Remember that book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus ? Like most men and women, Mr. A and I have different ways of doing the same thing . Raising a child with special needs is no exception. We are each neither right nor wrong, we are simply different in our approach.
Even under the best circumstances, marriage still has its challenges. Half of all marriages today end in divorce and if you happen to have a child with special needs, that number jumps to 80%.
When M was born, our life abruptly changed. We had two children to raise and one had very significant medical and developmental concerns. Managing M's doctor's appointments and therapy schedule required that one parent assume the role of full time care giver. We'd now become a single income family, not by choice, but by necessity. A new line was added to the family budget for the ever growing pile of M's medical bills. There was no negotiating. No way around it. This is how it must be.
There was the emotional toll too. Initially, Mr A. and I were in a a state of shock. When the shock wore off, Mr. A and I each dealt with things in a different way. Frequently I cried. I yelled and screamed and threw (and broke) a few things along the way. I worried obsessively. I Googled everything and had self-diagnosed M at least a dozen times. I opened up to my closest friends and family. I talked to my pastor frequently. I dabbled in therapy until my insurance company decided I should have all matters worked out in ten sessions and cut me off. I devoured books on special needs parenting. I joined an on-line support group. I threw myself into M's therapies and diligently worked with him at home each day. I kept lists of questions for the doctors for upcoming appointments and created a three-ringed binder to organize all of M's reports and evaluations. This was the something I could do. I felt informed. Organized. Knowledgeable. Strong. Powerful. I felt I was regaining what the past year had so cruelly ripped from me....a sense of control. I could not control what had happened to M, but perhaps I could be in control of how I dealt with it.
Mr. A was quite different. Mr.A was quiet, calm and solemn. Mr A. didn't cry or yell or scream. When the doctors would throw out a name of a possible diagnosis, he never Googled it and simply said that, logically, it would do no good to worry until the results came in. Mr. A felt no need gather the guys for some wine and a good cry. He was uninterested in sharing his feelings with a support group or reading up on the latest therapeutic approaches for kids like M. At times, he'd even close down from me. There were times I was incensed by his calm and had mistakenly taken it as being uncaring, insensitive or unloving. I now understand his subdued reaction gave balance to my intense one. I hate to imagine what might have happened had we both been crying, yelling and breaking the good china plates. I now also know that his reaction gave him the exact same feeling: Strength. Power. Control.
Mr. A survived by throwing himself deep into his work. Work gave him a temporary escape from the chaos of our lives. Work became his refuge.
There is a day that stands out clearly in my mind. It was two weeks before Miss J.'s third birthday and was at home planning her celebration. It was around 9:30am and Mr. A's car pulled into the driveway. It was odd that he would come home so early and I went outside to meet him in the driveway.
"Go in the house," he ordered quietly.
"Go in the house. Sit down. We'll talk inside."
I panicked and immediately began to cry, even though I had no idea what I was yet panicking about. "No, I am not going inside! I am not sitting down! I refuse to sit down!" (Somehow in that moment I rationalized that bad news could not be delivered in a standing position.)
I don't remember going inside, but I do remember his words: "I've been laid off."