June is always a strange month for me. Its my boys’ birthday on the 30th and that’s always a fantastic celebration of the little people who I adore. It wasn’t always that way though and sometimes through the month I reflect on the bliss of ignorance as I progressed through a pregnancy that I had no idea would end 8 weeks early and would change my life above and beyond ‘just’ becoming a mum.
I have shared so much about my journey both in blogs and in my book Our Altered Life. I have interviewed Harrys twin brother Oliver, My ex husband Mark (in the book) and my partner Andrew. Today I want to share the thoughts of my Mum. An altered life from the perspective of a grandparent. How does it feel to watch your own daughter become a mother with a life she never expected? Over to you Mum….
How did you feel when I told you I was pregnant?
Super excited because it was my first grandchild but frustrated because I couldn’t tell anyone!
What about when you found out it was twins?
I was with you and I can remember the nurse saying there were two. It didn’t register with me at first but then I felt excited for you in a “oh bloody hell!” kind of way.
Have you got any memories of my pregnancy?
I remember you being in the hospital when you were losing fluid around one of the babies. I drove to you at Macclesfield every day before I went to work and I wanted to know you were ok. I can tell how you are when I see you and whether you are telling me the truth but you can pretend you’re ok on the phone so I wanted to see you each day.
What about when my waters broke?
OMG! I was worried because you were early but once I knew you were at the hospital I was watching my phone for news. I was telling everyone at work and a lot of them have known you since you were a kid so I’d shared so much of my own life and yours with them so they were really excited too.
Can you remember what Mark said when he rang you?
He rang the hospital phone and I remember going into the office. At first, he said “we’ve had two boys” and I was all excited! The girls on the ward were saying…“well? Well? What’s she had?” and we were all squealing. He said you’d needed a c-section and I asked if you were ok. He said yes but then he went off to call everyone else so it was a quick call.
And what happened after that?
I don’t know how long it was but I was still on my shift. I can’t remember exactly what he said. It felt a bit surreal. He said there’s a problem with one of the boys. I said is char ok? My first thought was, how is she? How will she cope with this? You’ve always worked so hard to make everyone proud all of the time and you’re a perfectionist. I just didn’t know what it would do to you. I went into the linen room and got upset. One of the girls came and asked me what was wrong and then someone said ”what you doing here then? Go to her”. I can’t remember the details but I do remember going into that room.
I don’t know, I wanted to be on my own. I didn’t want to be upset infront if the patients. I just stood in the quiet for a bit.
I can’t even remember getting to the hospital. I just knew I needed to be with you. I can’t remember the first time I saw you. I know I saw Harry and I remember his little hat .
Yes, it was tiny. His little face was like a little apple and I felt so much love for him and he looked just the same as Oliver.
Did you not see his differences at all?
No not at all. I had no idea what he would look like. I had wondered whether he would look like you or mark and I thought he just looks like a little baby. I think I was more shocked because you’d been so healthy than upset. I don’t know really, it wasn’t anger. I just felt so excited at first and then so confused. My first thought was how is she going to deal with this.
Its mad that we saw the same baby and yet had such different reactions.
You were dealing with so much Char. The boys coming early, the surgery and then the news! I don’t remember ever getting upset with you because I knew I had to be there for you through it so I tried to be positive for you.
Did it ever catch up with you?
I remember one day leaving your house. He boys must have been about 2 and I just broke down in the car and I wondered what the hell was up with me but I just thought it was so unfair. You were still struggling and everything was so hard for you. I hadn’t got upset till then. It didn’t change how I felt about them but It was just admitting to myself that your life was different than you had imagined and I really felt it for you.
But I guess your life altered too. It’s not something you expect as a grandparent
No. I think I resented my job a bit and the things that were going on because I couldn’t be there as much as I wanted to be for you. I couldn’t have them overnight and do the things that other grandparents were doing but it’s not something I really talked about. I don’t think I’ve ever even told you before.
No you haven’t but I do get it. I think its natural. Do you still feel like Harrys syndrome and autism affects you as his nan?
Not on my part. That love is there for both of them but we don’t have the same relationship as me and Oliver.
I never felt it was unfair for me but I did feel it for you. Thinking about you going out or raising the boys, coping with them especially when you were on your own. I wanted to always be there with you but it wasn’t possible.
