I have discovered that sometimes advice is easier to give than it is to live out. A couple months ago I wrote about the importance of stepping up your game when your wife is sick. The idea was that you’ve been practicing how to be a good husband and then it’s game time…time to step up and take care of your wife and kids no matter how tiring it is. Well, this past week tested me on that philosophy. I can honestly say that this was one of the toughest weeks of my life.
I did ok for a while. Julia had a procedure on Friday where she had to recover by lying down for a day or two. That wasn’t so bad. I was all about making meals and taking care of things around the house. It was a fun challenge! About mid-day Sunday she started to take a turn for the worse though. She had developed a spinal headache, which was the main possible side effect we were hoping to avoid. She’s a pro at dealing with migraines, but this was much worse. The plan from the doctors then was to take a couple more days to lie down and hope it recovers. Ok…a couple more days…I can do this. More meal prep, more dishes, more dog care, more Eli care. It’s ok, this is what I’ve trained for!
Then, everything got even worse when I picked Eli up from school Monday. He was complaining about his neck hurting and legs being tired. I could tell he wasn’t his normal bubbly self (only speaking 500 words per minute instead of the standard 800). A temperature of 103 prompted a call to the pediatrician. Because of his symptoms, they were worried about the flu or meningitis, so off we went to the doctor. Thankfully it wasn’t anything too serious…just a virus that would take a few days to run it’s course. So now I’ve got two patients to take care of…and two dogs…and a house…and my work to balance around it.
The next two days were a blur of exhaustion. Julia and Eli weren’t physically able to do anything, so I stumbled my way through. More meals, more dishes, more water cups, medicine, blankets, remote controls, pillows, and work. Just when it all SHOULD have been getting better, it got worse again. Wednesday afternoon, Julia realized her pain wasn’t going away, so we had to go BACK to the hospital for another procedure. This one was ROUGH! She equated the pain to the late stages of labor. So then we went back home and Julia could move even less than before. The spinal headache was gone, but then she had back back pain to deal with. And of course, Eli was still running a fever ranging between 100 and 103. I would have cried, but I was too tired.
I had high hopes for Thursday. I hoped Julia’s back AND head would be better and that Eli’s fever would be dropping. The morning was still tough, but as the day went on, Julia’s back got steadily better, which was great. She was able to move around more, but still needed to take it easy. Eli seemed to be feeling better and the fever was a little lower. Just when I started to get hopeful though, Julia started to develop a regular headache…not a spinal one like from the procedure, but a normal headache…like the ones she used to have all the time…the ones that all this work was SUPPOSED to get rid of. And…right before bedtime, Eli’s fever was 104.6! Thankfully, after that point (7 days in) it got much better. Eli’s fever dropped steadily over the next day and Julia started doing much better and able to get around.
It’s tough for me to emphasize how difficult this week was for me…physically from the non-stop serving I had to do, and emotionally from the back-and-forth health swings that seemed to punch me down as soon as I got optimistic. Thankfully I “survived” because of some amazing people who brought tons of meals, watched Eli, and went to the store for us…meeting our needs before we knew we had them. Thank you family and friends who constantly found ways to help…and many more who offered! I felt like I was climbing a mountain from the effort to simply heat up the meals, I can’t imagine what it would have done to me to have to prepare and cook them too!! One night, I was so tired I actually almost posted on Facebook soliciting someone who would be interested in coming over to clean up the dishes. I guess I felt it was a little too desperate, so I got up and did it myself. Each night I was in bed around 9:15 because I just needed to sleep.
I had a realization Wednesday night. Eli was burning up and just wanted to lay down with his head in my lap. I reflected on how tough things had been and laughed at how ironic it was that the blog I wrote earlier about stepping up during sickness was written for times like this…but I felt incapable of doing it. I felt like I didn’t have enough in me to keep going. As I sat there stroking his hair, I thought…”This is what it is all about. I am his father, and I am Julia’s husband, and the ONE thing that matters in life right now is that they are taken care of.” The weariness and the pain of exhaustion is a very real act of service that I CAN give to them. I can’t take away their pain, or make a fever go away, but I CAN stroke his hair as he rests…and hand his him water cup…and clean Julia’s dishes when she’s done eating. I fought to keep the tears from coming, and I realized how desperately I love these two.
I don’t have a specific challenge for you this week other than reminding you of the importance of caring for your wife when she’s sick. Basically, I just wanted to share my story. I hope it was encouraging for you…and that I never have to go through it again…but I would if needed…every time.