So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

“. . . and if I may ask . . . how are you and Jon after all of this?” I will never forget talking to my son’s primary care physician in the first few weeks following his diagnosis with neonatal monogenic diabetes. We had known this now-retired pediatrician for decades though our oldest is only eight years old and were proud to call him the PCP for all three of our children. The question was not out of line; it was respectfully and carefully asked—he knew us. But it just struck me as a little off-topic.

We had just spent 31 days in the hospital with our son, and he wanted to ask me about my marriage?

Knowing our pediatrician as I did, though, I was happy to share a more private glance into my marriage. What he saw, however, was a bond that had been challenged and yet strengthened throughout the grieving process following our son’s diagnosis. Surprised, he half-jokingly asked me if I had any secrets.

The perception of the mass media and even professional literature probes that parents of children who are differently-abled have a divorce rate of 70%.

Though this perception is not solidly backed by research, you could likely see why someone might not have a problem accepting the concept. Parents of children with disabilities are true warriors, however, they have an immense amount of stress added to their lives that someone with typically developing children might not. It is this type of never-ending stress that might cause an already stressed couple to break. What is it that we did that kept us bonded and not torn apart in our own grief and new roles?

RELATED: My Marriage Should Have Ended In Divorce; Here’s How We Survived

Great question. Seriously. Sometimes we do not even know, ourselves, what keeps us so tightly bonded together. But we have learned so much about our son’s type 1 diabetes and his management needs over the past three years—and along with it, about the strength of our marriage. Here are our biggest tips for couples facing a child’s diagnosis:  

Have a Solid Support System

Of course, couples are their own best friends and support systems, and sometimes that may seem like everything. However, keeping a solid support system outside of each other has been critical for our marriage. Whether it is close friends or family members, we have always felt supported by those in our inner circle and that was critical at the time of our youngest son’s diagnosis. We did not even have to split up much over a 31-day hospital stay due to our support system’s help and aid. They helped watch our other two children and allowed us to stay together in the hospital to learn all we could about neonatal monogenic/type 1 diabetes.

As a grieving, extremely confused, and overwhelmed mom, having my husband there with me for a literal shoulder to cry on was invaluable. There was just nobody else who could comfort me like my husband could during that time. Nobody else could possibly understand what it was like to see your infant held down by four nurses to get yet another IV line into a tiny, 5-month-old little boy’s leg. Comfort only came from someone who saw and felt those same emotions right along with me. And those long days of just sitting in the hospital room, wondering what came next, and passing the time together really helped strengthen our bond and remind us we were in this together. Our amazing and loving support system allowed this to happen.

A solid support system still helps us to this day. When life is a little too chaotic or overwhelming, we have our family and friends who help us watch our older two to give us a chance to focus on just our child with special needs. We also have at least one family member trained in type 1 diabetes management who can, and often does, watch all three of our children together for a few hours so my husband and I can steal a quick meal together. That time without kids, to reconnect not just as parents but as husband and wife is invaluable.

RELATED: Married Date Night is Just My Style

Communicate!

Honestly, nothing is more important than communication in any marriage, in my bold but experienced opinion. We are no different. If I were not able to look my husband in the eye and tell him he was being overly frustrating, we would never get through anything. I must be able to tell him when enough is enough and vice versa. It may lead to a squabble or short argument, but it opens that door for communication so emotions do not begin to build up. Stress and built-up emotion do not create a stable mental health situation, of that I can assure you. Keeping marital stress, due to non or miscommunication, at a minimum while learning to manage our son’s diabetes day to day has been a critical piece of our puzzle.

Learn the New Diagnosis Together

We had to make early decisions such as getting a constant glucose meter for our son to wear, picking out a pump or staying on shots of insulin, and figuring out what dosing needs our son had when it came to breastfeeding, as he was still an infant at the time of his diagnosis. All these decisions were considered and made together, with the help of our new endocrinologist. In those early, confusing days, we had each other to reflect on and bounce around ideas for how best to manage our son when we left the hospital. This grew our bond significantly as husband and wife.

