“The Departure of life Eclipses Everything” – Call the Midwife.
A year ago today (when I started writing this) the contractions started. I knew as soon as felt a twinge in my back He was coming and I wasn’t scared, anxious or any of the like; I was bloody excited. I crept back into bed and actually tried not to make a fuss, but it was obvious – this was it.
They did not want to come on thick or strong, however, so I sent Matt to work the next morning (as much as he disapproved). Watching his beaming face leave, was a mirror image of my own feelings. I actually didn’t tell anybody that it was happening to start with, it felt lovely being my own little secret… until lunchtime when I text my friend asking, “Is it too late to get a Mcdonalds?”
All day they were 6 minutes apart and not changing and I was actually frustrated that they weren’t getting any closer – I wanted to go to hospital and push him out! I even managed to do the washing and ironing. Crazily, I decided I would make sausage and mash for myself (Matt can’t eat sausages and all this pain deserved a treat). What an image: a contracting, fat lady trying boil and mash potatoes.
… The issue. My Mum was at home. The other side of the coin.
Going back a few weeks, Mum had collapsed again and returned to hospital. She had had a whole glorious month at home with family and friends visiting, keeping everyone positive. Continuously, she knitted (she knitted 6 months worth of jumpers for my baby which is a sad, tear jerking idea, but wonderful all rolled into one). Each of us enjoyed the precious family time and we savoured every moment.
The nurses then lowered her dose of steroids, which affected her badly, and she was rushed back into hospital. Quickly, they administered another bout of tests and found that the cancer was not going to hold out till Christmas, not until my wedding in November, and not till my baby.
She had 4 weeks – it was everywhere.
Dr Doom, as Mum called him, had told us in hushed tones that end of life care had to be organised. Did Mum want a visit from the vicar? In actual fact, Mum did not want to know anything; she continued to be chirpy and laugh at other patients and come up with quirky nicknames for the doctors. The cracks, however, were starting to show, and she was beginning to have muddled memories and confused morning phone calls. Each morning I rung her from work and just wanted her to answer, please still be here this morning.
She obviously knew she had cancer, but the extent of it, to Mum, was not necessary. This begs the question, would I want to know? We always discuss if Mum actually knew, would it have changed her mentality? If she did know, would she have given up after four weeks?
That is the shit thing about cancer, it doesn’t stop for anyone, no matter what is happening in life – it’s selfish, it’s unforgiving and it’s so bloody unfair. Why the hell didn’t it stop growing? Why couldn’t it wait? Why couldn’t it understand that Mum was the best Mother and let her enjoy the life she deserved?? Words can not even describe her, or do her justice and Cancer chose her! I wouldn’t wish for someone else instead because I do not want it to affect anyone, it can just fuck off and leave everyone to grow old and allow people to meet their grandchildren, see their children marry and let them enjoy retirement.
…Back to contractions. There I was, anticipating my child and I had a phone call from my brother.
“You have to come home, I think this is it.”
“Henry, I can’t I’m having my baby.”
It was pointless arguing it. Within twenty minutes, I was in the car, in labour, about to say goodbye to my Mum forever.
Laying there, she was not the Mum I remember. She had nurses coming three times day to clean and change her. She was on countless amounts of morphine and was doing everything possible to keep going. This, unbelievably, was nine weeks after her four week diagnosis. I had hobbled in and hugged her like always. It was pretty obvious that this baby was coming and what did she say? What did my dying Mother say to me?
I wish I could have your pain.
I do not think there is anymore explanation needed to describe her character. See, Cancer, that is the kind of women you have taken away. Happy?
I could not stay long and had to guiltily go home. I had to walk away not knowing what was going to happen first…
The contractions were getting stronger and stronger and by the following morning they were four minutes apart, I was being sick and I was concerned for the baby’s movements. Eventually, I was allowed in. Those pesky nurses are so adamant that you have to wait so long. Do they not know it hurts!?
Once I got to hospital I was only two centimetres dilated (WHAT? ONLY TWO?) and was told to go for a long walk and they put these tags on me. They also gave me a paracetamol – Ha! Was that a joke? A bloody paracetamol- that will get me through labour. I went for a little waltz down the corridor and had a little bounce on the ball. The nurse looked at me like I was stupid.
