Family is Everything

April and May 2015

“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye, and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind,your stomach, because you do not just live in a world the world lives in you.” – Fredrick Buechner.

Ideally I’d like to focus on the positive part of this year. How is that possible? When I asked Dad to help me with ideas for this part he shrugged and said he couldn’t remember any, but, actually, I do.

I have thought over and over about how to sum up the happy moments of this time and there is one common theme – Family. My goodness, family comes together in times of need. Family is a noun that describes a group of people that are flung together randomly, but I also believe that there is a huge amount of trust, reliability and understanding that is without familydiscussion or questioning; we just automatically gravitated towards each other.  All the years of bickering, squabbling and competition were irrelevant when we needed each other; we all united spontaneously and knew how to deal with a… sad situation.

So, to look at the silver lining on a pretty dark cloud, here are some of the more lighthearted moments in these months. The bland walls of the hospital were brought to life by my family, the hushed conversations gained a sense of humour and the stony, cold floors became a surface for some laughter.

    1. My immediate memory is that whilst it was a two person visitor rule in that particular hospital area, once the majority of the family flocked to the bedside at the same time, there was at least six of us. We all congregated at one time, laughing, chatting and catching up, making Mum feel like nothing was different. The nurses timidly asked some of us to leave; it was like talking to a brick wall. (What? We have come all the way to see Mum and you are making us leave? Don’t be so ludicrous). We just shut the blue curtain and carried on
    2. There was just one chair. There was a hierarchy when it came to the chair. I couldn’t be beaten; the only girl, the only PREGNANT girl. As I approached, I could see the others begrudgingly stand up and offer it to me. (It helped that I was sweaty and exhausted after stubbornly taking the five flights of stairs because I wanted to be a healthy Mum).
    3. One brother always bought Mum cakes. I had seen, accidentally, that they were on offer in Tesco and I had great pleasure in pointing it out in front of the family. What, you didn’t splash out on full price cakes? (If you’re reading this, you know I’m joking, they were lovely cakes, I know, I ate some most).
    4. Mum loved her knitting (she was actually knitting my little man a jumper). Anyone who knows anything about knitting, however, knows jumperthat you need needles (!). So when Dad turned up without them my brother ran 7 miles with them up his sleeve one morning to give them to Mum (out of visiting hours, obviously). This was a move worthy of getting the ‘chair’.
    5. (I’m not sure how offensive this point is). There were numerous, fantastic nurses that cared for Mum, but Mum insisted that the ‘black’ nurses were cheerier than the white ones. Even when they came to look after her and we were sitting there, she would openly say, ‘This was the cheery one I was talking about, why are you so much happier?’ I suppose no one can accuse a Cancer patient of racism.
    6. Henry would come in and set up Mum’s laptop each day, just so she could watch ‘Gavin and Stacey’- she never lost her sense of humour.
    7. It’s quite depressing, but hospital coffee shops have loyalty cards. We came every day and Dominic was chuffed when he discovered we could get a free coffee if we bought six! It was a guilty pleasure to pass it round the group to get optimum stamps and you hit the jackpot if the free coffee happened to be on your round.
    8. A care package arriving from my sister-in-law, including everlasting flowers, her favorite purple nail varnish, letters from the grandchildren and make-up wipes. (I remember feeling terrible that I didn’t buy my own mother face-wipes; how could I not think of that? I overcompensated and brought a shed load of hairbands). A simple gesture if so warming.
    9. I’m not sure of the politically correct term for a gypsy (I do not want to offend anybody), but a ‘traveller’ arrived in the middle of the night in a police van, drunk, and landed in the bed next to Mum and demanded some of Mum’s squash. Mum told her to ‘get stuffed’. Lemon juice was a luxury! She loved telling us the next day, with her not-so-subtle whispering and pointing.
    10. The best memories of all? For me, it was moments where it was just Mum and I. I used to go really early in the morning or as soon as I had finished work. Waddling up the stairs, with a bacon roll in hand, I would lay next to Mum in her bed. She would say, “Have a little nap if you’re tired”, while holding my belly, waiting for a kick. The nurses used to say that we weren’t really allowed to share beds with patients, but smiled as they walked away. We discussed my wedding and talked about mundane issues. One time, the lady in the bed opposite commented, “I should really take a picture of you two.” I laughed at the time, but it would have made a great photo for the memory box.

So, there you go – my top memories of hospital life, which is something I never thought I would say and has taken a lot of grief to get to this point. Pregnancy was rather uneventful in these months and was running smoothly.

