In January of 2017 not only did my husband and I become “medical parents”, our 5 year old daughter also became a “medical sibling”. I will try to make a very long, complicated story short in the essence of time. Our 13 month old became very sick with RSV and was intubated for 12 days. She recovered but suffered complications from the intubation. These complication required several surgeries and visits to a specialist in Cincinnati, 6 hours away from our home in Waterloo, IL. All of this began a few months after our oldest daughter started kindergarten.
A few months after this all began, our “healthy” kid turned 6. At 2 am the morning of her birthday, I had to rush her baby sister to the hospital again because she couldn’t breathe. As much as I did not want to do this alone, it pained my heart to think of my baby girl waking up on her birthday to both of her parents being gone. My husband stayed with her, trying to make her morning as special as possible before rushing to our side at the hospital. Luckily for us, we have a village that made the rest of her day as special as she deserved. This was the first time I remember being legitimately concerned how this was going to have an effect on her.
Fast forward, little sister is “fixed”. Her specialist says she’s a “normal” child now. She’s growing and thriving like a normal 3 year old. As for my “healthy” kid, life is still not back to normal. She has become very anxious. She constantly worries about all of the “what ifs”. All things an 8 year old should NOT have to worry about. As a parent that suffers from anxiety, I can’t help but feel guilty for these feelings she is having. So what do I do? What don’t I do? How do I make this better? I don’t have all the answers. I wish I did. I wish I had a crystal ball to see what the future holds for us but for now I have a Magic 8 ball that keeps telling me: “Ask Again Later”.
I’m tired of later. I’m tired of waiting. My daughter deserves more than later. So I am taking action now. Here are two things that I am going to start doing immediately to start the process of moving forward.
Being more open about feelings. I want my “healthy” kid to know that her feelings are valid. I want her to know that she is allowed to feel however she wants or needs to in any situation. Feeling means you’re alive, you love and care for people and you are growing and maturing into a new phase of life. I don’t want her to ever feel judged or embarrassed by her feelings. I am going to teach her about healthy feelings and unhealthy feelings and we will learn how to cope with those feelings together.
Spend more one-on-one time. Very rarely am I alone with only one of my children. Typically it is both of them or neither of them. I need to make it a priority to spend more time with them individually, especially with my “healthy” kid. From day one she has been my built in best friend and mama’s girl. While I never want this to change, I know it is inevitable. We won’t always be best friends but I need my daughter to know that I will always be there for her 100% of the time.
So if you’re feeling heavy guilt and feeling like you’ve failed your “healthy” kid, you’re not alone. This life is not easy or for the faint of heart but just remember: this is NOT about YOU. This is about your child. You can try to use that crystal ball to look back in time and think about all of the what ifs but it won’t change anything. You can only look forward and changing the path for your “healthy” kid from this moment on.
I would love to hear your stories about parenting the “healthy” kid.