"We Almost Lost Our Daughter -- Then Our Marriage"

A sick daughter's ongoing illness highlighted parenting differences -- can this couple overcome the tension? Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

"I Haven't Had a Full Night's Sleep in Three Years"

"Our daughter's illness has left my marriage in shambles," said Leigh, 28, a former model and stay-at-home mom who's been married to Sean, 30, the owner of a computer graphics company, for six years. "Our twins, Stacy and Suzanne, now almost 3, were born prematurely. While Suzanne was healthy, Stacy had weak lungs and severe respiratory problems. That first year, we made five middle-of-the-night runs to the ER because she couldn't breathe and was turning blue. Even though Stacy is out of danger now, I still have nightmares about the baby in the incubator next to her who died while we were at the hospital.

"Sean was very attentive when Stacy's health problems were acute, but for the last year or so, he's been more interested in his work than his family. He's left me with the bulk of the housework and childcare. Just having to think of everything that has to be done is exhausting. I don't like having to ask all the time if he could put in a load of laundry or pick up juice at the store. And when he does help out, he acts like he's doing me a big favor. I wish that just once he'd do something -- take the girls shopping for new shoes, schedule a doctor's appointment -- without waiting for specific instructions.

"I haven't had a full night's sleep in three years. Stacy still has chronic respiratory infections -- she sees her pediatrician and an allergist once a month -- and she frequently wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. The doctors say she's traumatized from her experiences and that she'll settle down. In the meantime, I have both girls sleeping on futons next to our bed. Naturally, this has all but killed our sex life, which Sean complains about bitterly. I don't love it either, but I'm not going to take the chance I won't hear my daughter if she starts crying, or worse, choking.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

"Lately, I've seen a whole new side of Sean. He speaks in a flippant, sarcastic tone, making me feel like an idiot for worrying too much about Stacy. He balks when I set limits that I believe are in my daughters' best interests, such as not allowing them to go to birthday parties or have play dates. I just don't like Stacy to be in places where there are lots of other kids who can make her sicker than she already is. Sean says I'm overreacting, but the fact is that a simple cold often means a hospital stay for Stacy. Recently, we got into an ugly argument because he took the girls for ice cream. Stacy is on a strict diet -- no dairy, wheat, or sugar -- because she has a bunch of allergies. Why is he sabotaging it?  

"Sean is a wonderful father, when he wants to be. He owns a computer graphics company, and he's taken on extra projects because he's worried about finances. But that means either he's at the office late, or he's buried himself in the den with his charts and graphs. Last week, he came home from the office early and he expected, I suppose, to be welcomed with open arms. Well, I was trying to make dinner, and I admit I wasn't particularly charming. Sean went into the den, and later, when the girls were fed and bathed, I came in to talk. But he told me I was interrupting his work. One weekend, when I assumed we were going to be doing things as a family, he actually took off by himself on a four-hour bike ride! 

"I want him to be more involved with me and the girls. I hardly knew my own father; he moved to Oklahoma City after my parents divorced when I was 5. My two sisters and I lived with my mother, a boutique owner in New York City; she remarried and divorced again before I graduated from high school. I stayed in New York and started a modeling career; that's when I met my first husband. Soon after our divorce three years later, I met Sean at a tennis clinic in Colorado where he worked. It was love at first sight. I ended up staying in Colorado for two weeks. When I returned to New York, we talked every night and I flew to Colorado on weekends. Six months later, we were married. I moved to Denver and we settled into a wonderful life. We both love the outdoors, so we'd ski, mountain bike, and hike. We both wanted a family, but I had several miscarriages. When I finally conceived, we were thrilled. Life was perfect. But when the twins were born, everything changed. The big question is, Can we ever get it back?"

Continued on page 2:  His Turn


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