I had just experienced my first proper night out as a sober Pregnant lady for my best friend’s Hen Do and, actually, it was a great release from reality – you still have to have fun when life is pretty crappy. Shockingly, I had a glass of bubbly which I felt awful about and spent the weekend worrying what it had done to my unborn baby – nothing as it turns out (although I do not condone pregnant drinking). It was nice to go out hen doand not have to talk about Cancer and just forget – just for a moment. This is a negative of cancer, however,  you realise that everybody else’s life goes on or, positively, life WILL go on.

Mum came home in May and, wonderfully, my brother from Australia was coming home for a month to help look after Mum and cook Dad dinners.

Everyone was, lovingly, doing their part and I can’t imagine that we would have done it any differently if we went back in time – maybe we’d have remembered Mum’s knitting needles.

No one puts baby in the sunshine.

I plodded and wobbled last summer as I was heavily pregnant and it was a …sweaty, uncomfortable experience to say the least. I seemed to have got pregnant with the only hot and long summer England ever had (so it seemed). I couldn’t wait until the next summer where I could play in the sunshine with my little man. I had no summer dresses that fitted and I laughed (cried) when I picked up my tiny denim shorts. When I had the pre baby visit from my health visitor I had to apologise for being so scantily clad, but I was not getting changed because I did not have a maternity summer wardrobe (what a waste of money!) And No, I was not getting in appropriate clothes when your friends came round Matthew, I would sit here with my belly out all day along and people would have to deal with it, I did not care if it made them uncomfortable because I was bloody uncomfortable. When people asked, ‘God, are you hot?’ I didn’t even bother to respond, I just feigned deafness because, well,  what a daft question , ‘Yes very, you take him for a minute will you?’

Anyway, I had images of a beautiful summer day with, maybe,  a little paddling pool, us playing calmly as a family with the wonderful smell of sun cream and freshly cut grass.  We would go to the beach and he might be crawling in the sand and I may let him have a splash in the sea! (I soon discovered sand is a delicacy).

Now, as a teacher in a primary school I was very aware of the 5 S’ of sun safety. Also, I had so much experience as I am fair, very, very fair and I knew first-hand the pain of burning, the horrors of peeling and the horrendous hot baths after a day in the sun. I wore sun cream, or course, but it was inevitable that I would be caught off guard sometimes. This was not going to happen to baby. As soon as he popped out with blonde hair (he WAS blonde,  but now is a wonderful strawberry blonde, auburn, copper, ginger, whatever you want to call it) and I was going straight to boots to get the heavy duty sun cream. I was very confident in this area of parenting and I was not going to be questioned here – Oh how wrong I was. I will, therefore, go through each great S and the problems that occur (problems that others liked to question me about anyway – I didn’t have any problems because I actually knew what I was doing)

  • Slip on a T shirt – Easy. This is the easiest one. I had plenty, of vests, t shirts, little suits, you name them! I encountered two, no, three problems here. The first issue – getting one on in the first place – My little one hated getting changed. I dreaded it each day as it was like getting an octopus in a sleeping bag. Eventually he was in and I excitedly image2approached  his first paddling pool. My little one was much splashier than I thought and whilst he was having a blast he was drenched! (which was fine for about 10 minutes) Not long after the water got cold and I could see him shivering. Trying to get a baby, a wet, sticky, irritable baby in a clean t shirt or vest is near impossible. His little face got angry and red, and I obviously had to change his swollen nappy because had I thought to put a swimming one on? – No. Eventually, I would squish him in and quickly turn to dispose of the nappy and bam! He is back in the water. Round 2. The final conundrum I will graze over because I had no real response on a boiling hot day. “Should he not be more covered up?”
  • Slop on the sun cream – I had invested in the highest SPF ‘Baby in the shade’ sun cream. He put it on before he went out and I ensured more went on during the day. I even wore it myself – what a role model parent. Yet, still, others insisted that he should have more on, that I have not put it on often enough, that it has been rubbed off, does his nose look a little pink? Is he hot or has he burnt his cheeks? Honestly, I put so much on we ran out – on the first day. The poor little boy is going to be oozing sun cream for a week. At Least he will  smell like sunshine.
  • Slap on a hat – The first time I took my baby on the beach was the first time I tried a hat. We had carefully chosen a lovely red hat with dinosaurs on. (I’m smiling just thinking about it, we had such high hopes for that hat). On it went… off it went… hahaha. How sweet and clever, he took it off. An hour later the joke wore off. There was no chance he was wearing it. We tried to sneak it on and distract him, we tried to put it on sunglessasbackwards, and we tried to hold it in place. No. I now know I need to get one with a strap (Thank you mummy friends)! So we accepted that fact that he would be hat-less for the day, but deary me we got grief. (I was the new mummy in town so there was a lot of, what I call, unintentional backseat parenting)

“Why is he squinting?”

