I knew that’s what it would feel like. Not ‘going away as a couple’. Not ‘celebrating our 10th anniversary’. But ‘leaving Collin’.
We had not both been away from him overnight since he was in the NICU. Only a very small handful of people know how to do even the basics for Collin – feed him, vent his tummy, give him medicine/supplements – not to mention his bedtime routine, which involves a shot, two blood samples, interpretation of those samples in order to maintain the right level of ketosis, cleaning his g-tube stoma, and setting him up on either oxygen or bipap. That doesn’t even include all of the normal bedtime stuff that is more complicated when you have a kid who can’t talk, sit up, or help in any way. On the few nights when we went out on dates during his bedtime, we did most of his routine ourselves earlier in the afternoon. Spending a whole night away always seemed like an impossibility.
But I grew up watching my parents go on little overnights now and then and I knew how important it was for them. Other couples my own age made the time to have these retreats and, even though I have the tendency to disqualify myself from things other parents do because of our situation, the more I thought about it, the more important it felt.
If I’m honest, though, there was a part of us that didn’t want to spend a night away. There is a false security that comes with thinking that as long as we’re with Collin, he will be okay. And a full night feels different than an afternoon or evening date. Much bigger. Like making a climb without a safety rope.
Luckily, I have some truth-speaking friends who gently suggested that maybe I was making excuses and that maybe, just maybe, it would be good for everyone involved – including Collin. Then my sister volunteered to learn the ropes and stay at our house while we were gone. We set up a two-week training schedule. I made a hotel reservation. I printed off pages of notes.
The result? We had a beautiful time. Yes, our hotel was only 10 minutes away, but that allowed us to relax and enjoy ourselves more and we still felt like we were in a different world. We went to a movie. We dressed up and went to dinner and took a walk and held hands. We watched a lot of Olympics. We slept in till 8:30. We reminisced. We only called to talk to Collin twice.
My sister handled all of the trickiness beautifully. Collin had lots of quality time with his aunt, uncle, and cousin. He painted us a picture and played with instruments and seemed excited when we came home. I know we were excited. When we finished our brunch and realized that we would be home in time to put Collin down for his nap, it was a bit of a mad dash. But we were refreshed and recentered, rushing home in joyful anticipation and not at all in anxiety or guilt over ‘leaving’ Collin.
Annie Kratzsch blogs at Collin the Champ. Please check her out, she has incredibly insightful things to say about parenting a developmentally and medically complex child. And, you’ll be immediately smitten with Collin!