Remember that class you had in college, where there were no right or wrong answers, only "best" answers? Scenario after infuriating scenario was presented, and you had to make your case for how you would get the best possible outcome, only to never actually get validation that your answer was "correct." Ethics. My entire life is now an ethics course.
Your child coughs all night, and their oxygen rate drops below 80% a few times overnight. Do you administer treatment at home first, or go straight to the ER? If you go straight to the ER, will the symptoms be severe enough to get admitted? Or, will you be sent home, only to have symptoms worsen and have to head right back to said ER for treatment and admission?
Your husband took a year long job commitment in another city, and you already agreed to go. The hospitals there do not have a PICU, which your son tends to need more frequently than an average kid. Do you back out and make a long distance relationship work for the sake of better healthcare providers for your chronically ill son? Do you face the fact that anything can happen to anyone at anytime, and figure it out as you go along? Do you ask your husband to resign from his dream job? Do you risk the need for helicopter transport to a better hospital in an inevitable critical scenario? Do you send your husband off alone to work in a cold, snowy climate, while you stay back in your subtropical home caring for your kid -- essentially as a single mom?
I miss the days when all I had to do was decide what color eyeliner I wanted to wear, or what I wanted for my birthday. I have never been tested as much in my entire life as I have been these past few years. And instead of a grade, my evaluation comes in the form of the quality of my son's life. Super fun, no big deal, right? The pressure is unbelievably overwhelming, and the stakes are as high as they get. There are no right decisions, or wrong decisions, but there are better decisions than others.
So, how do we make these decisions? It's a combination of critiquing past decisions and the scenarios / outcomes they’ve led to, of knowing what you could do better as a parent and a spouse, of undying love and trust, and of putting your son's needs before anything else in the whole world. Not everyone would make the same decisions we would -- and it's probably based off of very similar criteria. It's just that in someone else's life, the better answer happens to be a different one. The only right thing to do is to make the best decision for your family at that certain point in time.
For me, Scenario A happened a few days ago. I administered treatment at home first, because I had it, because it was very late, and because he has exhibited the same symptoms before and responded well to at-home treatment. Once his breathing became too labored for my level of comfort, I knew it was time to take him in. Thankfully, we live within 10 minutes of the emergency room to Children’s Hospital of Alabama, and were treated immediately. They even have a complimentary valet service — which I think all ERs should have, considering how crucial time can be in an Emergency situation. In the past, I have called an ambulance for similar situations, knowing that they could start administering a breathing treatment en route, but that was before we were prescribed the medicine to keep at home. Oscar needed some pretty immediate and intense care this time, and a few days in the hospital to fight off a virus that would given any other Joe Schmo a runny nose. Would going to the hospital sooner have helped? Maybe, one would never really know. My sister, who is a doctor, explained that if he hadn’t been breathing so heavily earlier on, they might have sent us home. There is no point dwelling over what you didn’t do, there’s no time. You just have to forge ahead.
Scenario B is happening to us right now. A couple of years ago, around the time my husband graduated from law school, he and I discussed moving to Cheyenne for a year so he could fulfill a second yearlong judicial clerkship, this time for a circuit (appellate) court — a dream job for him. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that life is short and you should make the most of it. Trouble is - it’s kind of a lose - lose scenario on his end. If he goes to Cheyenne, and we go back home, he’ll get his dream job, but won’t see us in person everyday. If he resigns from the job in Cheyenne, he’ll lose out on an amazing career opportunity, but spend more quality time with us. The job is something that can greatly impact our future as a family, so while it wouldn’t be ideal to be apart for a year - it might mean a greater quality of life down the road. It also provides great health insurance for us, which is absolutely necessary considering our son’s chronic conditions. After doing our research on the hospitals in the area, which would be crucial in stabilizing him in an emergency (like severe respiratory distress in Scenario A), we decided that Cheyenne is not the ideal city for our son to live in. His life depends on the critical care they have — and after talking with the staff, and discovering there is no PICU, and that a transfer by helicopter would be necessary for his treatment, we decided that Oskie and I will go back home for the year. It’s traumatic and stressful enough to watch him be stabilized on the ground, I think I’ll pass on helicopter rides if I can avoid it! We have made promises to each other that no matter what, we will not be resentful of each other in this decision, we will FaceTime each other for coffee, dinner, and bedtime, we will visit each other if possible, and we may even renew our vows to kick things off on the right foot. We’re basically two different people with a different life now anyway, even only 5 years into marriage, and 10 years after dating.
This may not be the reasoning or conclusion that works for another couple, and I would never judge that. You never know what people are going through, and what their reasonings are for making certain decisions. It’s really no one else’s business. Of course, I am an open book, so I understand that people may read this and think my husband and I have a weird relationship, but it might also help someone going through something similar, or shed light on what could be happening in someone else’s life and just serve as a reminder to be nice. All I know is that we’ve put an extraordinary amount of thought into our decisions, and do not make them lightly. We love each other, trust each other, and have a great partnership - but it takes a lot of work, is extremely difficult to maintain, and isn’t anywhere near perfect.
Life is just an ongoing case of decisions and consequences anyway, no matter how many challenges are thrown your way. That’s why I’ve always liked the saying, “make it a good day!”. Don’t just be a passenger in life, don’t just have a good day. Be present, be mindful, be purposeful, and make it a good day.