When my oldest child was born, I spent 12 happy weeks immersing myself into motherhood. I had a fairly good gig—Sarah was an easygoing baby who slept well from the start and smiled willingly as long as she was fed and dry. It was hard not to be in love with this tiny creature and enjoy every minute of my time at home with her.
But when my maternity leave ended, I was okay leaving her in someone else’s care and going back to work. I loved my adult life: putting on heels, commuting to the city, working in the corporate world, and lunching downtown. To me, it was just as important to fulfill my own needs as a person as it was to nurture my child in these early months.
Yes, I’m the kind of mom that has always welcomed and enjoyed time away from my three kids.
But all of that changed with my son’s T1D diagnosis.
A few weeks ago, my husband Andrew began planning a business trip to Northern California. Because he is in the wine business, he spends time visiting wineries and sampling their products to choose what he will sell to his customers here in New England.
One day, as he was talking about his upcoming plans for a trip west, I jokingly offered to come along and help him make these important business decisions. He looked me in the eye, and said, “that’s not a bad idea.” I laughed, but then pointed out that this year marks our 15th wedding anniversary. And we’ve never been away from our three kids. Ever. We quickly realized that all jokes aside, it could be just the getaway we both desperately need to reconnect.
But how? Eighteen months ago, our middle child Miles (now 7) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. We haven’t left him alone with anyone besides his school nurse and teacher for longer than a couple of hours.
Who would stay with him and our two other children, ten-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Alex? Who would pack their lunches, take them to school, help them with homework and put them to bed at night? Three is a handful, even without something as stressful as T1D. Which one of our friends or relatives would take on such a monumental responsibility?
And if we found someone willing to do so, would we really be able to let go of parenting, of T1D, and all the chaos that ensues in our marriage to truly relax and reconnect with one another?
Despite my questions, doubts, and fears, Andrew saw that this was important. He made arrangements with his mom, a recently retired ER nurse, to come stay with our kids. He booked us flights to San Francisco and got a beautiful hotel room, and texted me the news. It seems I didn’t really have a chance to argue. We are going, all the way from Maine to California, three thousand miles away. Without kids. Without T1D. Just us.
It’s something I know we need to do, but it terrifies me. The what-if scenarios of leaving three kids, one of them with a life-threatening chronic illness, fill my head to the point of not even being excited about this trip. Miles uses a pump, and is getting pretty good at bolusing himself with our guidance. He also wears a Dexcom CGM and we are all connected through the Share app. So even as we are tasting wine and enjoying uninterrupted conversation in Sonoma, we’ll know how he is doing and will only be a phone call away. But I still worry.
A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law came to stay with us and we involved her in every aspect of his care. There were some bumps in the road, some miscommunications, and some high-stress moments. I even said to Andrew, “I don’t know if I can leave.” But I am still trying to be positive, open-minded, and let it go so that I can reclaim part of my marriage with this getaway.
There is a JetBlue ticket with my name on it. I just hope I can find the courage to board the plane.