Monday, January 17, 2011

Shoulder to Shoulder

Holding a friends 3 day old newborn son in my arms on Saturday I looked at the tiny hands, the loose skin around his fingers and the wispy bits of hair touching the tip of his ears. Freddie squirmed and moved his small mouth before settling back to sleep. He was born on Wednesday evening on the bedroom floor of my friend Sarah’s house. Vaughan, her husband, was about to drive her to hospital but she wanted him to drop the dogs at her parents house before they departed for what she thought was going to be a drawn out labour. He left and in the next 20 seconds she stepped from the bath to her bedroom in terrific pain, had two huge contractions and pushed her baby out across the floor! In complete shock she rang 999 and asked for an ambulance, 'because there appears to be a baby on my bedroom floor'. It took 6 minutes to arrive. 

Vaughan returned home 10 minutes later to find an ambulance in their driveway with blue lights flashing. Terrified he raced up the stairs to be greeted by a paramedic who congratulated him on his new son, Sarah and Freddie were both fine, but the bedroom carpet wasn’t (I’ve seen it, it looks like something out of CSI).  I haven’t held a baby that tiny, that fresh and that new since I held Ella. The moment touched me significantly and I wondered about the precious cargo I’m due to bring into this unpredictable world in April. Will he be as small, perfect, healthy, content, quiet, bald....? Will I be able to cope, will I be a good mother? Will I be a capable half of a two parent family and will the huge weight of the vast love that is already coursing through my veins ever be enough?

I sat on the sofa and took in the scene. Great friends, all of them now mothers, sat drinking coffee and marvelling at the tiny baby sleeping contentedly in Sarah’s arms as she sat looking bloody gorgeous on the sofa. Birthing stories emerged, stories of fear and anguish compared to those experiences that had been easy and painless. Someone said that at least I was having a c-section so I didn’t have to worry about the physcial aspect of childbirth – phew, your baby’s coming straight out of the sunroof, sorted. I smiled in the way you do when you listen distractedly to a conversation you don’t want to be a part of, especially as I don’t expect people to remember. It’s easy to forget I’ve been there, that I’ve experienced the assault of a natural birth coupled with the loss of a child. The images are still frozen in time.

Another friend Lindsay arrived with her 3 month old daughter, Ella. The surreal timing didn’t escape me - I was caught between a moment and a memory. Later I got a lift home with my friend Lucy, one of those rare individuals who never misses a trick. She asked if I was ok, and if it hadn’t been too hard for me holding Freddie? I nodded a tear that I was good, that it was all wonderful, but sometimes the wheels spin and I can’t keep up. She said she feels the ripples of my sadness in the moments when it’s tough and I know she does. She, like many incredible friends throughout the last 2 years, has held me above the surf with a life-ring when all I’ve wanted to do is to drop beneath the waves and shut my eyes. Lucy knew that I held Freddie for longer than I held my daughter Ella and she clocked me as the childbirth stories were told…..I love you and I think of you every day of this pregnancy she said.

I feel completely blessed to have a wide circle of friends near and far who will go to any lengths to protect, love, help and defend and it is with huge gratitude and pride that I hold them all close to my heart. I went to see Love & Other Drugs at the cinema on Saturday night and stopped on my way home to see a friend for a catch up as she sat in her pj’s drinking red wine. Sunday morning I had a greasy fry-up at the local café on the river with a group of mates before taking a walk that included a vast herd of children and 8 different conversations. Later in the afternoon I read the papers and chilled out in the quite of home (everyone was out, a novelty) and drank hot chocolate. I spoke with Chris and received phone calls from 3 friends, two of whom are gloriously pregnant, who made me laugh and smile in large quantities. I discussed my fear of making a list about what I need for a baby, how Chris is doing in Uganda, fuel costs, swollen ankles, the mess in Tunisia, work, climate change – friend’s words and selfless conversations throughout the weekend have touched me no end.

When days are tough, when they stretch out like a deserted beach, it’s your friends that keep you strong. A friend sent an email the other day to say her husband had spoken with Chris and he was having a bad day in Africa – no shi* Sherlock – yes he probably was, not every day’s a clear winner.  The reality of trying to keep it all together when we’re poles apart is that bits sometimes crack. My husband and I being on different continents doesn’t make for a smooth ride, and although we give it our best shot it isn’t always plain sailing being apart for weeks at a time. As I juggle the mental hope of reaching 30 weeks pregnant and Chris juggles the prospect of getting a lodge built it’s enough to make me want to slide along the knife due to the unpredictable nature that’s our life right now.

But it’s your friends who keep you focused during the good, the bad and the ugly times and as I’ve learnt to balance on the knife edge with arms outstretched I’m lucky to have the great, the mighty and the funny standing there shoulder to shoulder with me - providing they don’t shove me off with their humour first!

I love them all.

1 comment:

anymommy said...

Such truth. I love you and I think of you every day of this pregnancy too.