I read recently that the divorce rate for couples with a special needs child (specifically with Autism and related disorders) is as high as 80%. I have no idea if that’s true, but it’s certainly believable. Ideally, the challenges of raising Helen should move us to work together, each becoming a better version of ourselves. In reality, it’s made us feel grateful to have survived the night without one of us killing the other while they slept.
1. We’re tired. As in, bone weary, falling asleep at red lights, tired. We’ve been on a newborn-with-24-7-colic sleep schedule…for years. And, though things have improved tremendously, sleep is inconsistent at best.
2. We’re tired. Heart-weary. The loop of Is it right? Enough? Too much? runs endlessly in our minds. There’s never a break from what she needs. And usually, just as we find our rhythm, it’s time to change things up again.
3. Nothing is left untouched. Our families, our faith, our finances, it’s all effected by what Helen needs. Sometimes I feel like our life is one endless repeat of solving recurring problems. You know the birthday candles that relight every time you try to blow them out? It’s a lot like that. Without cake.
4. We feel alone. Leaving the house (or having someone over) is just plain hard. And did I mention we’re tired? Plus, when someone asks How are you? I’m not sure:
Well, I’m tired and ungrateful. I’m pretty sure I’m failing both my kids simultaneously and my marriage is coming apart at the seams. How about you guys?
is what anyone is expecting. Knowing how to be appropriately honest is hard. Sometimes it’s easier to just say we’re fine.
Despite all this, we’re both determined to stay in the 20%. That alone stacks the odds in our favor. But we’ve had to accept some hard lessons about love along the way. It’s very much like planting a garden. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to spend a little time picking pretty fruit and flowers. No matter what though, you’ll spend a lot of time with sore knees and dirty hands, sweating in the sun while you pull out weeds. That’s just how it works. Love is very much about non-romantic things like good habits, perseverance and forgiveness. Not so pretty, much more true.
I’ve come to believe that these ugly, hard truths will be the very thing that saves us.
And I think that answers the question. What’s love, real love, got to do with it? Well, as it turns out, everything.