Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From the Chaos: Strengthened Bonds and Learning from the Best

This last hospital stay was eventful, to say the least. It was chaotic, but I wouldn't go back and change it if I could because I learned so much. Now that the dust has settled, and we have successfully neglected the blog for months, I figure it's a good time to share some of the things that I learned, the things that I appreciated, and the things I treasure.

In updates during the stay I touched on what a special time the stay was for our marriage - how much it strengthened us as a couple. But I haven't yet shared the bond it helped form between Ronnie's mom and me.

I've always had a good relationship with Ronnie's mom. I know, I know - there's always supposed to be some great tension between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. And I will say, it is fun to play up the dynamic that is the fodder for so many great movies and shows. But we've never had those issues. Ronnie's mom has always given me respect as a woman, a wife, and a mom. She has always done a great job finding the balance between being involved but not overbearing.

Of course, I've had to figure her out...like anyone. My own mom, I can tell what she's thinking and feeling before she feels it because of who she is and how long I've known her. But Ronnie's mom was a new person to figure out, to read, to learn. And not in a bad way. Just in a way that is the reality in a new relationship.

Well this hospital stay made her entire being come into focus. After a night of epic bloodshed by Ronnie (1500ml), an early morning of trigger-happy residents throwing out all sorts of extreme solutions, and kissing Ronnie goodbye before walking out of the IR for his 4th embolization, I lost it. I walked through the doors into the hallway next to his mom, and I just couldn't hold it together any longer. I hadn't made it but 3 steps out the door when I let out an audible cry. You know the kind. The kind that come from the gut and pour out of your mouth before you realize they're coming. Ronnie's mom's eyes became teary. With the upmost compassion and love she looked me in the eyes and said, "I know it's hard. But don't let him hear you upset." She held me as she walked me farther from the doors that held him. I knew she wasn't telling me to squash my feelings. I knew she hurt just as badly as I did. In that moment she made sense to me. I understood who she was as a person, and who she was as a mom. A woman who had spent 35 years pushing down her visceral feelings to put on a strong, confident face for her son. A woman who's outward strength was the reason Ronnie was who he was. But in her eyes I could tell she was scared. Soft. Tender. But her face and body language showed confidence, strength, poise. I loved and respected her so much more than I already did in that moment. I learned from her.

This is just one example of how I learned from her throughout the 3 weeks we spent being a team - together making all decisions, plans, etc. Ronnie wasn't very lucid, and he certainly wasn't with it enough to make decisions, plans, or to really be company throughout the day. Ronnie's mom was my rock for 3 weeks. Together we navigated a unique situation. I watched how a seasoned pro operates through times like those. I watched how she cared for Ronnie. I knew that no one knows better than her how he likes to be cared for when he can't express it. I knew she had learned through trial and error and knew I should just watch and learn how best to care for my husband by emulating her. It was a weird spot to be in, but a good one. I appreciated having someone else there who was better than I was at what we were doing. It was really nice to have someone guiding a path that was so unfamiliar to me. But she did it in a way that was respectful. Though she was the seasoned pro, she let me take the driver's seat. She very much made sure she wasn't stepping on toes, yet continued to care for Ronnie the way only a mom knows how. And beyond that, she cared for me. She fed me. She held me. She was my mom...not my mother-in-law!

It has bonded us in a way that I cherish, and will not forget. It grew our relationship in a way that I am so thankful for. I wouldn't trade those 3 weeks for anything because of what it gave me in her. And it made me confident that in the future I will be able to navigate any upcoming challenges, from what she taught me, and with her by my side...guiding me.