My husband left me once. I was stunned and frightened but mostly lost. He’d always been the stoic one. My faith in him seemed unshakeable, until the day he faded from our life and I was left alone to face an unimaginable and desperate situation.The seriousness of my son’s congenital heart defect was officially diagnosed during a weigh in. Three days after discovering the holes in his heart, three days on a drug called furosemide (a diuretic), my husband and I left our house with great hopes that it was a cold which had plagued our baby and caused his laboured breathing.
Three days would determine whether my son’s weight gain was baby fat or excess fluid caused by heart failure.
I bore out those three days and the days before them without my husband. He was there, in our house, but he had vacated our marriage and his role as father as wholly as though he had walked out the door and drove away. He was a shell of his former self. Our marriage, only five months old, was being tested and it seemed as though my husband had decided to skip the exam altogether.
After surviving three torturous days where we lived together but suffered alone we arrived at the weigh in. The pediatrician placed our baby upon the scale. Its digital face came to life and spoke a truth we hadn’t prepared ourselves for. He’d lost an entire pound in three days and was a “failure to thrive”. There was no denying that “his heart was the problem”.
On the drive home I doubled over and cried. Silent and hysterical I longed for my husband to reach out, to hold my hand or pat my back. Instead he glanced at me and asked if we should pick up lunch.
“You are so fucking stupid” I whispered. I didn’t need to shout; my rage laced the words and poisoned the atmosphere more effectively than screaming would have done.
“Did you just call me stupid?”
My anger fizzled and suddenly I was calm again. Roles had reversed and it was my turn to be strong. I quietly explained that his detachment from the situation was hurting all of us. I told him that if our son died I planned on never looking back and wishing I could have loved him just a little more and could he say the same?
A marriage should never have to encounter the terror of losing a child. Although it is promised before God that we would endure the best of times and the worst – this worst – had the potential not only to destroy our marriage but also the people in it.
I lost my husband once. But with a little grace and a wealth of understanding I found him again. It would be months before any good news would be received, but they were months where we learned to live as husband and wife and love as parents should, unconditionally.