“Turn him away from the sun.”

“Cover his eyes.”

“He can’t see properly.”

“Is he in pain?”

“Put his hat on”

“You know he can get cataracts?” (Seriously? He is 8 months old. It’s his first day in the sun).

  1. Slide on the sunglasses – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah (see hat)
  2. Shade from the sun- As my little boy did not want a hat or sunglasses, it seemed that shade was the only option. Problem – Crawling. I am hoping that when he gets older, walking and talking he will understand when I ask him to sit in the shade (please tell me this happens parents!) but right now I hunt high and low for shade and when I find the perfect spot to have lunch and chill by a shady tree my little boy is off! No come back you crazy crawler, I need to apply more sun cream and you have no hat or sunglasses on! He has developed this wonderful game of crawling away and waving from a distance (not too far). Yes that is wonderful and I love that you have a sense of humour and god you make my heart melt, but it is too hot for that game! I spend the whole day plonking him back under that shady tree! He looks at me like – you encouraged me to crawl for weeks and now you want me just to sit! HA!

The sun was not the relaxing experience I envisioned, but once I shook off all the needless advice from other people, we have had some really lovely days. My advice to all -STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY THE DAY, ENJOY YOUR CHILD.  In England these days are a rarity so do the best you can and take lots of photographs!

 

 

Dealing with the big ‘C’

Right…

Dealing with the ‘C’ word was not something that I ever expected to encounter. Obviously I’m not talking about THE ‘C’ word that comes under the heading of an insult.(I don’t think I have ever encountered that word either, that I  know of. Maybe behind my back, but who knows? )Anyway, I had the whole, ‘ that will not happen to me attitude.’ Crofts were a healthy family; no history of serious illness, no sudden heart attacks, no strokes, not even high cholesterol. This had been embedded into me subconsciously for , well, ever. I never felt like this was an arrogant attitude, it was just the facts. We stayed healthy, took part in sports, never really over indulged in anything. We have always been happy just the way we were.

Mum had always said that, ‘ If things have to happen, it’s best to just get on with it…’ (this was normally regarding competitions or exams). So, with Mum in hospital I took this attitude and just dealt with it positively  – something was being done and this was a phase of life that was causing a slight hurdle.

I was beginning to bloom in pregnancy and I, honestly, felt great. I absolutely loved feeling the baby moving in my growing tummy and spent pregnanthours filming my stomach, waiting and praying to  see a teeny tiny twitch and sending it to Matt and pretty much shouting, ‘DID YOU SEE THAT? LOOK AT HIM GO!’ I had even bought a few baby gros and thought about names, which is really hard actually. I had even told my class at school and the girls squealed with delight and had a million questions, whilst the boys didn’t even pause. ‘Can we play football this afternoon if we behave?’ (If anyone from school is reading this, I promise this only happened very rarely).

It was an afternoon after school, in which my team and I sat marking many books and laughing about the day, or probably panicking about the amount of work we had to do or cleaning up paper mache, which seemed such a fantastic idea when we were planning, but not so much now the cleaners had shouted at us. Some one (I can’t remember who) came to me and exclaimed that Matt had rung the school directly. That’s strange. As I scuttled to office It didn’t even click what could be happening. When I rung Matt back, he told me that he had no idea what was happening but Henry (my brother) needed me. Some deep part of my stomach was beginning to twist as this didn’t feel right at all. I hurried back to the privacy of my own classroom and rung Henry. There was no beating around the bush – that wouldn’t have changed anything.

‘So, it’s Cancer.’

Stop. Deep breath. Stop. A moment like a flash grenade. What a word. No maybes, no what ifs, no arguing about what it means. I remember having that cold feeling behind my eyes like I needed to cry, but nothing was coming out. I remember glancing up at the clock, but I have no idea why. Maybe I was trying to work out when I could leave work, figuring out how long it would take me to the hospital, but it seems somewhat symbolic now, that I would look at the clock because Time became the biggest question.

“It’s Ok, we can deal with this.” On reflection I could not have said anything better, it was one of my finer moments. “Where are you? shall I come to the hospital?”

“I think that’s best.” The conversation was short and to the point because, let’s face it, a conversation and analysing the situation was not going to change anything.

