Working Together: Relationship Disconnect in the NICU

June 18, 2012

My husband is an amazing man. I could go on about how supportive and wonderful he is as a husband and a father.  Even though I am so proud of the marriage and life we have built, the NICU life was a shock to our marriage. Kylie was born at 30 weeks gestation, and the hospital in our hometown did not take on babies that small so I was sent to Missoula, Montana which was two hours away. My husband had school and work so he couldn’t stay with me all day everyday while Kylie was in the NICU. I would sometimes go ten days without seeing him. This really affected our picture perfect world and we did not have a clue how to handle it.

We were disconnected. I felt he didn’t understand what I was going through and at times I felt he was even annoyed that I cried most of the time he visited. The one person I needed to be there for me didn’t get it. I felt like he was so strong and I didn’t understand how he was able to act like things didn’t bother him.  I finally broke down and told him how I felt and how hurt I had been that he pretended like everything was fine, then he could go back to Butte and go back to our ‘normal’ life at home. That’s when he broke down and we both cried.  He told me how hard it was to go home without Kylie and how lonely it was at home by himself. He told me how his heart would break every time someone came into his work to ask how his ‘pregnant wife’ was doing. He had to tell the story over and over how he had to leave us in Missoula so he could work to support us while I was dealing with life in the NICU by myself.

Once we got home, our relationship was still rocky.  I believe that’s when what all we went through really sunk in. Once I was off auto pilot, the realization of the past six weeks hit me hard. I am proud to say that after 2 years, Ben and I are stronger than ever.  After our marriage survived the trauma of having a preemie and the NICU life, we feel like we can take on whatever obstacle comes our way. I learned that my husband has a very different way of processing and handling stress than I do and that is okay! I am not so hard on him when he reacts to things differently than me. I also learned that the most important thing is to stick together instead of trying to handle it on my own, not only with NICU life, but in every situation or obstacle that has come our way since. We are a team, and a good one at that!

How did you and your spouse handle the NICU life? How did having a preemie effect your relationship and what are some tools you learned to keep it strong and last? Or, did having a preemie affect it so much that you weren’t able to move on together?

June is here and I want to say Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful dads out there, preemie dads are EXTRA special 🙂