Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: Get Back Up Again: When Parenthood Doesn't Go To Plan

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Get Back Up Again: When Parenthood Doesn't Go To Plan

Now I know I said I was going away for a while and you may be thinking that that initial declaration was somewhat insincere being that I am now here again a mere two weeks later but, much like an aged rocker answering the call to play his greatest hits, I am back but this time on request from one of my favourite people on the planet. You see, as a family we have been dealt a rather cruel hand of late and whilst the details of this particular person's predicament are not mine to tell they have occupied my thoughts and tainted my daily experiences to such a degree that my tales of merely surviving parenthood seemed to fade into a banal triviality. There seemed little point and an overriding sense of self indulgence in sitting down to write about my toddler's unwillingness to reunite his poo with its long lost family who reside in the sewars of Edinburgh (we'll get to that) when I could have been spending my time worrying (with its proven innate protective powers), consoling, falsely reassuring or researching the many methods in which to restore this person to her previous salubrity.

Superhero he may be... 

However, this weekend I took an enforced leave (by my husband) from parenting my own children and went to see her hoping to assuage my own concerns and dole out some intense, medicinal hugs. We talked, we laughed (probably harder than our pelvic floors were prepared for), we ate (a lot of superfood based meals) and we identified at least sixty two examples of her three month old's intellectual prowess. Parental leave well spent.

Time spent squeezing babies is always time well spent

Now whilst I cannot begin to compare any experience that we may have had as parents to what she is currently going through there are elements of her current situation which bring rather unsettling memories to the fore.

Feeling Short Changed by Life
When we learned of the complications of our first pregnancy and the ensuing differences that my daughter was going to have to live with for the rest of her life, I distinctly remember feeling like we were incredibly hard done by. We had done everything right. We had waited for (almost) the right time financially, we had been living a healthy lifestyle at the time of conception (although maybe not by Gwyneth Paltrow's standards) and we had a strong track record of robust health on our side. 

Complications in pregnancy were minimal in the family tree and there was certainly nothing beyond the point of getting those two pesky precursors to unite so with that first blue line in the all important window there was part of me that felt we were home free.

So when it all began to unravel I felt cheated. I felt angry. I felt like we were undeserving of such a cruel turn of events. Why us? What had we ever done to deserve this?

The harsh truth of the matter is nothing. We had done nothing wrong. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair and we definitely didn't deserve it but life doesn't dole out your allotment based on what is right or what is fair. As it turned out, we were merely asking the wrong question of the universe. Rather than asking why it was us we should have been asking why not us?

Everything Will Be Alright

The Lost Maternity Leave
After my daughter hurled herself from the womb two weeks early, undersized and brandishing her nine fingers and ten toes in our general direction we were immediately treated differently. We were whisked into a side room and striked from the list of routine post delivery checks to be performed by the junior doctor and etched onto the much shorter list for the consultant paediatrician to perform where the assessment would be carried out in the most painstaking and methodical manner.

All the plans for baby classes and mummy groups were instantly discarded and replaced with doctors appointments and dates with scanners. Development milestones loomed in the distance with an aching desperation, not for her to excel but for her to merely attain within an acceptable window of time. Baby clothes were not purchased based on their aesthetics (except by my mother) but for their ability to provide easy access to her various bandages and equipment. Sleep was lost, not solely based on her partiality for nocturnal activities but due to the terrorising worries that would pervade my mind in the small hours of the morning.

It was only when the date for my return to work appeared on the calendar that I realised my maternity leave had ended before it had even begun.

Back to Work 

The Cruelty of Genetic Testing
When the first mutterings were made that there may be a possible genetic cause for my daughter's differences, we were struck dumb. To learn that the essence of your being, the part of you that made you who you are before you were even a person, may have been predestined to sabotage you and those you love in one of the worst ways imaginable is a horror that I would not inflict on my worst enemy.

Although we learned (when our daughter was 3 months old) that there was no obvious genetic cause for her individual handprint the intervening period was quite possibly the greatest test our marriage will ever have. My husband and I recently discussed this time in our lives and found our experiences to have been significantly different. Where a positive (in the worst way possible) result would likely lead to our daughter either having profoundly increased needs or a dramatically shortened lifespan my husband envisioned us remaining a stoical family of three; standing strong together and enjoying the time that we had to the best of our ability. In stark contrast, I couldn't envision how we could possibly stay together in the knowledge that our genetic make up had come together to punish our daughter in such a cruel fashion. What would we do if it happened, albeit accidentally, again? 

I can honestly say that I have always loved my husband but I seriously contemplated divorce at this juncture. I don't think either of us was right or wrong and neither of us are more invested in this marriage than they other it was just an instinctive reaction to an unprecedented turn of events.

Hey ho, it was negative. So married we stay.

Marriage: The Ultimate Test

The Test of Friendship
No one should ever feel tested as a friend but unfortunately there are occasions in life when friendships will be truly tested and, hopefully, forever cemented by the shared experience of something truly awful happening to one party and I choose to find something rather heartwarming in this. When the worst happens the nature of the human condition is to expose their true self and act on their gut instinct. People either prove themselves to be the best of friends, surprise you with a devotion that you didn't know they felt or leave you feeling a little disappointed in their lack of understanding or empathy.

Sometimes the worst times of our lives bring out the best people we never truly knew we had and whilst I would never chose to have gone through what we did I do appreciate everyone who helped us on the way.

Every cloud and all that

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