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11/14/2018 13:31 EST | Updated 11/14/2018 13:32 EST

The Day I Realized I Needed My Ex-Husband As Much As Our Kids Do

An unexpected medical emergency put our co-parenting relationship into perspective.

I still vividly remember the painful moment when we told our kids that their dad and I were separating, and knowing that their whole world would change right then. I had spent months googling the effects of divorce and worried how we would all get through it.

Seven years later, after some hard times and a lot of work, we had settled into a dynamic that allowed us to co-parent our three kids with their best interests in mind. I placed a certain amount of value on this relationship with their dad — I did it for them is what I believed. Then came the day when I thought I might lose him.

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It was a Monday afternoon when his partner called me. He was in hospital and was suffering a medical emergency. He was going to be transported to a more advanced medical facility and the doctors suggested we should bring the kids to him to say goodbye before he leaves — just in case.

Shock and despair hit me. I could barely contain the enormous sobs building up long enough to hang up the phone. Then it erupted, an outburst of emotion like I had never felt before. A feeling of complete helplessness. I prayed to God, Creator, whoever might be listening to please let him live.

I picked up our kids and took them to the hospital. The kids had a terrified look in their eyes as they hugged and kissed their dad goodbye, not knowing if it would be the last time they would see him. They tried to be brave and hold back their tears, but they began to cry before they could leave the room.

My kids looked me in the eye and asked if their father was going to be OK. I could only tell them that I did not know, and I hoped he would be — because that was the truth. I couldn't fix this or even give them the reassurance that our lives would ever be the same.

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What followed was a two-hour drive from the hospital with many tears shed and many questions asked. The sun was setting into a beautiful landscape as we travelled the highway. Our daughter whispered that her dad would love this as she snapped a picture for him. In that moment it occurred to me that there are many special moments they share with their dad that I am not even aware of. Moments such as this, of admiring sunsets. Memories that they will carry into adulthood and hold close to their heart. I silently prayed my 100th prayer of the day for him to live so that he could be by their side for many more.

I then had the stark revelation that this man is the only other person on the planet that will ever love our kids the way I do — the way that a dad can. And he is also the only dad that my kids will love in that special dad way, and for this reason he is one of the most important people in my life.

All of the mundane things didn't matter anymore — our disagreements or not seeing eye-to-eye.

I suddenly couldn't imagine my life without the conversations that we have about our children — what they were up to, struggling with, good at, happy about, or their future plans. I realized that there was no one else in this world who I could talk with about those things with the same shared parental passion.

All of the mundane things didn't matter anymore — our disagreements or not seeing eye-to-eye. What did matter was that even though our marriage had ended, I was still blessed to have someone to share the joy and hardships of parenting with.

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"Don't you dare leave me here with all of them," I thought. "They need you — and I do too."

Two years have passed and their dad has done well recovering from the events of that day. For that I am forever grateful. But this isn't a fairy tale ending — everything between us isn't magical and perfect all the time, but that is the reality of any relationship.

darrya via Getty Images

One day a little over a week into his recovery I watched our daughter curl up beside him in his hospital bed. She found the photo that she had captured for him on that long drive to the hospital, a time that she was unsure she would have the chance to share it with him. He looked at her smiling and told her that he wished he could have been there with her to see it. They talked about another sunset they shared several weeks before and how beautiful it had been.

It was in this moment I vowed to myself to never forget that even in the toughest times that our marriage may be over, but I still need their dad.

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