The last few weeks have been building up to the three older girls having some time away from home; an opportunity arose for Fran and Amelie to attend a gym camp at a gymnastics centre some way from us, known to us slightly through a friend and a competition that Fran has done. We offered them the chance to do it as an early Xmas present, since the house has reached maximum “stuff” levels and they really don’t “need” anything. Maddy chose another PGL holiday next year, while Josie, after her day camp, decided she’d just prefer ordinary Xmas as a camp without Fran would be too hard.
This week finally came with both girls quite nervous, but excited, about the coming days. We’d packed Maddy off to Zoe’s so she also had a fun and stretching week, as she had another sleepover planned for later in the week at Makingitup and I took Fran and Amelie down to the gym competition already blogged and then to stay the night with a friend before dropping them off. We had a lovely time, although I ran to the edges of my coping levels watching them play with the lovely little boy in the house, but it was good to be away from home and manage. I take my good moments where I can find them lately and even when things are hard, I get a level of strength from getting past the tough times. It’s hard to have bittersweet so ever present in my life; sometimes I think I’m just going to have to learn to live with that colour as the glass through which I see now.
Dropping them off the next day was much, much harder. They were very nervous and I was undone from the moment we arrived by the presence in the foyer of a very beautiful, very loved, kind of okay, little Cerebral Palsy boy, tootling away to himself in his pushchair. When I see children who are as Freddie might have been now, I just don’t know. I could have loved that little boy; he was happy, healthy, living what appeared to be an okay little life and yes, if I was honest, I saw in his face what I could see a glimpse of in Freddie. Not right, but not so terribly wrong either. Just not enough to be as children deserve to be. And then I try to remember that i didn’t want that for him, that I knew it wouldn’t be enough, what I knew it would cost ll the rest of us. And that regardless of anything, those other children who I see are alive because they are alive, whereas Freddie is dead because his body wasn’t strong enough. But I never know whether those other parents fought harder, or wouldn’t give up, or had the choice I had, or would make different choices knowing what they know now.
No day, it feels, is ever about just one thing any more. I have a day which is all about my girls and it is laced with other things which makes the focus seem off centre, crashed and crushed around a sense of overwhelming confusion that I’d prefer to turn off.
Anyway, we settle them all in and eventually left, me with my heart in my mouth really, wondering if I’d done the right thing. I’m often accused of being over-protective; I’ve lived all my mothering being afraid of making the wrong choices and putting them in danger to the great irritation of many. We’d never have been allowed to do this camp at their age though, so I knew that I was a) doing better than the restrictions I had railed against as a kid and b) had to hope it wasn’t going to come and bite me.
I drove away and switched on the radio – I swear the very first words I heard as I turned it on were “our life has been utterly devastated by the death of our eldest son…” – the radio programme from the post below – and I sobbed the entire way home. Back home I had to go for a blood test so with a crashing headache I stopped at the local hospital and the nurse took one look at me and said “you really need to lie down” -so i did and the moment she did I just had the most enormous flashback to the hours or two after Freddie was born when I was put to bed and had blood tests because my blood pressure was a bit high. (Can’t think why.) And I burst into tears on the nurse, sobbed my heart out and then looked at her and knew instantly that she knew all there was to know about dead babies. I felt so dreadful. But she just looked at me and said “I know you don’t believe me, but one day you are going to feel okay about this. You just have to keep going until that comes.”
I hope she’s right.
The week, for me (me, me, it’s all about me) was intolerable. I’d completely over-estimated my ability to cope with them being in the care of people I don’t know and going out on trips to piers and various other things, not to mention hurling themselves around a gym all day, but I got through thanks to friends, secret messages and secret texts from Fran. I’ve never really believed that ‘things’ happen to other people, but what veneer of safety i did have from that is long gone. No one is going to convince me that my children are unlikely to be the ones in a freak accident or unluckily in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had a living child and he is dead and if it can happen once, it can happen again. Everything from here on is about steeling myself against the possibility of that happening again.
Still. They came home. All of them. Safely.
Fran had had an amazing time, full of delight and excitement and looking tireder than I ever saw her in my entire life. Which the other two mums who know her agreed with and given we’d camped, youth hostelled and partied with the best of them, she’s been seem pretty tired before. She was wiped. But she’s learned loads and managed what sounds like a fairly sustained bullying attempt with great strength and dignity. I’m incredibly proud of her.
Amelie is a bit more wobbly – I think she hoped her gym would come on lots and didn’t feel like it did but i suspect that has more to do with a massive loss of confidence in herself lately. She’s having a tough time and a lot of the joy has gone out of it for her; I’m not sure she’ll get to stay in the squad she’s in and her confidence in her ability has been knocked for 6 by the methods being used to get her going. It’s very difficult to watch and I’m worried. I hate seeing her so low about something she loves so much. So she evidently worked hard and got lots from her camp but i think perhaps overall she found the happen-chance of current gym-stress, the being away and the sheer level of exhausting work all quite overwhelming. She says she’d go again but maybe not stay over – but I’m worried that actually the joy had already been knocked out of gym for her before she got there and it was too hard for her to raise herself.
I think though that they’ve both had a fabulous taste of a different world and that is a great thing.
Maddy had thoroughly enjoyed HE group on Picasso with Jax, swimming and beach and time with Big, Small and soa. Equally hard knowing she was away with another of the babies who should have been Freddie’s peers but again, stuff we all have to learn to cope with.
Josie was spoiled for attention all week, had masses of cuddles and time with one or both of us and played with all my My Little Ponies very happily.
The biggest tough moment for me though was getting them all back – I think, in some bizarre way, I had let my brain think that everything would be all right if they made it safely through the week and I got them all back here again. But when they did get home I realised that of course, now they are all safely gathered back in, one of my children is still just a photo on a shelf. It isn’t going to be all right. I can’t get them all safely back here.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
(Lord of the Rings)