"You guys are so young, how have you handled this?"
We hear this statement/question quite often and I'm not sure I have a great answer.
It hasn't been easy. Or anything close to easy.
We are young, our marriage is young (3 years this month!)
We feel like we are about 50 now.
You handle it because you have to, you don't have a choice. There were so many days when I didn't think I could handle it. Days that I wanted to curl up in a ball and pull the blankets over my head and wake up and have it all be a really, really bad dream. We were told early on that things like what we've been through can take a serious toll on marriages. It's hard enough as an individual person to try and process all of the thoughts and emotions of having your dreams shattered and harder to try and make sense of it alongside someone else. I know that I could never do it alone though, that's for sure.
While Cohen was in the NICU and Danny was making the 2 hour drive to and from Seattle twice a week, it was hard. We had to be intentional with our time. It was hard to find a balance of spending time with Cohen while also making time for us to spend time together. Sometimes we spent the time eating, sometimes taking naps, sometimes crying and sometimes laughing. I remember the first time we went out to dinner and we just sat and stared at each other and talked about how strange it felt to be out eating in public acting like we were normal when in reality our world had fallen apart. Believe it or not, I have never been a big "feelings" person and I had to make myself tell Danny what I was feeling instead of just keeping it to myself. He couldn't fix me and he couldn't make everything go away, but he could be there for me. He is an amazing source of strength through all of it.
Coming home was a huge adjustment. We had been living apart for 5 months and had gotten used to surviving however we could alone. I was used to making my own schedule and having time alone. He was used to coming home to an empty house and passing the time however he could. We had to relearn to live together. It sounds strange, but we were apart for a long time during an incredibly difficult time. We learned coping mechanisms on our own and had to rediscover how to be together under the same roof.
We also had to learn to support each other in our grief. Men and women grieve very differently and we had to learn to respect that in each other. We try to be understanding of how the other may or may not be feeling. Danny and I had different relationships with and dreams for Carter. I carried him for 25 weeks and felt his every move while Danny felt his kicks and dreamed of playing football in the backyard with his boys. Even though we grieve differently, we share the fact that it was our son and that we are both dealing with an incredible loss. After one year I can say that it is different than it was now that Cohen is home and we aren't quite as fresh in our grief, but it's still hard. I still have to fight to not keep my feelings from Danny but to be open with him. Danny has never once made me feel like I need to "get over it" or that I'm not allowed to feel the way that I do and I think that is one of the greatest ways that he has helped me through this.
So, as for how we've handled it, I'm not sure if there is a choice to be made on whether we can handle things or not. What other choice did we have? To walk away from our surviving son in his time of greatest need? That doesn't seem like a choice to me. But, I get it, when I see others in impossibly hard situations, I think the same thing "How do they do it?". It's pretty amazing the things that people can go through and still come out on the other side. We are by no means done "handling" everything, I have a feeling it is going to be a life long process that we go through together. I know for us, we had a wonderful support system and many, many prayers and by God's grace we have made it this far.