Could you see my deterioration?
Yes and I felt it. After I did that reiki on you and I said I felt so incredibly low and describing it and you saying that’s how I feel but I think I properly felt it then and it was hard. I remember saying “this time next year” (which annoyed you) because I know as a mum of a healthy child that they have colic and teething and things. I knew that there would be problems but most of them would pass in time. But I know that with your emotional state you struggled to hear that sometimes. It was hard for me to see you like that. So lost.
I think one of the reasons I couldn’t be emotional about you because you were so fragile. I didn’t want you to see it affecting me because I could see you were crushed. We always managed to talk things through and work things out when you were a kid (like the art coursework- remember? ) and I felt helpless. I had the experience of a typical mum but nothing like what you were going thorough.
I often wonder whether you having Harry threw Nan back to when she had Auntie Carol with her spina bifida. She wrapped her in cotton wool and I think she felt protective. I know she blamed herself like you did. That’s why she was so protective of you all and fussed such a lot.
I’ve never thought of that.
Me neither till now. Maybe that’s Nan trying to explain a bit.
*Both have a little cry*
Can you remember any pivotal moments in me getting better / stronger?
I remember you telling me about the incident in Mothercare. I remember having the conversation about anti depressants with you. Id tried to talk to you about counselling and you pushed me away. I know I said “just try it” but you wouldn’t listen.
Did you ever think, when I was at my lowest, “she could actually take her own life?”
Yeah. Yes, I did but I remember wanting you to think about what kind of a life the boys would have without you here. It was a bit of emotional blackmail to shake you out of it or wake you up to how bad I saw you. In the end you just stopped fighting and let me take you to the doctors. I think it was just to shut me up really.
Im so glad you took me – dragged me- to the doctor.
The therapies helped too. The cranio helped you with the issues you had with your Dad (*that’s for another blog*) and to work through your feelings in a safe space.
How do you feel now about me, the boys and our journey ?
I see you being a fulfilled mum in your boys and they fill your life
In a way that you had hoped for ?
Even more so I think because I wonder where you get your strength and resilience from. But you get It right from your core. I’m proud of both of the boys, everything Harry does is an achievement – knowing that he’s cooked and been typing on the computer. I might be a different kind of nan but I’m still nan to Oliver and Harry and that’s good enough to me. They are perfect to me because its who they are.
And what about Oliver?
Every day he makes me proud. I worry about him and his mental health moving forward so I try to show him how important he is because I do think he’s been overlooked sometimes.
Yeah, I agree
Oliver isn’t asking for a mote every time I walk in the house so he gets less attention in that way but he’s never been overlooked with love. You don’t see how good a mum you were to Oliver when you’re beating yourself up about their early life. When you have such trauma, you can blank things out – its like a fog. I relied on your Nan filling me in sometimes on your childhood when I had tough times with your dad.
What advice would you give to another Mum whose child had a baby that wasn’t what they expected?
Talk to her. Get her to talk to you. Don’t expect her to tell you because sometimes they don’t even know themselves. Be patient and encourage her to talk to her partner. Let her cry. Allow her to be honest.
When you see your child fall apart how do you rebuild them?
Wait their time and don’t try to push it. Be aware of noticing anything different however their relationship works – for some parents it’s through physically helping or being there emotionally. I know Nan was always the practical one but I helped you to work through it all emotionally and I knew when you were low or good.
You were definitely the emotional support, I never crumbled with anyone but you. Not Nan because I didn’t want to let her down. Not Mark (although I should have done) I remember you coming round once and me just falling in your arms and crying. I couldn’t do that with anyone but you. I guess that’s why you got the best and the worst of me
That’s what being a mum is about – taking the verbal left hook sometimes and not biting back and knowing . I knew if I got emotional you’d protect me (like you’ve always done) so I didn’t want to do that as I knew you wouldn’t talk to me and I knew you needed to talk to someone.
I couldn’t have a better mum than you. Thank you *hugs*
I love you very much and I am so proud of how far you have come. You are never in too many parts that I can’t help put you back together again and I’m always here. You’re my little star.
Ladies and gentlemen, my mum. A legend xx