Welp, it's tune-up time again in the Sharpe household...almost.
Ronnie has been feeling off for the last month or so. He had a cold, then we had an interesting lung pain episode that landed us in the ER (I'll have him write on that later), capped off by another cold, and recurrent lung pain. Ronnie decided to give himself a week to recover from his series of colds and scheduled a clinic appointment to see what he could uncover. Clinic was on Monday, and the consensus was that it was time for a tune-up. Unfortunately, he had a work/speaking obligation that he couldn't get out of, so he headed to Maine Tuesday night, got in today, and called to request a bed. Now we wait for a bed to be available and it's go time.
I will let him write more about his most recent symptoms and his decision to go in...but I'll post some tips we've come to learn to make hospital stays easier...specifically tune-ups when one spouse is left to be a single-parent.
Take time off - If at all possible, take some vacation days. I tried to continue working my normal hours while Ronnie was in the big house, but I found I was either working, sleeping, or being a mommy. I was getting up early to work, working during nap time, and working after she went down until I fell asleep. Being a "single parent" around the clock is somehow way more exhausting than having help even from post-work hours through bedtime. I take a couple days off a week, so I can spread my hours out over more days, and man it helps relieve stress.
Don't refuse help - This is a hard one, and one I don't do very well, but take help when it is offered. It's really nice to feel like you can do it all alone, and while you probably can, you don't have to prove it! Have your friend take your kid(s) for an hour or two, allow family to take meals, go to the gym for the "free" child care for the max amount of time some days! If help is offered, take it. And if it isn't offered but you need it, ASK!
Go to the gym - I just mentioned this one above, but it's so crucial I'll give it a bullet point all of its own. Go to the gym if you have a gym with child care. Going to the gym is good for you. It helps relieve stress and those post-workout endorphins can make the rest of the day feel manageable. An added bonus is that there is childcare there for you. If you don't feel like getting a major workout, go anyways and just stroll on the treadmill while you watch TV. I am not too proud to admit I do this...a lot. Mckenna gets to play with friends, and I get a little break. Win-win!
Do something special - This one is both for sanity and for shaping a mindset. Two stays ago I took Mckenna to fun places in our area that we usually don't go to. The last stay Mckenna and I took a trip to Florida to see my Grammy and go to Disney World. It helps pass some of the time, but it also helps to shape Mckenna's, and my, for that matter, mindset. One of my most important jobs as it pertains to hospital stays is to give Mckenna a healthy mindset regarding them. They are our family's reality. And while it certainly isn't ideal to have Ronnie away from home, a hospital stay is beneficial for all of us. Ronnie and I know this because we know that hospital stays keep him healthy, and ultimately, keep him alive. So we embrace them! Mckenna will understand this one day. But until she's old enough to understand all of that, I can help her at least see that a lot of fun can be had, even if we are missing Daddy!
Put on a happy face - This one is a fine line. Certainly we cannot hide how we feel, and of course we shouldn't just suppress true emotions and feelings. That said, at some point, you have to suck it up and put on a happy face, at least until it's over. I am still working on perfecting this one. Some of our first tune-ups after having Mckenna I didn't do this. I shared all of my fears, frustrations, and struggles with Ronnie during his stay. However, I learned that sharing those things didn't make them go away...all they did do was burden Ronnie. He then felt even more guilty about being gone than he already did, which just makes the stay miserable for him. And while I got to verbalize how I felt, it didn't make the feelings go away. And actually saying it out loud almost made the feelings feel more real...bigger in a way...more a reality than a feeling. It raises tension and isn't productive. I've found two ways to cope that did work. The first? Put on a happy face, at least until it's over, and then share some of the frustrations that unfolded. This allows me to let Ronnie know how I feel, but not in real time in a way that makes him feel more burdened, or rushed and pressured to leave. The second? Talk to another CF wife or friend. Telling Ronnie my frustrations didn't really help. It just made us both more tense. But talking to another CF wife is glorious. They can offer suggestions and tips, and they actually know exactly what you're feeling.
Look at the light at the end of the tunnel - Tune-ups are very short term. They can feel long and drag on at the time, but in hindsight, it's just a few weeks (usually), which in the grand-scheme of things is very minor for the benefits. Focus on the end goal and benefits, and the stay feels well worth the couple weeks of inconvenience!
I'm pretty sure I put this list together more for myself than anyone else, to be honest. When I know a hospital stay is coming I mentally gear up and put together an action plan of sorts. The above is my self talk and action plan! Let's do this!