My baby daughter spent nine days on a ventilator. Here’s how it transformed my marriage.
The writer and her husband. (Gaby Deimeke)

They didn’t tell me they were going to intubate my daughter until seconds before it happened. It was 2018, and I was lying in a hospital bed, cradling her 6-month-old body and all her wires in my arms.

He held me. The words of reassurance we would have offered one another were choked in our throats by the same fear. It’s a fear that so many families know intimately now: the sight of a loved one on a ventilator; the helplessness of watching them battle death.

To depend on someone fully was a weakness I could never accept. Independence is the mark of a modern woman, and even a modern relationship. I have seen people and bonds fall apart in the face of failure and loss, and to believe you cannot survive without someone is to be naive to the realities of life. My mind can draw up a Plan B in an instant. I can always survive.

But I wonder, sometimes, how we — my husband and I, together — survived and how we continue to survive. How did the fear not swallow us up, or seep in between us, whispering ugly things, true and untrue, in our ears? Would it have, if she had died? Could it still, in the future?

When I recall that time, I think of myself as a soldier in battle and Sean my only companion in the trenches. For a period, there was no room for weakness or emotion. To let any of that in would have meant allowing myself to crumble, and I couldn’t afford to do so.

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