Prioritize Life Together

My husband and I may not have always had the same priorities prior to diagnosis, but with type 1 diabetes now in our lives, we saw clearly, together, for the first time in a while. We now knew what almost losing our son was like and from then on, we looked at life a lot differently. We were so thankful to have our son still with us and saw the immense blessing of our older children’s good health, and that of our own.

Appreciate Each Other’s Strengths

It’s easy when you’re just the parent of three children to have resentment toward each other, for however briefly, because roles are differently weighted, such as when mom needs to breastfeed around the clock but dad has to get some sleep for work the next day. When our son was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic, however, we grew a new appreciation for each other. I saw my husband change an infusion set for my son’s pump and cringed for the first few times but saw his brave and steady hands handling the situation that I emotionally could not yet. By the same token, my husband came home from what he thought was his own long day only to see my struggle with caring for our three children, one of whom was now a diabetic infant. His appreciation for my ability to overcome stress and try to keep our son in-range simultaneously grew immensely, so he says.

RELATED: Dear Husband, I Am With You Even When It’s Hard

Know You Can Handle Anything

He and I have talked about this before and it is very much the truth–living in a hospital away from our two older children for 31 days while learning to care for a diabetic infant after he almost died, there is nothing greater than that. That was the most emotionally and physically draining event of our lives as married parents and we overcame that, together. Every squabble we have now seems redundant and insignificant and usually passes that much more quickly than it might have before our life with type 1.

We are not even close to perfect, that much I can assure anyone reading this. However, we have survived what many parents have not, and we did so together. Our bond is sealed, airtight, and honest. Are we thankful type 1 diabetes came into our lives? Absolutely not. However, it has taught us some invaluable life lessons as parents, as a couple, and as individual human beings. Our marriage is not doomed to fail because we have a child with special needs, and I am here to say we will make it.

Ashley Lavoie

Ashley Lavoie is a mom of three, including a type 1 diabetic toddler, living in New Hampshire with her family. She has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and has a Master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis in progress. As a stay-at-home mom, her hobbies include taking long walks, writing, and hiding in the bathroom to finish her coffee! 

So You’re Not the Fun Parent…So What?

In: Kids, Marriage, Motherhood
Woman reading book while two play in background

I’m not the fun parent in our household. Of course, this comes as no surprise to me but it still stung when my 8-year-old said to me rather bluntly the other night, “Daddy’s way more fun than you.” And while the rational part of my brain knows better than to take this kind of comment to heart, my super-sensitive, highly emotional primitive brain did the exact opposite and ran with it.  Daddy is the more fun parent. I’m the stricter, more rigid, and more uptight parent. I’m not the type of parent who, in the spur of the moment, will...

Keep Reading

We’re Learning to Be Just the Two of Us (And It’s Fun!)

In: Grown Children, Marriage, Motherhood
Couple cooking in kitchen

My husband and I have been married for 23 years and we have never spontaneously gone four hours away to anything, much less a concert.  When we got married, we both brought daughters into the marriage, and three years later, we had a son. We were a family of five. In our 23 years of marriage, it had never been just the two of us. There were always ballgames, concerts, school awards, etc that kept us busy and split between two places if not three. After the girls both left the house for college, we still had our son. While...

Keep Reading

In This Stage of Marriage, it Feels Like We’re Roommates Who Share the Same Kids

In: Faith, Marriage
Distant couple on phones in bed

How do you get it back? How do you get back the love you once had? Everyone told me marriage was hard and having kids was hard, but I had no idea it would be this hard. I thought everyone was lying because our relationship was solid before marriage. We were best friends. Some days I feel like we’re roommates who share the same kids. It disgusts me even to say that, but it’s the truth. Marriage is hard and has ugly sides to it that everyone seems afraid to talk about. RELATED: Keep Showing Up Even When Marriage is...