I did not even take a single moment for the news to digest the news. The next hour flew by in reaction to the blow. It’s a fleeting blur of ringing Matt, him telling me I’m was not fit to drive, gathering my belongings and sitting waiting in the school office. All these people were going about there business, photocopying and chatting and I was sat, trying to stay unnoticed, getting my head around the word – Cancer. Whatever kind it was, however long she had it , there was one inevitable ending. Numerous people asked, “Are you Okay?” I responded positively each time with a smile that I know did not quite reach the eyes. I couldn’t tell people, how did you say that to people? All I kept thinking was, It will make others feel uncomfortable and I didn’t want others feeling as crappy as me.

Eventually, I was picked up by a sobbing Matthew. I did not want to talk or cry, or actually do anything. Personally, I didn’t know why I wasn’t crying, crying seems to be an outlet of emotions and emotions were feelings – I wasn’t feeling anything. I was going through the movements, knowing what I should do, but not actually reacting in a socially correct way. Cancer, however,  has made me realise that there is never a correct way to behave; every individual reacts in their own way. I can only explain my reaction as,  when you put your toe under boiling hot water and it numbs you for a few seconds and then when you realise what it happening you want to scream in pain.

That bloody blue curtain was up was up when we arrived at the hospital. I will never forget that blue curtain. After driving in complete silence to the hospital, then scurrying to find Mum’s room, I turned the corner and didn’t see Mum; I saw that secret, grieving, blue curtain. I still wasn’t going to be phased. Mum needed someone to be strong because even though I lived in a male heavy family, the boys had soft centers.

Peeling it back, I felt like I had popped a bubble and slid into a world where it was just us and my first glance was at Mum and she was smiling. She looked so helpless in that bed and hospital gown. Mum belonged in her flamboyant cardigans and woolly gloves or her Christmas onesy (that she wore all year round).  I gave her a huge cuddle,dodging out of the way of wires and drips and doing my best to ignore them. I greeted her in the same way – with a over enthusiastic grin. I stupidly asked her if she was OK? She responded by exclaiming that of course she was and do not stress the baby out. She was so selfless. I have no idea how I remained so calm, but I sensibly told mum, whilst squeezing her hand,

‘Cancer is not a death sentence any more. We can get through this.’ (I may add at this point that we had no idea the type of cancer, but just knew it was spattered inside her body).

I had zoned Dad and Henry out until this moment, they were a fuzzy blur in the background. I have thought again and again and have rewritten this part numerous times times to try and describe the image of my brother and Dad sitting there and, quite simply, words are not enough. Just imagine the happiest image you can muster, full of colour and life – and Dad and Henry were the complete opposite of this. This is what bought me crashing down, even now that memory makes me feel physically sick. I can’t describe that anymore because it hurts too much.

It was in the evening, after we had spent a few hours at the hospital, drinking mindless cups of coffee and sitting together with snippets of conversation and moments of thoughtful silence, that my strong, reasonable exterior exploded. The calm waters that I had been portraying all day turned into a tidal wave of emotions. We had gone straight to bed and as I lay there this wave of nauseating, emotional pain washed over me. It was the type of crying where you can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t control it and cried so many tears I had a headache. I cried so much that I even felt the baby tensing. Matt told repeatedly me calm down, we didn’t want to hut him, but I just couldn’t stop. Mum always told me that everything would be okay, but I was not going to wake up in the morning and this nightmare had ended – It was actually happening. Whilst I wept into my pillow I realised that, even though it was not diagnosed terminal, my mum may not be at my wedding, or may not see my baby and, no offence to anyone else, who else does a daughter want around at these pivotal points in life?

 

 

 

 

 

My (not so) sleeping beauty.

What do you do when you are exhausted all the time? When day and night merge into one? When you feel like you could die of tiredness? (dramatic , I know). No one can prepare you for having a baby. This is my response when everyone asks how I have found it – No one can prepare you. Everyone told me it would get easier when my baby started sleeping through, but he just didn’t. Well, he did for a week and I thought I had cracked parenting, then he started waking up again every two hours. I had a glorious week where I felt human again! !In a 3am googling session I turned to my husband I told him that apparently this is the infamous 4 month sleep regression. No one told me about this. It was clearly another parenting secret that is kept hidden and must not be spoken about to expectant mothers. Everyone asked, “How old?….ah 4 months,” and gave a sympathetic nod.

Now he is 8 months old and people are telling me that he must be having the 8 month sleep regression! WHAT!? NO!? He has not recovered from the 4 month sleep regression! Oh, this one is caused by separation anxiety? Well that solves my problem completely; I need to be with him at all times, obviously. And, at this landmark in growing up I had to bring my baby back into bed with us. This was a huge regression because we had unintentionally used this method at birth. He knew what he was doing as well, the moment I gave up and turned back in the direction of our bedroom, he actually smiled. Honestly, I do not care what causes it, just make him bloody sleep… please.

