Perhaps you’ve heard; perhaps not. The divorce rate for special needs parents, according to word of mouth, is 85%. I’ve also heard 82%. Upon doing some research, though, it’s hard to know where this statistic came from, or exactly how old it is. (With the assumption that the divorce rate goes up each year, that percentage might be higher.) I can’t say that no one knows where this statistic originated, because I haven’t talked to everyone. But on average, it seems to be accepted. People – especially people who care for those with special needs – hear this and nod. Yes, they say, I believe that.
I’ll be honest. Taking care of Namine is a whole hell of a lot easier now that it was even just a year ago. Just six short months ago, Namine was decannulated. That means she was able to get rid of her tracheostomy breathing tube. If you see us in church, carrying Namine around almost like any other parent, keep in mind that it wasn’t always that way. In fact, you cannot imagine how hard things were. I’m not just talking about equipment, although the physical stress was itself enough to drive anyone into a fetal position – the g-tube supplies, the trach supplies, the oxygen tanks (each of which could only hold five hours’ worth), the ventilator, the vent battery (which weighed about eight pounds), the suction machine, the feeding tube, the specially made tank-like stroller to hold all the equipment (that could not, actually, hold all the equipment anyway). No, all of that was merely physical. The emotional, the spiritual, that was the heavy stuff. That was what weighed, more importantly, on our hearts. The unanswered questions, the doubts, the unknowns.
Any parent will tell you that they need a break every now and then. Send the kids over to Gramma’s to spend the night, just to give Mom and Dad an evening of rest. We couldn’t do that. Namine’s large O2 tanks were at our apartment, and there they had to stay. Besides, she had lung disease. We didn’t take her anywhere she didn’t absolutely need to be. She got sick easily enough as it was; we didn’t need an extra trip to the hospital just because we felt like going to a movie. That stress – that draining, sapping, never-ending, emotional stress – takes a toll. You change, or it changes you. It sounds, as a friend said, very Pollyanna. But it’s true. You can’t stand against it, fighting it, and not become bitter. Are you going to accept that your child will never be the same as the other kids, or are you going to deny it and become depressed by it? Are you going to love your child, or hate them? Some parents can’t accept what they think of as being stuck with. So is it any wonder that we have no trouble accepting that special needs divorce rate as being so high, whether it’s true or not?
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if that percentage is true or not. My concern isn’t everybody else; it’s my family, and them alone. Jessica and I have been through more hell in the past three years – from when she was pregnant and we just started finding out what we would have to deal with – than most couples have to deal with in their entire lives. But mark me: never was divorce an option. Never. It’s not because I made a promise at the altar five years ago. I’ve made promises, and I’ve broken them. Calling it “a promise before God” is crap. Every promise you make, ever, is before God. You can’t escape Him. By that logic, you have no excuse ever breaking any promise.
No, it’s not the promise I made. It’s the promise, and the choice, I make each and every day. There are days for me, as I know there are for my wife and every person on this bleak planet, when love is absent. That fuzzy, warm feeling you got when all you had to do was look at your significant other? Well, guess what. It’s not going to be there all the time. The difference between us – me and Jessica – and all those quitters is that we choose to love, we choose to care, we choose to sacrifice ourselves for those we love.
I suppose, now, that I make it sound so easy. Trust me, it hasn’t been. It has been a long, hard road. A road filled with hospital visits, doctors, nurses, and surgeries – with more yet to come! But I firmly believe, even now, especially now, that anything worth having is worth working for. And my family, my rich little corner of this poor world, is worth having.