14. With Mixed Feelings
With Stross home, we better understood how our “normal” would be different than that of our friends and coworkers who’d had babies. A letter my boss wrote to announce Stross’ birth to colleagues conveyed what happens when personal lives impact professional responsibilities.
Mark had returned to work, but when Stross, at one-month-old, required surgery to revise his colostomy, Mark fought for more time off. As our search for adequate childcare become daunting, I returned to work with Stross in tow.
A couple from our church seemed an answer to our prayers for childcare – until I retrieved Stross from their home one day and sensed the husband was hiding a secret. I relentlessly grilled him to learn Stross had fallen from the changing table. Mark and I wondered what else we didn’t know.
17. A Leap of Faith
For nearly a month, family and friends cared for Stross while we diligently looked for a new care provider. Then Mark and I took turns carting him to work. With options depleted, Mark quit his job to become a stay-at-home dad.
18. Hello, Mr. Mom
Mark’s first few weeks in his new role were spent caring for Stross as he recuperated from another neurosurgery (his shunt had stopped working). The next week Mark cared for Stross during an illness that landed our son back in the hospital.
Each of Stross’ eight months of life had brought some new catastrophe, but now I eagerly worked as our family’s breadwinner while Mark enjoyed his time with Stross. That’s why I couldn’t understand why – one day – I just couldn’t stop crying.
20. Everyday Stuff
My professional life was healing. I understood what was expected and was good at my job as the manager of communications for Iowa’s League of Cities. Likewise, Mark and Stross, now learning to talk, thrived on time spent together. A trip to Menards delighted our son on his first birthday.
21. Suffocating Guilt
Stross, now the age of a toddler, could do everything expected of a toddler but walk. This deficiency had been easy to overlook, but now, week after week, the church nursery magnified how different he was. Guilt over my self-pity nearly suffocated me.
22. New Mental Images
My ability to recognize how Stross impacted my identity grew. That summer Mark and I took him to Texas to visit friends from our days as newlyweds. By fall Mark developed a mysterious condition that caused me to miss many days of work. The following year Mark taught night classes as an adjunct professor even as his health remained in question.
23. Drives and Determinations
Stross and I often accompanied Mark on his commute to his teaching job at my alma mater. The two-hour drive worked as a time warp – an occasion to reflect on my life as a co-ed as compared to the woman I’d become
Stross’ therapy resulted in him learning to stand with the aid of a bracing device. When he turned two, it seemed we were successfully managing his medical needs and developmental goals. Mark’s illness remained unexplained, yet he accepted a job interview at a college in a small town.