I was not concerned about asking for help with this sleep issue. Here are a few methods I was told about – genuine methods from my health visitor.

  1. Give baby a dummy- He had never had a dummy. I had not deliberately decided this, I just never bought one and by the time he reached 4 months old I felt like I could not give in. I was never against them, actually one tired night I tired to put one in his mouth numerous times and he looked at me like I was crazy. It was one of those cherry topped ones that made him choke, so I did not want to do that again.
  2. Co – sleep – Like I said previously, we unintentionally co – slept to start with. Any one who breast fed knows how hard it is and the journey out of bed in the middle of the night is too much to handle. It seems, having baby cuddles in bed all the time can affect me and Hubby’s ‘cuddles.’ (To put it politely).
  3. Give baby more protein to fill him up – I spent a week trying to give my baby more fish, cheese, yogurts and boiling eggs. (Yes, this is protein, I googled it after a strong discussion with Hubby). I felt, irrelevant of the HV’s advice, that this was a load of trollop. Sorry if this works for people but my LO was rammed with protein, but was still screaming at 1, 3 and 5am.
  4. Get him in a routine- I have had a routine since he was 4 weeks old! I am fairly obsessive with this routine and every night we bath, read, cuddle, bed. This was clearly not the issue either.

As I was, seemingly, trying out all the correct methods I turned to other Mothers for support. Many just tutted or laughed and told me I will never sleep again and babies will be babies. Others went, “Mine too,” – yes, very supportive, but useful? No. I spoke to many Mummy’s and the general consensus was that I do not let my baby self sooth, I always cuddled him to sleep or let Him fall asleep on the bottle. Now, for all you super experienced Mums out there, you are probably laughing because It is so blummin’ obvious. Indeed, I was cuddling him to sleep and then putting him down, but not letting my hand off his back, then immediately picking him up again the moment he squeaked. So go on, just laugh away, but I enjoyed a snuggle.  I was, and I am not afraid to admit it, doing it all wrong. Self soothing just seemed an impossible task for my little bundle. I watched him stand up in the cot and push his chubby little hands through the bars and scream blue murder. I just couldn’t see it working.

So – Controlled crying. What awful parent would do it? Well I did. For the last 6 days. I researched before taking action, but one tired, teary morning I said, “Tonight, I am starting it tonight.”

Day 1 – I didn’t go through with it. I could not hear my baby cry like that! What he needed was a good snuggle.

Day 2 – This was it! The previous night ended up with three in the bed. So.. I let him cry. I sat outside his little room, monitor in hand and listened to my bundle scream. I’m not going to lie.. I sobbed. I set a 10 minute timer, but that seemed to drag and drag, but after 9 and a half painful, torturous minutes… he slept! He literally just dropped and slept! IMG_4202But how long for, I hear you ask? The whole night, 12 full hours. 12 blissful hours. This was obviously a fluke.. Or as my husband pointed our, maybe he doesn’t want to cry because he thinks I do not love him! It was just in jest, but I got the right hump, I can tell you.

Day 3 – I repeated the same routine. It took 5 minutes of screaming – asleep. Seriously? After all these months it was this easy? For 8 months I had been waking up every 2 hours and this was it?

Day 4 – A minute and a half! He woke at 4 and I caved slightly and gave him a secret cuddle – shhh!

Day 5 – I was getting a bit confident now, but I spoke too soon. Clearly my secret cuddle was my downfall; He screamed for 10 full minutes. It was horrible and I felt like the worst human being, the worst mother. I went in and soothed him, but no luck. Another  10 minuted dragged by and this is hard to admit… he was sick 🙁 We changed pajamas, sheets, even nappy and gushed with love and cuddles. This is why I did not want to let him cry, but I reluctantly put him down again and left. Silence. I watched him sit silently on the monitor. 20 minutes passed (no screaming, just silence). I sneaked in to his room and he was asleep – sitting up. This made me feel all kinds of sad; he was sat waiting for me to come back and he fell asleep. I gently tipped him over and he slept for a full night.

Day 6 – Shaken from the previous evening I, begrudgingly, left him , but only for 5 minutes. In fact, he did go off to sleep. At 4am he woke again. This was one of those moments where I questioned my parenting. What would happen if I just left him? Is he hungry? Please do not let him be sick again! Before I had time to process anything he was asleep! WOW! He doesn’t need me (sob).

