experience.  I realized I truly want to work harder at writing and reach for more words to help connect myself with others.  The essay I went with was a variation of my previous blog post about marriage and challenges.  Since it was so hard to write, I felt it was a better choice.  It pulled a layer of honesty back to share with the world.  I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading it, and thanks for sharing this last risk taking adventure with me.

With much love-


Love is the foundation of why two people get married. With love anything is possible, right?  Actually, it is with the love, communication and an understanding that you won't always see things the same way.  Throughout 8.5 years of marriage, through every challenge, Jack and I worked together as a team.  We’ve bounced ideas and attempted to jump through the unexpected hoops together. We’ve dealt with job loss, death, miscarriage, post partum depression, relocation, and both children facing life-threatening hospitalizations. When either of us had a struggle, we'd attempt to find a solution that works.  But herein lies the challenge; the challenge that’s been the biggest challenge this past “post hospital” year for me.  That is that people cope with horrible stressors much differently, and how they cope can affect you. BUT you CAN’T fault them. Damn, you surely want to, but you can’t fault them for how they grieve. Especially if it is not the same way you do.

How one copes is how they manage to breathe.  We’ve had weeks throughout the year that came and went with neither of us communicating effectively.  Avoidance, irritation and resentment built up. That led to long solo runs for me, and staying at work past midnight for Jack.  Our listening skills with each other broke as a default of coping with the exhaustion, intensity and digestion of all that happened. It was overwhelming. Once home with both of our daughters in their beds, we had time to talk about what happened....but it was too challenging to talk.  Jack doesn't want to talk about “what if's”.  While I don't either, I needed to feel a game plan for the "what if's" because Makenzie only has 1/3 of her pancreas left.  I need to know if hospitalization happens again, we can communicate to support each other better.  The hurt and anger of times when we needed to communicate best, but were communicating at our worst, haunted me.  You can't change what words you've shared and the splinters they’ve created in your soul, but you can learn and evolve from them.

Makenzie was hospitalized with Acute Pancreatitis and multi-organ failure at 6.5 years old. Upon being admitted, one ER nurse whom I am forever indebted, looked me square in the eye and said, “Your daughter is very, very sick.  I don’t know what is going on but it’s not good and it’s going to be a long journey. You are strong and must use all your might to just love her.”  Powerful words. They described her 3 month journey in 1 minute. Any percentage, relating to a medical condition, Makenzie would defy, and not always in the right direction. However this did start with her beginning too, since she was the 2% of babies born to Moms on the birth control pill.  For some reason, she’s been ready to prove her strength and headstrong ways since the beginning.

The heaviness of hard conversations and feelings of not being heard are heartbreaking.  When you experience tragic times with someone, only the two of you can relate about those moments. While you don't want anyone to understand, it would almost be healing if there were someone else who could.  The pressures mount, especially while trying to "keep calm and carry on" for your children. And even harder...nobody talks about it.  Nobody who is married truly talks about the challenges of communication, and the hard work that goes into a marriage and partnership. Why not? I’m not saying air all components of intimate spousal fights, but if we feel the need to talk about some elements and ask for advice, why aren't we? Why do people feel they can only show their Facebook image...meaning they only share the most gorgeous moments of their marriages.

Is that honest or real?  I remember when writing on Caring Bridge I wanted to discuss how hard it was …but every third person expressed concern about the divorce rate amongst couples with sick children. I wanted to share the on-going real life elements.  The arguments in the ICU, stress releasing runs that turned into fights over hospital bills, family conflicts about what was shared online and who was able to spend time with our younger daughter, Emerson. The conversations regarding, "What if surgeries don't work and she doesn't make it?". That is REAL and part of a marriage and children.  While horrifically tough, it’s the process of going through challenges together. 

You love the other person so much you power through the crappy times to endure the BEAUTIFUL and GLORIOUS ones! You power through moments of loneliness and those of screaming bloody loud that can happen when you cope differently. You do because you know in the end that you'll be part of the winning percentage by enduring and staying together.

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I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey