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A journey of self discovery

It’s Friday night.  Dee has gone to bed.  Joanna Lumley is on television showing us all her wonderful Greek Odyssey.  I love the soothing melody of her voice.  I love her emotion and her delight at every point of her journey.  Although, I’m not really paying attention.  I’m doing my usual.  I’m seeking.  I’m looking for the purpose of my life.

I have hit my midlife crisis head on, it seems.  At 44, I find myself uneducated (not to be mistaken for uninformed or unread); unemployed and a premature grandmother.  To be fair, for the past 20 years I have found myself in the exact same situation (except the grandmother part – that’s new).  I appear to be on a perpetual search for my truth, my authenticity, my purpose.

At times, it feels like I am the personification of a pinball, bouncing from one supposed purpose to another.  It’s incredibly wearing, I can tell you.  Right now, I have a headache.  Especially when I think that when I die, I may not have felt any great sense of personal satisfaction, or purpose.  Sad, I know.

I am self absorbed.  I wonder if there are others like me.  So totally absorbed in discovering my particular purpose, that they forget to actually live.  There are days when I think I have given up on life.  Today is one of those days.  I have been so absorbed in my search that I have done little else than scour the internet for something, anything that will spark my soul.  Reiki? Cyrstal Healing? Personal historian?  Photography?  Childcare?  How on earth am I meant to know?  Where is that eureka moment I feel absolutely sure I am meant to feel.  Is it a delusion?

Dee is an accountant.  He has always wanted to be an accountant.  From the age of 13.  Who chooses accountancy as a life path at the age of 13?  I wanted to be an actress when I was a child.  I met a girl who desperately wanted to be an actress and I took on her ambition.  I loved the IDEA of acting, but had neither the confidence nor ambition for it.  That is why I like writing.  It is slothful in that the only body part you move are your fingers and wrists.  It is also largely anonymous.  Anonymity is good.  Except I want the accolade J.K.Rowling has enjoyed.  One day perhaps.  If a story comes to me in a flash on a train ride like hers did, apparently.  Did you know that?  Harry Potter and all his adventures were apparently just downloaded to her fully formed.  How bloody unfair.  Why can’t I have a flashing download of a similar sort.  Well, not similar.  Harry Potter and vampires have been done to death.  So has science fiction in all its various guises.  What is left, I wonder.

Through my searching, I have realised that I perhaps have delusions of grandeur.  Read that to mean one huge ego!  I want to be a writer.  A well known writer.  I mean the kind that makes billions of dollars from Warner brothers buying the rights to my stories and me being sly enough to get a massive percentage of the merchandise.  Except, and I have lamented this before, I am afraid to write.  Well, I am afraid to put anything other than musings down on paper in case I am rejected, in case I am never taken seriously as a writer.  I am a big scaredy cat!

I look at all the writing websites – who knew there were so many wannabe writers – and am petrified by the  quality and quantity out there.  Of course, we are all the same, those wannabe writers and me.  We are all huddled together in our little part of cyberspace, blogging away, making ourselves feel better as our fingers clack across the keyboards, allowing ourselves to believe we are the real article.  Except when people ask, we can’t say “I’m a writer”.  That makes us too vulnerable.  Instead we say “Oh, I’m an English teacher” or “I’m a web designer” or, in my case, “I’m a stay at home mom because my child has autism.”

It’s an excuse.  I know it.  Probably everyone knows it.  It’s an excuse to hide away and pretend that life has held me back.  It hasn’t really.  I have held myself back.  I have allowed my need to make an income and the fear of not making it doing what I love to stop me doing exactly what I love.  That, and I apparently lost my ability focus 15 minutes after I fell pregnant.  In stead, I travelled from one horrible job to the next, one training course to the next, hoping and praying that there was going to be some better way to make money, one that will say, “Yes, I am the career for you – the one that will let you stay at home with your autistic child, give you financial independence, mental stimulation and make the you the adoration of masses of people.”  Strangely, it never happened.

So, what do I do?  Do I lower my sights?  Maybe a bit of income from home without the adoration of masses of people?  Yes, I can forgo adoration.  Admittedly, it will be hard.  I desperately want adoration.  It’s a hard thing to admit, but I have to come clean if I am going to move forward, yes?  So, first step, forget the adoration.  Second, how can I make money writing.  I’m hearing someone saying “stand in line”.  Okay, I need a new perspective.  What about I just write and forget the money.  I don’t have any now anyway, so I wouldn’t really be missing anything, would I?

Hang on, now I’m forgoing adoration and money.  Is that fair?  That’s not what every self-help book and guru has told me.  They categorically said that if I followed my passion, money and adoration would follow.  Well, they did say the passion had to be selfless and for the good of mankind too.  Egotistical adoration and a big bank account isn’t really humanitarian, is it?  It could be though if I set up a philanthropic organisation with my massive bank account, made possible by my adoring fans.

Okay, it’s not working.  I had better start writing.  I’m off to bed and I had better get a download of some kind.  That’s all I’m saying.  Okay, I may still have some work to do on the selfless thing.  It’s hard, you know.

Categories
Autism

The things we do for vanity

After a slow start to the morning, Dee’s dad calls to see if I would like to meet them for coffee.  It is growing into a nice day outside, so I figure why not.  JC said he doesn’t want to go.  Of course not.

I get showered and dressed, desperately trying to ignore the growing dust on my bedroom furniture.  I really must get stuck into doing some housecleaning, but seriously, my body just ignores my mind when I tell it to reach for the vacuum cleaner and duster.  It must be an affliction of some kind, probably fatal (for the house).  I make a mental note to look up the cost of the cleaner and suppress the screaming voice that is shouting “LAZY WOMAN!” to the back of my mind.

The shopping centre is not as crowded as I imagined it would be, given that it is school holidays.  I make my way to the coffee shop where we always meet, order three coffees and pumpkin soup for me.  I have not had breakfast and realise I am hungry.  I sit down at a table and wait for Dee’s folks.  I love this little coffee shop.  In the year that I have been coming here, I have always loved its atmosphere.  It isn’t a great place, but for some reason I do love it.

Dee’s folks arrive.  They are jovial as usual.  “We bought you a leg joint, love.  We’ll drop it off on the way home, okay?”  They are always buying us meat that they find on special.  Dee’s dad loves meat and particularly when it is on special.

“Thank you, that is really very good of you.  Please let me know how much I owe you.”  He waves his hand as if to say we’ll talk about it later.  I must remember to let Dee know to give his dad $20 or so.

We chat whilst we drink and eat up.  Dee’s mum decides on pumpkin soup as well.  Dee’s dad just has coffee.  I like to catch up with them and Dee’s dad is looking so much better after his operation.  I comment on it and he seems pleased with how things have gone.

After a while, we get up and kiss goodbye.  A momentary interlude in our day.  “Are you off home then, love?”  I think of that layer of dust waiting for me.

“No, I think I’ll just have a wonder.  It’s been a while since I was able to wonder around the shops on my own.”

“Okay, we’ll just let ourselves in and put the meat in the fridge, okay?”  We each have a key to each other’s home.  I nod.

As they walk towards the car park, I make my way into the centre.  I wander around the big department store for a while, looking at the toy sale thinking I should be putting stuff aside for Baby C’s christmas presents.  Christmas presents in July!

My hands feel grimy and I suddenly have a brain wave.  I’m going to have a manicure and get that new shellac nail polish that Tee was telling me about.  I walk into the nail bar.  All nail bars that I have been into in Australia are owned by Asians and all the staff are Asian, and their english is very limited.  Normally, this is not a problem.  You just ask for what you want in one word – acrylics, refill, shellac – you get the idea, they wave you to whatever seat they want you at, work on your nails, you pay and you go.

This time, however, I needed more information.  “Do you do Shellac?” I ask.

She nods.

“How much?” I ask.

“Thirty dollaaar”

“Is that including a manicure?” I ask.

She shakes her head.  “Manicure $20 dollaaar.”

“How much for both?”

“Fifty five dollaaar.”

A quick calculation tells me that she has overcharged me by $5.

I decide to just go with the shellac.  She waves me to sit down, grabs my hand rather unceremoniously and starts to “shape” my nails.  I have very short nails.  I no longer bite them but for the life of me I cannot grow them.  I have fine, balding hair and I guess my nails are similar.  They just don’t grow.  Shaping them was always going to be a challenge, but the speed and lack of attention to actually trying to shape them left me feeling a bit ripped off.  Perhaps I should have gone for the manicure instead.

“Actually, I think I will have the manicure as well.”

She looks up at me.  “You want manicure?”

“Yes.” I say.

“Okay, fifty five dollaaar.”

I shake my head.  “It’s fifty dollars,” I say.

She shakes her head.  “Shellac velly expensive.  Fifty five dollaaar.”

I breathe and prepare to explain.  “Manicure is twenty dollars, right?”  She nods.  “Shellac is thirty dollars, right?”  She nods.  “So twenty and thirty is fifty dollars, right?”  She thinks for a bit.  The penny drops and she laughs.  I laugh too.

“Fifty dollaaar,” she says.

She grabs my hand, plops it in some water and proceeds to lightly, very lightly, well, decidedly half-heartedly really, push my cuticles back.  She does the same with my other hand.  She then starts to remove my cuticles with the cuticle scissor thing that is used for that purpose.  I notice a drop of blood oozing from my left little finger.  I am beginning to wonder if she knows what she is doing and if I have any legal rights in this situation.

That was the sum total of my manicure.  Literally two minutes.  I am then motioned to the next seat where the shellac is applied to my nails.  First a coat of clear stuff is applied.  I am told to put my hand under a UV light whilst she does my other hand.  The UV light beeps and goes out.  “Take hand away! Take hand away!” she screams at me.  I immediately jerk my hand out of the UV light machine in case my hand is about to spontaneously combust.  The same thing happens with the other hand.  “Take hand away!” she screams.

“Is it safe?” I ask.

“Velly safe,” she laughs.

The colour is applied.  I have chosen an extremely pale pink because my nails are so short.  “Velly pale,” she says with a distinct tone of distaste.

“My nails are very short,” I feel compelled to explain.  “When they grow, I will have a brighter colour,” I promise.

The final coat of clear shiny shellac is put onto my nails and as it is hardening under the UV machine and I am praying that it isn’t going to cause me to get skin cancer, another nail technician walks over.  She starts talking to my nail technician (and I use that term loosely).  Actually, she starts shouting.  Before long they are shouting at each other in what I think is vietnamese.  Of course, I have no idea what they are talking about, but when the standing nail technician grabs my hand, swings it about like the rest of my body wasn’t attached to it, I realise that they are arguing about my nail job.

This goes on for a couple of minutes – my hand being swung around, them shouting at each other.  I decide that now is an opportune moment to mention that I wasn’t best pleased with my so called manicure either.  I mean, I didn’t even get the hand massage, which is the best bit.  I know my nails are short, but that doesn’t matter, I want my hand massage.

The standing technician shouts more at the sitting technician and the word “massage” is mentioned.  I feel guilty, but also self righteous because after all, I’m paying $50.  Suddenly, the standing nail technician swipes her hand over my thumb nail and the shellac which is meant to be rock hard and last for three weeks, comes off.  Clearly, the procedure hasn’t worked.  By now, I am really concerned about the safety and quality of this procedure.  My nail technician is shaking the bottle of nail polish I chose at the standing technician and I am getting the distinct feeling she is blaming my colour choice.

I pull my hand away.  “I think I’ll just have the manicure and forget the shellac,” I say.

“You just want manicure?” the standing technician says.

“Yes, I say.  Just the manicure.  I’ll come back for the shellac.”  Just in case they won’t let me leave.

She nods.  “I’d like you to do it,” I say, convinced my technician is obviously a student and has no idea what she is doing.

My technician stands up, shouts some more and proceeds to another woman waiting to have her acrylic nails filled.  Poor woman, I think to myself.

The new technician takes my hand gently and soaks my hand.  She shapes them, somewhat better than the first, then redoes the cuticles, thankfully without drawing blood.

“Is she new?” I ask, feeling guilty at the furor, trying to make conversation.

“No, she do nails four years now.”

I say nothing, but am dumbfounded.  How on earth can that be possible?

“You want shellac?” my new technician asks.

I shake my head vehemently.  I am not risking that UV machine again.  I smile sweetly.  She applies clear nail varnish.  When they dry, I pay my $20 and go.

Of course, I feel like I should have been given my non-manicure for free, especially as my nails look like I did them at home.  In fact, I think I probably could do a better job.  The only positive thing was that I got to wash my hands, which meant they didn’t feel grimy any more.  And therein lies the lesson. When your hands feel grimy, go to the bathroom, wash your hands, then go home and do your own nails.

Categories
Autism

One life ends and another begins

I wake up and I immediately feel sad.  I choose not to get up straight away.  Dee has gone on his weekly cycle and I am alone in bed.  The dogs are on my bed, so I assume that JC has risen and let them in.  I curl my body around them.  I need organic contact.  I try not to think what day it is, but I am unable to think of anything else.  Today is the 2nd anniversary of mom’s death and the grief inside of me is still so strong.

It has been building up inside of me for over a week now.  I have felt an inner sadness rising up from inside my belly, from the reaches of my soul and although I have tried to ignore it, I have not succeeded.

Last night I couldn’t drag myself to bed.  As if I could avoid waking up into the day that she left us, I refused to let sleep overcome me.  Of course, eventually it did and my sleep was fitful.  I looked at my clock.  8:45am.  I definitely am not ready to face the day.  Two years.  I should be better able to cope by now, surely.  But, having experienced a fair bit of grief, I know that there is no time limit.  Grief will do what grief wants and you just have to go through it.  I think of Baby C and I feel a tear trickle down my cheek.  The pain of my mom never meeting him and he not ever knowing mom is too much to bear.

I hear the door open.  It is Dee.  “Hi,” I say.  “How was your ride?”

“Bloody freezing, thanks.  I’m getting undressed and getting back into bed to warm up.”

As he does so, I roll over so he can snuggle up to me.  “Bloody hell, you are cold!”  I squeal.

“And you are so hot, baby.”  he says.  I am not in the mood for playing.  I don’t respond.  We lie in silence whilst his body warms up.  Eventually, he is sufficiently warm and announces he is going for a shower.  I tell him I am staying in bed.  “You stay there as long as you like, my love.”

He showers, gives JC breakfast and then heads out to do the shopping.  I know I have to get up, but I really don’t want to.  My phone buzzes.  It is Jay.  What are we doing today?   My sister had already sent out an email asking us to each get a balloon filled with helium, go somewhere special and release it into the atmosphere (representing it going to heaven) with a message attached.  The idea was that because none of us were near each other, in different countries, we would be connected in our remembrance of mom through this act.  It is a lovely idea, but as I lay there, I didn’t want to do it.  However, I had agreed to do it so was now committed.  Jay wanted to know when we were doing it.

I couldn’t think of anywhere special to go.  Australia was not mom’s home.  It was mine.  Not only that, by making Australia my home, I had broken mom’s heart.  I had robbed her of five years with me and her grandchildren.  Since I couldn’t think of anywhere to go, I decided that the four of us would walk to the bridge that went over the waterway near where we lived.  It was close, quiet, and seemed as good a place as any.

Dee and I collect Jay.  Em is at home.  They both look a bit tired.  Baby C is awake and immediately a heaviness strikes my heart once more.  Mom should be witnessing this.  A voice is in my head telling me that she knows, that she sees.  My intellect wonders if that is indeed true.  I pray that it is.  I cuddle him close to my chest and wonder if this is what mom felt when she held Jay.  I pray that I get more than 17 years with Baby C.

We make our way back home stopping at the party shop for the helium filled balloons.  I have decided on red.  It is mom’s favourite colour.  I have also decided to get five balloons – one for each of us including Baby C.  It only seems right.

I write my note.  Words are totally inadequate to describe how I feel. I attach the note to the balloon, photograph it and take more cards through to the others.  I knock on JC’s door.  “Don’t come in,” he shouts.

“JC, I need you to write a note to Gogo for us to release the balloons.”

“I’m not coming!”

“Oh JC, please!”  I beg.

“NO!”

“You bloody well are coming!” I yell.

“No I’m not!”

Dee comes over to me.  “Love, don’t make him come, you know how he gets with emotional stuff.”  At this point, I don’t care about autism and how it affects him.  All I know is that I want my family, my WHOLE family, the only family I have in Australia, with me.  I burst into tears.

“Is it too much to ask to just have my family around me at this time?  All I want is for him to walk with us, release his balloon and go.  Is that too damn much?”  I know he can’t help it, but my grief, rapidly rising up inside of me, is overtaking my rationality.

I hear Dee talk to JC.  JC doesn’t want to do it, but he agrees.  He doesn’t write a note, but I write one on his behalf.  JC jerks his bedroom door open.  “I’m leaving now, or not at all!”  He’s been backed into a corner and he has come out fighting.

“Don’t be ridiculous, JC, we need two minutes to get ready.

“I don’t care, I’m leaving!”

Dee and I are shouting after JC when Jay emerges from our other spare room having just fed Baby C.  I quickly as her to write a note to Gogo and also a note from Baby C.  As I am telling her this, and as JC makes it to the front door, I hear voices outside the front door.  Dammit, who is it now!  My anxiety levels are rising.  I just want to release the balloons, and settle down for the afternoon.  It is Dee’s parents.

“Hi, we thought we would pop in.  We’ve just been to the garden centre and thought we would show you this?”  Dee’s dad hands him a pamphlet on mulch.  We have been promising mulch for their garden for a long time.  I’m standing holding the balloons.  “What are you doing?” Dee’s dad asks.

“We are going to release them in the park.  It’s the anniversary of mom’s death today.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, love.  How many years?”

“Two.”

“Two already?  It doesn’t seem that long.”

“Your mum was such a lovely woman.” Dee’s mum says.

“Yes, she was,” I say.  I don’t know what to do about the balloons.

“Well, we better get on and let you do what you have to do,”  Dee’s dad says.

I suddenly feel guilty.  “Do you want to come.”

“Alright, thanks.”

We start our walk to the lake.  Dee’s dad pushes Baby C in the pram and Jay and I walk hand in had.  Dee has the two dogs in tow and JC walks a number of steps behind us with his earphones in his ears.  I am silent, deep in thought.

We make it to the lake.  As we approach the wooden bridge, a lady with a big black dog comes off the bridge.  “Oo,” she says, “someone’s having a party!”  I just smile.  Wishful thinking.

We all stand on the bridge.  I give everyone a balloon.  “Why weren’t we told about this,”  Dee’s dad says, “we loved your mum too, you know.”  This outburst takes me a bit by surprise.  It didn’t even occur to me to invite Dee’s folks and sister.  My grief over the loss of mom has always seemed to me be a solitude endeavour, Iseriously never thought of inviting someone to a memorial of my mom.  I look at Dee’s dad.  “Well, it was just a spur of the moment thing,” I lie, “I’ll make sure we do it next year with you.”  I don’t want him to feel excluded.  I immediately worry how Dee’s sister is going to take it when she finds out we were all there and she wasn’t.  I’ll have to phone and explain.

Dee’s dad offers to take photos.  We have all agreed to photograph the event and post it on facebook to share and feel connected.  Right now I feel quite disconnected.  Alone in my grief.

I start to speak. “Well, we are here to remember mom, Gogo.  Mom, we love you and miss you…”

“And now we let go of the balloons.” JC interjects.

“Well, can you at least say something about Gogo.”  I say.

“Goodbye.”  JC says.

“How about I love you, Gogo.” I say.

“Okay, let’s go with that,” he replies.

“Dee, what about you?”

“Elaine, you will be sorely missed.”

“Jay?” I say.

“I miss you Gogo.”

“And you?” I say to Dee’s dad.

His lip begins to quiver which shocks me.  “Eileen, we loved you and we will miss you.”  Eileen was not my mom’s name, but I know he meant Elaine.

“Are we talking about my mum?”  Dee’s mum pipes in (Eileen was, however, Dee’s grandmother’s name), “Mum, I miss you very much, but I know that you are now in a better place and now at peace.”  I smile.  Dee’s mum’s memory has been going for a number of years now.  I imagine mom smiling.

We let go of the balloons and as we do so, Dee’s dad snaps away.  JC immediately walks off the bridge towards home.  He has had enough sensory overload for one day.  I understand.

Balloons high up in the sky

Dee and his parents walk the other way pushing baby C.  Jay and I link arms and watch the balloons disappear into the clouds.  I imagine my mom’s soul flying like that on the day she died, finally free.

I look at Jay.  “I love you, Angel.”

“I love you Mum.”  We hug.

I look in the distance at Dee and his folks pushing Baby C.  Baby C, who is only 2 and a bit weeks old.  Jay and I reach them and we walk and talk, but not about mom.  Four generations walking around the park.  I do wish my mom could be here to celebrate Baby C with us, to push his pram around the park.  But she isn’t and I have to accept that.  I guess it is what one would call the circle of life and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.

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Uncategorized

The aftermath

While Jay and Em are holding Baby C, Jay comments that she is still in a fair amount of pain.  The midwife explains that this is because she still has to deliver the placenta.  I become aware that the midwife and the student midwife have both had a go at tugging the cord to help deliver the placenta but that the placenta is clearly not playing ball.  “Is the placenta taking its time,” I ask casually.

“It should certainly have been delivered by now, but sometimes it does take a while.”

Jay is not as responsive as I thought she would be considering the gift in her hands.  This worries me.  Is she overwhelmed by giving birth, by becoming a mother.  Should I be thinking of arranging counselling for her?

The placenta finally breaks free and is delivered.  We all cry for joy for some reason.  “I still want to push.” Jay says.

“That’s okay, that’s just your uterus starting the process of going back to it’s normal size.  If you want to push you can.”

Jay pushes and two large clots that resemble closely the look of a liver shoot out onto the bed, followed by a pool of fresh red blood.  Knowing how “Un-medical” Em is, Jay says, “I’m sorry you had to see that, Em.”  She is clearly weak.  Em immediately strokes her hair and tells her not to be silly.  The nurses and I tell her the same thing.  The nurses then scoop up as best they can what was on the bed, cover Jay over and tell her to relax.  She starts shivering so they bring her a couple more warm blankets.  Baby C is still on her chest.  They suggest that she try to breast feed him.  She does and it is like watching a duckling take to water.  He just opens his mouth and latches beautifully.  All I know is that I am witnessing an amazing gift.  I know that I am privileged to have been wanted here, to be able to share this moment.  Jay and I, our bond is set for life, as is mine and Baby C.  I saw him take his first breath, and now his first meal.  Honoured is just not good enough as a word.

I am still worried about Jay though.  She is still out of it and a bit unresponsive.  I was definitely expecting more emotion.  I guess everyone is different.

Suddenly, drawing my undivided attention from Jay, I become aware that there are way too many people in this room.  I glance around the room.  There is an IV, and various other medical equipment.  There are at least ten people in the room.  Jay is then asked to give Baby C to “Dad” as they need to put an IV into her.  Suddenly, I realise that something is wrong.  “Is there something wrong?” I ask, praying for “No” as the answer.

“Jay,” the midwife looks at me.  I feel like an axe is about to drop.  “Jay, has lost two litres of blood.  She has had a post partum hemorrhage and we desperately need to get fluid into her.”  I look at Jay who is clearly not with us completely.  There is doctor on each limb (feet included) desperately trying to get a vein into a body that usually reluctantly supplies one and now is definitely not giving one as it slowly shuts down.  I stroke Jay’s hair.  “Love, you have lost a lot of blood.  They need to get an IV into you and also take some blood.”

“Jay,” the midwife says, “keep taking the gas and air as we need to push hard on your stomach to push more blood out.”  Jay sucks on the gas and air.  They push hard on her a number of times and each time a small amount of blood is released.  She winces with each time.  Eventually the blood stops coming.  The vein is still elusive and now more doctors are trying in each arm and foot.  Eventually, a male doctor has found one in her foot.  And another doctor finds a precarious vein in her left arm.  It is enough, they feel, and fluid is pumped into her.  Jay’s lack of reaction to the pricking of her limbs tells me she is totally gone.  She has an intense phobia of needles.

“Mum. What’s happening?”  She hasn’t taken in what is going on.  I stroke her head and lean in close to her ear.  Calmly, I tell her what is happening.

“Jay?  I have to check to see if you have torn, okay?”  She nods.  I am dying as my 19 year old is put through yet more indignity.  “Jay?  I am afraid you have two tears and one is a third degree tear.  He was a big baby and delivered very quickly.  We will have to take you to theatre.  We are just going to get the theatre ready and then we will come and get you.”

And almost instantly, the room is quiet again.  Em is still holding Baby C in the corner and for the first time in an hour, I remember him.  “Em, are you okay?” I say.  He nods.  I don’t believe him.  I can only imagine how overwhelmed this must be for him.  I used to nurse.  I know the terminology, the way things work.  This must have looked like an episode of ER to him.  I stroke his arm.  “Baby C is happy,” I say.  Em nods.

“Mum, what is happening?” Jay asks.  I tell her that she is going to theatre, that they need to repair the two tears, that she will have to have an epidural as a general is too risky with the amount of blood she has lost.  I cannot believe I am having to tell her these things.  How much is one 19 year old meant to take.  Why can’t the universe just let her enjoy her baby?

A nurse comes in and tells Jay that she will need to express some milk as it is expected she will be in theatre for a couple of hours.  A couple of hours?  My heart is breaking.

They help her express the milk, and then they come for her from theatre.  Em walks up to me.  “Do you want to go with Jay to the theatre, Sarah?”  Every maternal fibre in every cell of my being is screaming, YES! YES! YES! I want to go and be with my daughter, to know that she will be okay and that if the loss of blood is going to take her that I am the last person she sees, that she knows how much I love her.  But I know that Jay wants Em.  Em is her rock now.  He is her family.  I look up at him.  “No, you go love.  It’s important she is with you.”  As they wheel her out with Em by her side, I am praying to every God I have ever read about.  “Please, please, please keep her safe.”

I look around the room.  I realise that Baby C has been left in the baby crib.  I look down at him.  Jay hasn’t even had time to enjoy him.  I pick him up.  Cuddle him.  Hold him close.  Hold her close.  I close my eyes as the tears roll down my cheeks.  Fear has gripped my very soul.  Please universe, tell me that Cameron’s path is not to experience life without a mother.

I wait a good while.  Then Em walks through the door.  Jay has been taken to theatre.  She was upset at having to have the epidural and we laugh at the irony of her wanting it so desperately only two hours before.  I place Baby C back in his crib.  He grumbles and as I am raising my arms to pick him up, Em has beat me to it.  “Come on, buddy,” he says.  I can’t help myself wondering if Em would let me be a part of Baby C’s life if anything happened to Jay.  I dismiss the thought almost as soon as it has appeared.  I do not want to tempt fate.

Another hour goes past.  The midwife comes in and says she wants to weigh him.  He weighs 3,710 kilos or 8lb 2oz.  He is a big baby.  They dress him in his proper clothes and he is wrapped up in the blankets that Jay and Em have bought for him.  He is now finally their child.  But Jay is not there to see it.

They give him the milk that Jay has expressed before finally, we are told that Jay has had the surgery and that all is well.  We are to meet her in the post natal ward.  The relief is enormous and I silently say a prayer of thanks to God and the universe.

We walk up to the ward with Baby C in his crib.  Jay arrives looking exhausted, but a lot more alert.  All she wants to do is hold Baby C.  THIS is the reaction I had expected, had hoped for, when baby C was born.  Em handed Baby C to Jay.  She could not feel her legs, so we helped her to get comfortable enough to hold him.  He is fast asleep.

I know the time has come for me to leave the new family to enjoy their time together.  I do not want to go.  I never want to let Jay out of my sight again.  But I know I must do this.  This is the lament of motherhood.  We have to  let go of the beings to which we have given life.  I kiss them all goodbye, hugging Jay just a little tighter than usual, though I doubt she will notice.  I kiss baby C and draw in that beautiful baby smell.  As I walk away, some 10 hours after arriving at the hospital, I glance back at the new family.  So young and so much to look forward to.

 

Jay finally getting to hold Baby C

It has been one helluva journey, this pregnancy, but what I have learned is a great deal.  Teenagers can make fantastic mothers given enough love and support and very little criticism, and young grandmothers are the best because they get to enjoy their grandchildren for the longest time!

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Baby C is here!!

Wow!  What a week it has been!  Where to begin dear diary.

Well, on Wednesday – that would be the 20th June – I woke up feeling so much better after having been laid up for nearly two weeks with a terribly painful back.  It is a problem I have had for the last 20 years, but in the last 4 years it has started to get worse and worse.  Due to this painful, bed ridden state, I was really feeling sorry for myself and my 12 week body transformation had turned to a 12 week body disaster (more of that another time, perhaps).  So, imagine my surprise, when on Wednesday I was not only able to walk, I was completely pain free!!  I simply could not believe my luck.

I set about tidying the house (something I particularly abhor), as it really needed it.  I was tempted to let it sit for a while, after all I had been in bed for two weeks and should probably take it easy, but I am also trying to break my habit of procrastination, so I decided to go full steam ahead.  In no time at all, I had completed what I had set out to do.  Just then, the phone rang.  It was Jay.  “Hi, darling, what’s up?”

“I’ve been trying to get hold of you.  I’m having a problem filling in these forms.”  And before I could answer, “It’s okay, Dad helped me.”

“Okay, so how are you?”

“Okay, I guess.  I’m just feeling so big and also quite tired.”

“Well, you are 37 and a half weeks pregnant now.  Your body is holding a big baby now.  Just take the time to rest.  Does it feel like this baby is never going to come?”

“Yes,” Jay replied grumpily, “I just feel so heavy and huge.”

“I know Angel, it is hard.  But at the very worst it will be another five weeks, that is all.”

“Five weeks?  I’m 37 and a half weeks now!”

“Well, at this rate, you could go two weeks over.”

“I’m NOT going two weeks over, I will ask them to induce me.”

We chatted a bit more and I told her that I would see her on Friday to take her to her appointment.  I made myself a cup of coffee and sat and drank it.  As I scanned the now tidy house, I felt good.  I decided that as it was nearly 2pm, I would pop out and get that scrapbooking paper I had been eyeing before collecting JC after school.  The phone rang again.

“Hi, Jay, have you missed me.”

“Mum!”  Immediately, I knew something was wrong.

“What, are you okay?”

“My waters have just broken!”  My heart leapt into my mouth.

“Alright I’m on my way!”

“No, mum, I have already called Em.  He is on his way to pick me up.”

Change of plan.  “Okay, I’ll meet you both at the hospital.”  And then as an after thought, “How did it happen?”

“Ally came to visit me and as I answered the door they just went.  It felt like I had done a massive pee in my pants.”

“Are you okay?  Is Ally with you?”

“Yes, she is with me, and I am okay.”

“Alright, I’m leaving for the hospital now and will meet you there.”  I frantically ran around the house trying to think of what I might need.  An apple and two bananas made their way into my bag.  I phone Dee.  “Hi love, Jay’s waters have broken, I’m on the way to the hospital, I need you to pick up JC from school.”

A moment’s stunned silence.  “Okay, I’ll leave now.”

“I’ll phone you when I get to the hospital and we know more.”  I decide to phone Tee.  She had taken her brother and sister-in-law who were visiting from America to Queensland.  She was going to be gutted that this had happened whilst she was away.

Her phone rings.  “You can only be phoning me to tell me Jay has gone into labour.”

“She is,” I say.  “Her waters have just broken.”

A sigh.  “Okay, well let me know how it goes.  Is she in any pain?”

“No, she didn’t sound like she was in pain.”

“If there is no pain, it could be a while – days even.”  She should know, she’s a nurse.  I gulp – days?  I don’t know if I can bare to wait days.

I rushed around the house frantically trying to think of what I might need.  It could be hours or days.

I drove to the hospital.  Dee phoned.  “I’m on the way to pick up JC.  What time does he come out of the gates?”

“3:30.  God, I can’t believe this is happening.  Our baby is having a baby!  WE are going to be grandparents.”

“Calm down, Sarah, it will be okay.  Don’t drive too fast, you can’t afford another fine!”  Bugger, he was right.  I was skating very close to losing my licence.  I glanced down at the speedometer.  100, perfect.  I set the cruise control.  It felt like I was crawling.

I decided to phone Jay again.  “Hello?”  She sounded awful.

“Hi love, it’s mum.  Are you okay?”

“Mum, I’m on the toilet.  I can’t move I am in so much pain.”

“Where is Em?”

“I don’t know, on his way?”

“He needs to be there, love, he needs to hurry.”

“Don’t yell, mum, he’s doing it as fast as he can.”

I wasn’t yelling, but I understood how she felt I was.  Dammit, I should have driven to her first.  I decided to phone Em.  “Hi, it’s Sarah.  Where are you?”

“Just outside my front door, why?”  He didn’t sound impressed and immediately I felt like an overzealous, overprotective mother.  Then, I didn’t care.

“Jay’s on the loo, in great pain.  I’m just getting into the hospital now.  You get Jay, and I will make sure I have a wheelchair for when you arrive.”

I walked to the reception desk at the front of the hospital.  A clearly lack-lustre receptionist looked at me.  “Hmmm?” she says.  Why do people take jobs they clearly hate? I wondered.

I explained that my daughter was pregnant, in labour, in pain and that I needed a wheelchair as she was unable to walk.  The receptionist looked past me.  “Where is she?” she asked.

“Well, she is on her way, about five minutes away.”  Which was a lie, but I hoped I wasn’t too far off the truth.

“Well, when she gets here, let me know and I will phone the birthing suite for a wheelchair.”  Did the ridiculous woman think I was lying?

“How about I just go up to the birthing suite who know about my daughter, are expecting her, and I get the wheel chair myself?”

“Okay.” she said without hesitation.  Why wouldn’t she agree, I just saved her a one minute phone call.

I went up to the birthing suite.  Immediately I saw it was heaving.  There were pregnant women everywhere!  Eventually a nurse comes over to me.  I hurriedly told my story again but she had a blank expression on her face.  I raised my voice.  “Does anyone know about my daughter Jay XXX?”

“Oh yes, she phoned a little earlier.  Is she here?”

“No, she is on her way, but she is 4cm dilated and in extreme pain.  I need a wheelchair.”

“How do you know she is 4cm dilated?”  My blood was starting to boil.  I prayed that Jay wasn’t in the lobby of the hospital giving birth in front of everyone to see.

“Can I just have the wheelchair and you read her notes while I bring her up.  She’s been 4cm dilated since 28 or 30 weeks.”

A wheelchair is handed to me with strict instructions to return it.  I looked at the woman incredulously.  Seriously, woman, what on earth do you think I am going to do with it.  Deposit my daughter and head off with it as a getaway vehicle?

I didn’t have to wait long for Jay and Em to arrive.  She was in extreme pain.  I rushed over with the wheelchair.  There was a liquid/blood stained towel underneath where she had been sitting.  Em took the car to park it and I rushed to the lifts.  I had a momentary urge to shout “Excuse me, pregnant woman in labour about to give birth!” but knew Jay would never forgive me for doing that.  We entered the lift with about four other people.  She looked very white and I was worried.

“Mum, I want an epidural straight away,” she whispered.

“I’ll be sure to let them know as soon as we get there.”

We arrived at the Pregnancy Assessment Unit.  Jay was placed in what I now call a holding seat, which is where they pregnant women are assessed for labour and any other difficulties.  We weren’t their long.  We were taken to another room for assessment, where Jay could lie down.  “Yes,” the nurse said, “I think it is safe to say that Jay is in established labour.”

“Are you going to check to see how far dilated she is?” I ask.

“Not right now, they will do that in the birthing suite.”

I impatiently started wondering why we had made this ridiculous pitstop then and not just gone straight through to the birthing suite.  Eventually, we were shown to room 8.  I had a lovely view over the valley.  Not that Jay cared.  She just wanted to get on the bed.  The contractions were coming in thick and fast now.  Em had parked the car and made his way up.  He was standing next to her holding her hand, stroking her hair.  I tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  It had been an hour since they arrived and the nurses were still asking questions and filling out forms, feeling for contractions.

“Is anyone going to check how far dilated she is?” I ask again.

“We will,” is all I got.  They looked at Jay who was now sucking on gas and air like there was no tomorrow, feeling quite sick and whoosy in the process.  “Jay, do you want to try pethidine first?”

“No, I don’t, I want an epidural, now please!!”  The two nurses nodded and left the room.

Five minutes later, one of the nurses came in and announced that they needed to change beds as the one Jay was on was in fact broken.  I am by this stage really struggling not to lose my cool.  Em and I helped Jay into the chair whilst they removed the bed.  She sat in that chair for about 20 minutes when the new bed arrived and behind it a couple of doctors with a trolley, which I assumed to be the epidural cart.  “Okay, Jay, let’s get you on the bed, so you can relax for your labour.”  As Jay moved, she cried in pain.  “I can’t take this, I want to push.”  My heart was breaking, but I couldn’t lose it.

“Come on, love, let’s just get you on the bed.”  I was wondering why the hell they weren’t checking how far dilated she was.  At least that would give her some indication of how much longer it would be.  Some hope that the pain would end.

The midwife helped us to help Jay on the bed.  “I can’t do this,”  Jay said.

“You can, Jay,” the midwife said, “you may have a while yet.”  She said it in a kindly, encouraging way.  I couldn’t be mad at her.

The doctor announced that before they gave her an epidural, they needed to check the cervix.  FINALLY!

The doctor had a look.  She looked at Jay.  “Jay, did you say you wanted to push.”  Jay, still sucking on that gas and air, nodded.  “Well, then push.  You are ready.”  I KNEW IT!!  A mother always bloody well knows!

What followed was a series of long agonising pushes that lasted about 20 minutes, but finally, baby C was delivered into the world at 4:33pm on the 20th June 2012.  He was delivered onto Jay’s chest who was exhausted and still a bit out of it with the gas and air.  Surprisingly, none of us cried.

Em declined the offer to cut the cord, so I did the honours.  I actually cut my own grandsons cord!

Baby C rested on Jay’s chest for while.  He was so big and robust!  She had not taken off her bra (thinking there was plenty of time to do that), so they asked her to remove it as it was important for skin to skin contact.  As Jay held him and Em held Jay, I snapped many photographs.  Baby C’s face was very blue which they explained was bruising due to being shunted through the birth canal so fast.

 

I couldn’t believe it.  There it was – the circle of life, right there before my very eyes.  I said a silent prayer to my mom.  “There he is, mom, your great grandson.  How I so wish you could be here to see him.  So perfect.  So beautiful.  How I wish you could see the wonderful woman Jay has become.  Mom, you would be so proud.  I am so proud.  Somewhere, somehow, Mom, I did a good job.”

As I watched the family before me, no longer my own, but an extension of mine, little did I realise that more drama was yet to come and it could go so horribly, horribly wrong.