Now, I know every baby is individual, but, with a few hiccups (literally) this controlled crying business seems to be working. (In fact he went down tonight without a sound). This may not work for all babies, but I hope this is a little bit informative and is a real mummy’s experience of controlled crying. I thought It was the worst thing a parent could do and I could not believe that people would do it, but… I’m now a believer in this crazy method! Yes, It is painful, however,  I have found that a little crying does not harm him and He still smiles at us first thing every morning 🙂 I would recommend this method, but persistence is key. To be honest he might regress again, there might be another secret landmark in his maturing that has not become apparent yet. I know, it has only been a week, ( I can hear people saying that) but so far.. so good. There will be a new blog if it changes…

Please share your sleep deprived stories or methods you have used to give other Mummy’s hope.

 

 

February rolled into March… Mother’s Day 2015

Once everybody knew about the baby it was much easier to accept it ourselves. It still felt so alien to talk about, ‘our baby,’ for a while because we still felt too young! I was starting to get that tingle of excitement, but then I was terrified too; that I was going to miscarry, what if I didn’t know I had miscarried? Is that twinge normal? Great, who knew the worrying was going to start this early. Let the googling begin…

This is where it gets tricky to write – to bring up moments that even a short time after, have been buried.

February ran smoothly and life settled into its mechanic way and it seemed I just had to keep the cogs turning for the next 9 months. At this point Dad was starting to question Mum’s pains and had been to see the doctor numerous times with no outcome. They still would not diagnose her with any thing, even though she struggled to walk and was losing weight rapidly. God, I feel awful; I should have been more sympathetic at this time, I should have done more, I should have been cooking her good dinners and making coffee, but it is so easy to say when we didn’t know.

Looking back, the whole year rolls into one in my memory, therefore, some details are fuzzy, but I remember one day, it must have been in the mum with wineFebruary half term and Dad was at work, I popped into see Mum and the only way I can to describe it, is that she was , ‘writhing,’ in agony. My strong, unshakable mum; the lady who ran marathons and given birth without pain relief does not react like this to a typical case of back pain. The giveaway – she was crying. That was enough for me. I rang Dad, hysterical, who immediately told me to ring an ambulance. Mum wouldn’t have any of it and just kept shaking her head. Before I knew it she was hobbling along claiming, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ Why didn’t I push it? Because you didn’t argue with Mum, you just wouldn’t win. That day sticks with me because it kills me everyday that I did not ring a bloody ambulance, I did not follow my gut.

Mother’s day, I rung Dad. Mother’s day, a day that will always be embedded into my memory. ( She hated it being called that, “It’s Mothering Sunday, Mary.”) A day where you remember what a fantastic job your Mum has done and acknowledge her relentless love and trust me, I could not forget that now. No answer. I rung again. And again. And again. I knew, I knew something was wrong. Eventually he answered – No words – just crying. Mum had collapsed and the ambulance had come to fetch her. I need to add at this point that Mum had been so ill in the previous weeks that a home doctor had been called and, (this makes my blood boil), Mum had fallen in front of him and he had said- wait for it, ‘ What do you want me to do?’ And what did he do? NOTHING. I physically can not put into words how angry that makes me. Even now Dad will not even talk or listen to that Doctor’s name – I could not repeat the expletives that come out of his mouth when he is mentioned, which is completely understandable.

Even at this point I still did not understand the seriousness of the situation. Myself and Matt (fiance) had rushed to the hospital with my gift in hand – a Yankee candle. I thought that it might cheer her up at the hospital. What a idiot I was. The candle would not cheer her up, she actually did not want to see me. It makes my heart crumple, but I did not leave, I sat outside her curtain until she was ready. Eventually a nurse came over, ‘She asked if you were still here?’

On reflection, I understood. She did not want her pregnant daughter to see her like she was, she didn’t want ANYONE to see her like she was. Its so difficult to see your mum being quickly linked up to tubes and bags with doctors and nurses questioning her, but not giving any answers. It was even harder when they left, I wanted to to ask what the answer was! What is wrong? Let’s fix it so we can just go home and celebrate Mothers day, let her eat her chocolate. Let’s go back to Dad, who was waiting at home on his own. They knew though, looking back, they knew there was big problem – I could see the way they talked too gently to Mum, the way they asked the right questions, hooked her up to the correct drips so fluidly and looked so caring. So much better than THAT bloody doctor.