“No, go outside, walk around the block.”
Oh, I see the tags were for if I got lost!? Or decided I did not want to go through with it and run away!? Off I trotted and when I came back I exclaimed that it was time for Gas and Air. I was four centimetres and when the nurse (also called Mary, weirdly enough, well I though it was weird but I was high on Gas) told me she could feel hair, the pin dropped – there was a human inside me! I was sure I wanted a completely natural birth and Gas and Air was the extent of my pain relief. Little did I know.
Now, I do not like to talk about my birth like it was the worst thing in history, or it was bad because every birth is bad, no matter who you are. But in a nutshell, he did not want to come out; my cervix swelled up, they had to burst my waters and when they did, it was blood, I was moved to a special unit (I had refused to go anywhere without Gas and Air and the Nurse had told me suck the nozzle and pretend. Halfway down the corridor I did just that. What a plonker I must have looked), they recommended I have an epidural, I begrudgingly had one, it caused my blood pressure to drop meaning my baby’s dropped, I had to be put on oxygen and adrenaline and had constant monitoring.
My baby’s heartbeat was up and down for hours and eventually they suggested a c-section. Matt got all dressed up and ready to go and as we got there his heartbeat dropped completely and I was knocked out. Stubbornly, I wouldn’t drink the weird black stuff to knock me out, but it was forced down my throat. I also had a blood transfusion, which I didn’t know about for ages until I read it in my notes months later. Gas and air clearly was not going to cut it for me.
Next think I knew, I felt my tummy and there was no baby. He was out and he was being carried over to me. My first question – “Is he cute?” What an idiot! He was fine actually, a perfect little boy. Unbeknownst to me, my whole family had already seen my baby and so had my Mum.
She had done it, she had lived to see him. What is really sad is that I had spoken to Mum that Sunday morning and I do not remember it, I was so high on drugs. I do not know what she said, however hard I think. Sometimes I think I do but I think it is just my imagination, just wishful thinking. Sometimes, I make up in my head what she said, or what I know she would have said.
Having a baby is the most magical feeling, but my head was in two places. I felt on a different planet that Sunday. I was in the same hospital Mum had been, for the complete opposite reason. I vaguely remember Dad coming alone, but Mum wanting him home in case…
I had in influx of visitors including Matt’s Mum, Dad and Sister and all I remember is the amount of food they bought (typical Italians).
On Monday, after my first night alone with my child, it all sunk in. I was a Mother and I was ready to go home and enjoy our family. But, because I had had a traumatic birth they wanted me to stay in. I was thrown into absolute panic. I had to go home, Mum had to meet him! Thankfully, within a few hours, I was deemed fit enough to go.
We did not even go home, we went straight to Mum. (Mcdonalds first actually, but that’s irrelevant). And when we walked in, she actually tried to jump up, she was so excited. Everything inside me, was so happy that she could cuddle him – or lay him next to her as she couldn’t really move. But she did it, he lay with Grandma and I can say that she did it; that she loved him so much that she was not going anywhere until she met him. The image sticks with me forever, where she lay there patting him and him wriggling around. It was amazing really. Christ, it’s hard to remember.
One more time, the next day, we went back. The nurses said that they had not seen such a rapid decline in a patient. She was gone, mentally. I went over to hug her and cliche as it may be, her last words to me were
Mummy loves you.
The phone call came later that week.
There we have it. She was gone.
The more I think about it (especially approaching Harrison’s birthday) the more amazing she was. I would love to say that she went peacefully and in her sleep, but she didn’t. She was in pain, as much as I hate to say it. She had to go, she could not live like that anymore; she was not Mum laying in that bed; she was a shadow of herself and she would not have wanted to live without dignity.
As a mother now, I cannot understand how she did it five times over; had five children. I do not think I can ever live up to her standard, to do the amount she did for us each and everyday – the hours and love she dedicated to family. She was the epitome of a Mother; what you imagine in films and books – the dictionary definition.
This past year has allowed to me reflect and realise, even more so, what a truly fantastic, giving person she was, to raise a family as successfully as she did is harder than any job in the world. She put all her heart into us and if I could be even a tiny bit like her, I would be happy.
Bloody hell I love her.