Dear 2015…

…you were the hardest year of my life.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  2015 was not an easy year.  In many ways, I hated it.  I’m happy it’s in the rearview mirror at this point, and I hope I never have a year as difficult as the last one for the rest of my life.

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My favourite part of Marshy – his unique little toes.

It hurt.  That’s the best way I can put it.  It hurt physically, emotionally, mentally, and any other -ally words you can think of.  It started off with Quinn, Bridget, and me eagerly awaiting the arrival of a bundle of joy, and before we knew it, we were thrown into a whole new world (cue Peabo Bryson), one we never expected to encounter.

It hurts and shames me deeply to think about some of my first thoughts and feelings when Marshall was born.  The overwhelming feeling of shock was understandable, especially since there had been no indications that anything was different, but the feeling of disappointment that lingered for weeks still makes me want to crawl into a hole.  And all around us at Sick Kids were other parents who cried in the NICU rooms while they held their fragile babies, wondering (as I did) about their child’s future.

For the first few weeks, I gave up, in every way.  It was truly too hard to bear.  And with each discharge from and then subsequent quick return to the hospital for extended stays, the despair grew.

But somewhere around July, as Marshall settled into his longest stretch out of the hospital, I started to see a point to living again.  It was a small glimmer, but it was there.  How could I not love this little guy, who was randomly dealt this tough start to life?

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How cute does he look in that hat?!?

The toll that 2015 took on our family was heavy.  I stopped taking care of myself as soon as I stopped caring about myself.  I ate whatever I wanted, put on a bunch of weight, and fell apart more times than I could count.  I was a less-than-stellar husband and father much of the time as I cocooned myself in my singular task of protecting Marshall.

A friend recently asked me what my problem was with making plans weeks in the future, suggesting that I had no good excuse for not being able to set a date to get together with good friends.  At the time, I couldn’t answer when he wanted to know what my barrier was to not being able to do this.  I’ve been thinking about today, and I’ve realized that, other than my fairly anti-social preference, I have still not started thinking ahead to the future.  It still scares me.  Each night, sleep is either scarce or fitful, and some nights there is little to no sleep at all.  Then I wake up, go to work after a large coffee, and give my students everything I have.  By the time I get home, I’ve taken care of children all day, and then I want to give my children whatever energy I have left.  Sometimes, there is nothing left, but what can you do?  You start running on a deficit of emotional energy, there isn’t enough sleep to replenish it, and before you know it, it’s morning again.  Every day has been a struggle to make it to the next.  If I start thinking two or three days ahead, it becomes overwhelming.  I know I’ve been harder to reach than usual (and that’s REALLY saying something if you’ve known me for a while), and for that I am sorry.  I’m trying to change that.

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Reading his new book – thanks Uncle Derek and Aunt Vikki!

2016 has to be a better year, if not an easier one.  We’re about three weeks removed from his most recent hospital stay, when he underwent his first surgery.  His breathing has improved a lot, he is sleeping for slightly longer stretches, and I might be imagining it or it might be random babbling, but we’re pretty sure he’s calling to me when he says, “Dadadada” while looking at me.  I still treasure that new baby smell that he has, and love the way he holds me fingers or puts his hands up to my face when he’s in my arms.

Finally, I want to think everyone who has supported us through this difficult year.  Our parents have been invaluable in their help with childcare, words of support, and feeding us when we were too upset or tired to cook.  To our friends who have offered us encouragement, listened to us cry, or dropped off surprise meals, thank you.  And to everyone who is reading and following along as we go down this uncertain but exciting road of life, we feel your support through the comments you have left for us here, on Facebook, through email, text messages, and cards.

Thank you.

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I love how much Quinn and Marshall love each other.
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4 thoughts on “Dear 2015…

  1. Dennis, I hope 2016 is a much better year, and a more rested one! You definitely need to get more sleep. We went through a couple of tough no-sleep years with baby Katrina, and I still have vivid memories of trying to put her down in her crib after painstakingly rocking her to sleep at 2am–only to have her eyes pop wide open the second she hit her mattress. That must have happened about 500 times. Some things we tried to keep ourselves going were–long naps on weekends (I actually hired a babysitter at one point to take care of Katrina on Saturdays while I had a 3-hour nap). Also when she was about 2 years old I started putting her in bed with me (and Doug slept in another room). That actually worked like magic, and with Ewan I did it a lot earlier–about 10 months or so. Its amazing how much better they sleep when they can feel your body heat. Obviously we had a bedrail installed. And sometimes Doug just went to bed right after dinner–around 7–so he could get in a good stretch of sleep before that middle-of-the-night wakeup. I know it’s a lot harder with child 2, because you still obviously want to spend time with Quinn (and your wife too), but really it’s like being in a crashing airplane–you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else. Good luck, and happy new year!

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    1. Thanks, Claire. Those are great suggestions. I do often go to bed right away to get ready for the first couple of wake-ups. Sometimes, when desperate, I will bring Marshall into bed with me so he can sleep in my arms. That usually gets us an hour of good sleeping and snuggling, although it also means we wake up soaked in his sweat!

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  2. Thank you for another very thoughtful and honest entry. I hope, like your friend Claire, that 2016 will be kinder to you and your family. We had a roller-coaster first year with my eldest grandson, but he turned out to be an amazing kid, bright and happy.

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