The rest of the day was so chaotic; Mum was rushed to the EAU and stabilized and the pain made bearable. There was a was mention of a calcium deficiency and the fact she was severely dehydrated and I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s all? Thank God!’ I was so frustrated with my Mum at the time – She did not want to answer any questions with a straight answer and danced around the facts. Now I realise, she was sacred (That is bloody hard to write now, I want to go back to that moment and hold her hand, cuddle her and tell her that we will all be here, she doesn’t have to be the strong one right now).

Before long, Mum was telling the fantastic nurses about my bump – so proud. Back to telling jokes and laughing about her bottom being on show in the gown. She was back to bossing me around and telling me to ring mum and meDad and check he was okay (!), asking him to bring in all her washing bits and makeup, then moaning because he wouldn’t know what the, ‘pink soap and glory bag’ was.  It was then I could go home, knowing Dad was on the way, knowing she was going to have an X-ray and finally the cause of this back pain would be found and cured.

Oh, and the news that got lost in all of this? I had found out I was having a boy that week. I knew it was a boy though, I felt it! But really? Who cared? What did that matter among all of this stress? My little boy did not even come into my mind that week and I did not even process the wonderful news that I had a healthy little boy in my tummy.

This has been really tough to reflect on and write about, so I finish with a happy memory-The day of the 20 week scan was emotional,(especialy for Matt, the soppy git) but I couldn’t fully enjoy it because I had taken the advice, ‘ Drink 2 pints of water,’ before the scan too literally and, had rushed home from school, downed the water, and waited for what felt like forever in the waiting room. I keep telling Matt that if I had to wait one more minute I was going to wet myself, but I was told not to be so dramatic! In fact I couldn’t wait – I went to the toilet and tried to let half out! What a stupid idea – I opened a flood gate and just made it worse. Who goes for half a wee? I hobbled to the scan squeezing my legs together praying that the baby was in a position whereby she did not press too hard. Good – It’s a boy – let me go and finish my wee please!

 

January 2015 – How do you tell people you are pregnant?

I knew I was pregnant before I even took the test. I had, actually, already been told at the hospital, at a routine appointment, I just felt taking a pregnancy test was every women’s right and I was going to take one regardless. I wanted to have the experience of buying the test, weeing on a stick and waiting that tense two minutes! It was not that tense, though, I knew I was 13 and a half weeks pregnant. It did make sense- My best friend had exclaimed on my bulging ,’food baby,’ that week and I had just put down to too many bread rolls at the harvester.

I just could not quite believe it, or understand how it had happened – I was on the pill for goodness sake! It is very unlikely to get pregnant using contraception, that is what they told me in school, at the doctors, what my mum told me, so please tell me why I was looking at a positive pregnancy test! I just needed to see those little blue lines for myself. That, however, was still not good enough; whilst on a school trip I sent my deputy head to go and get me a fancy electronic one – yep – that said I was pregnant too! It even said pregnant on it, I couldn’t argue with that.

Now, I know I was not 15 anymore, but my initial thought was- How am I going to tell people? How will I tell my mum? My (4) brothers? How will people respond? My house had not been cleared, I wanted to be married first, (but life is not a fairytale). I know I should not say it, and ,on reflection, the thought makes me feel sick, but I was not exactly happy, in fact, I cried. My fiancé and I  had had an awful conversation the previous evening about, ‘ What are we going to do?’ – What an awful question, how could we ask that? How could we even consider other options? Were we ready to be parents? How would we cope? We were still in deliberation the following morning, but when I saw those little lines; that proof, the realisation hit me – I had a child inside me! It was that moment, not the day before at the hospital, not when we had come home in silence – it was then- of course I’m having this baby – It’s mine.

My deputy (7 months pregnant at the time)was one of the first people I told and I didn’t do it in the most subtle fashion; I ran in waving this stick at her, at 8:00am,  wailing, ‘It says I’m pregnant. What do I do? How do I look after a child?’  Sat there, with her bump beaming at me, made me feel so selfish. She wanted her baby, and I hadn’t planned mine at all. Also, looking back, had I filled her head with doubts and worry? Had I openly questioned how she was feeling deep down? If I did, she covered it well and was like a calming goddess telling me I would be a wonderful mother and I was made for this, even if it was earlier than planned.

Unknowingly, this was fate and if I had not fallen pregnant I do not know how I would have kept going that year. He was a little light in my belly and he was going shine light on a very dark time to come.

I had to tell Mum. She was already on a mass of pain killers because the doctors had said there was something wrong with her bones or it may possibly be sciatica.  She was in a lot of pain but, she was fine, the doctors said that nothing had shown up on her X-ray and had given her a box of tablets. I knew she would be at home in her pajamas, waiting for the painkillers to kick in. so I rang.

