The nurse didn’t show up last night. This seems like a statement you might make at a party when you realize a friend you were expecting didn’t attend. However the implications of a nurse not showing up are more substantial and have wider effects on our family. Of course they do. What’s interesting are the things I realized about marriage when it happened last night.
Brian and I typically kick into a really strong defense when this happens. In fact, oftentimes, I’ve thought Brian and I do better in the crisis than in the chronic.
“Do you need to sleep before I go to bed?” I asked him. Sometimes he does. Last night he didn’t. We don’t have to discuss who will stay up overnight and who gets the early shift. We used to, but it quickly became clear that he’s best overnight and I’m better in the early morning. Those roles work for us.
“OK, I’ll get up at 5 AM and you can go to sleep then.” It makes for an early day for me, and it lets him get to sleep while it’s still dark outside, making it much easier to fall asleep.
He ran to the RedBox to get a movie to help stay awake overnight. I managed Catherine’s oxygen levels and nebulizer treatments. Oh yeah, she’s sick right now and needs lots of extra attention. And then we parted ways to clock into our respective shifts.
At 5 AM, I came downstairs, hair unbrushed, eyes showing the tell-tale squint of someone who is being exposed to light well before her body is naturally ready for it. “How is she?”
“Fine, she’s on less oxygen.” Our supplier had brought new containers overnight because we realized we’d likely run out in the wee hours and Brian called to set up a delivery in the middle of the night. He gave me the rest of the report and I told him to sleep well as he kissed me before heading off to bed. He asked a question as he plodded up the stairs and my sleepy brain snapped back an answer in a tone of voice that made even my skin crawl. “Oops” I thought. And I never said anything more. Thirty minutes later, probably right when Brian was falling asleep, I had to interrupt him to find out when he last gave Tylenol or ibuprophen. We’d both forgotten that detail. He didn’t get upset with me for disturbing him as he was trying to go to sleep. We both realized it simply had to be done.
The sun began to peek through the blinds and I gave meds, adjusted oxygen, started a feeding and plotted out when I needed to get Catherine up to make the bus on time. “I’m not used to doing this,” I thought and said a little prayer of thanks (yet again) for the nurses we have and the many times they do show up for us.
As I went through Catherine’s routine, using the checklist I made to be sure the nurses cover everything, I realized how much I’d learned about marriage just because we didn’t have a nurse last night.
- Ask the other person if support is needed or whether you can do something extra to make it a little easier on each other.
- Give report often – well, for most people this means to communicate often, and make sure you cover all the details.
- Find the roles that utilize your strengths the best and do those – whether you like it or not. Sometimes stuff just has to get done and you may as well do what you’re best at to push through it most efficiently.
- Know what it will take to enable you to do whatever needs to be done and make sure you do it. Take care of yourself and allow each other to do that. We knew a movie would help make it easier, so Brian went to get it and I let him.
- Plan ahead when you can to prevent stress as best you can. We realized about 9:00 PM that we’d possibly run out of oxygen early in the morning. Rather than risk it, we called the supplier to have them bring it overnight making the morning much less stressful for me.
- Don’t get upset with each other when it’s the situation that’s to blame.
- And always – and I do mean ALWAYS – kiss each other goodnight… no matter what time “goodnight” actually is.