Keep Reading

Oops, We Forgot to Have Sex This Summer

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Couple asleep on couch

It’s summer! The season of bikinis and pool parties and cocktails on the back deck. It’s time to wear your cute outfits and stay up late and take romantic spur-of-the-moment trips. . . unless you’re a mom like me. For me, summer is a time of zero privacy because my kids are home all the time. It’s a time of total exhaustion as kids are staying up later than ever because the sun is still up at 10 p.m. “Date nights” are sharing a snow cone while watching a kid’s softball game or falling asleep on the couch while the...

Keep Reading

Couples Therapy Saved Our Marriage

In: Marriage
Couple sitting on couch

My husband and I have been married for 13 years, but we almost didn’t make it past eight.   Flashback to 2017.  I was a (somewhat) young mother of three, working from home and spending 100% of my time with our kids when they weren’t in school while my husband worked full time. We were busy, and we didn’t always have a lot of time for each other, but I just assumed that’s how it is when you have young kids. RELATED: Here We Are, My Love, In the Season of Parenting Little Ones On a random Tuesday in September, I...

Keep Reading

Remember What It Was like When It Was Just the Two of Us?

In: Marriage
Young couple walking down street at night

It was 11 p.m. at night and the weekend trip was still a month and a half away, but I was already envisioning myself walking down the picturesque streets, caramel macchiato in hand, strolling along at a leisurely pace when it hit me . . .  Guilt. The feeling caused by a harmless little comment—a harmless little question rather—but it was enough to snap me out of my reverie. “Wouldn’t you miss the kids?” “Of course, I would,” I said it out loud, annunciating each word as I contemplated if I would actually miss my kids or not. They’ll be fine!...

Keep Reading

When the Happily isn’t Ever After

In: Living, Marriage
Woman holding wedding ring

It was a yellow peignoir, and I felt so grown up. I was barely six and pretended I was a princess or a beauty pageant contestant when I put it on. Jumping on my parent’s bed, twisting, and twirling. I was Snow White, and I could safely dream about my happily ever after. A tall, dark, and handsome charmer would bestow a gentle kiss on my lips and sweep me away. Someday, my prince will come. Someday, we’ll meet again. And away to his castle we’ll go, to be happy forever I know. After many toads, there was a dance...

Keep Reading

I’m So Thankful For This Little Family

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Toddler boy and infant girl, color photo

I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, and praying for a life like I have now. Praying for a man to love me, to be loyal to me, to want a family with me, to provide for me, to show me what stability felt like and what it felt like to not ever have to worry . . . and here he is right in front of me. I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, praying for a house I could make a home and raise my family in. Here it is right in front of me. But most of...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Still Remember Who We Are

In: Marriage
Bride and groom kissing, color photo

Sometimes it might seem like I’ve forgotten about us—amid the cluster feeding and the baseball practices. In the heaps of diapers or the bubbly bath water. In this phase when my body is not my own, and it isn’t yours either. RELATED: Dear Husband, I Loved You First When my mind is too tired to string together another thought, and my voice is lost from whispering, not sweet nothings, but another lullaby. But I still remember who we are. Mirror souls, an unstoppable force, two hearts entangled—and we are conquering this part together because our relationship will go through seasons....

Keep Reading

I’m Just a Little Boy, but Daddy You’re Teaching Me How to Be a Man

In: Fatherhood, Marriage
Daddy on the floor playing with son, color photo

I’m only a little boy, still too young to tie my own shoes or make my own breakfast. My days are filled with playtime, snacks, lots of hugs from Mommy, and plenty of tickles from you, Daddy. Right now, my life revolves around me and you and Mommy. I don’t know much about the world outside our home yet. I haven’t learned about responsibility or self-discipline or sacrifice. I haven’t had to find my place in the world yet. But I guess I’m pretty lucky because even though you may not know it, you’ve already begun teaching me everything I...

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.