‘Mum, I have something to tell you.’

‘ You best not be telling me your pregnant.’

‘No,’ pause ‘I’lol speak to you later.’ Hung up. Ah. I’ll try again.

‘Mum, I have something to tell you.’

‘Oh no, Mary.’ She had quickly deciphered what the news was.

‘Oh yes.’ Here came the rant…

‘We just bought your wedding dress.’ Honestly! That was her concern, What a relief! It turned out that many people had the same reaction – which I hadn’t even contemplated! How on earth was I going to fit in it? No eating for me after the baby, I suppose. ( I did eat, our first stop on the way back from the hospital was Mcdonalds).

‘Oh yes, but Mum, I will fit in it I promise. And everything will be fine.’ (I did fit into it, with a bit/ a lot of sucking in).

‘Of course it will be, I will tell Grandad (Dad) at the break.’ She would not dare interrupt Midsummer Murders.

Next- my brothers. This was tricky. One was in Australia and before he went he had told me not get pregnant before I was financially secure and the other, (a few weeks previously whilst drinking wine – ooops) told me to enjoy married life for a few years before bringing children into the world. I sent a generic Facebook message – honestly – how awful of me.

Hello. Just so you know, I am 13 weeks pregnant and you will be an uncle.

It has been snowing here. Hope you are well.

The response was very positive actually, except one, ‘ Your child will be a bastard then.’ Lovely.

Once I had told them the rest was easy and, actually, I was very excited to share! Hubby’s parents were over the moon – as you can imagine with an Italian Grandma! At one point she text saying, ‘ you must come round and tell your sister, I can not hold it in any longer.’ At the time I was livid and, actually, very unreasonable. ‘Tell her: I will tell people when I want. It is not her baby.’ I just could not see that they were so excited, maybe because I still had not reached that point.

Once I told my Head at work I felt like it was real. She had looked horrified and told me that when I was her age I would have 20 year old which, even now, I can not get my head around. My little boy will never be 20 – he is too small.

So January ended, everyone knew. It was probably the least eventful month of the year and even though mum was poorly, but she was on the mend- nothing could bring mum down.  She was losing weight but Dad was filling her up with Complan, so we had a lot to look forward to…

Feel free to share your stories of how you told people you were pregnant – It is a daunting task. I would love to read them.

 

January 2015 (Part 1) – New year, New life

I have thought and thought about how to get this story out of my head. It has whirled around and around for the last year and I feel this blog will allow me to relive some hard memories, some happy memories and some heartbreaking ones. In this blog I do not want to solely discuss my past year , but I want to get it ‘out there’ first, as I do not even pretend to be over it yet. Sometimes the crowds of people, even those who know me best assume I am , or want me to be, ‘OK ‘ but in truth, I am not always, ‘OK’. I have my bumpy days and then I have my truly mountainous days where I want to throw a saucepan and say, ‘ Why do you not understand?’

To start with, I will begin with the end, so if people choose to read on they can do so, without the premise of a completely happy ending. Of course, I have beautiful little boy, so do not expect all dreariness (as he brings me light and laughter everyday). In fact, there has been funny and wonderful moments intertwined within a rollercoster of a year.

My mum died of cancer. I had a baby. I got married. I moved house. All within one year. I want to empathise with ALL the people around the world who have lost someone to cancer; no one can imagine the turmoil it can cause, the finality of it, the way in which you think you are prepared for the grief but then it hits you, right in the chest – no – throughout your whole body and the denial whilst that brave person was still alive, ‘they are here today, so surely they can last another day.’

I cannot explain or begin to describe my feelings this past year, but I would like to talk though the diagnosis and the pregnancy that ran parallel to each other. I want to share it all with anyone that wants to read, to tell you that if you have experienced pregnancy and birth, WELL DONE. If you have experience and grieved cancer, WELL DONE, and if, like me, you have done both within a very close proximity of each other, it does get easier and it is okay if it still hurts every day. I look at my beautiful little boy and hope to heaven that he has Mum inside him. My brother calls him, ‘ the special baby,’ which is wonderful, however,  I hope, on a serious note, it doesn’t stick because he might go to school with an inflated ego.

So….

Picture the scene, July 2014, Florence, Italy, My boyfriend had asked me to marry him. I was in a blissful bubble whereby I had just passed my NQT year, had an offer accepted on a house, and now I had only gone and got engaged. What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward 6 months- In a not so glamorous toilet at work, in a school, the morning of a very carefully organised school trip, wondering where I am going to hide this positive, life changing pregnancy test from the cleaner.