Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Survived

Dear Ruby,

today, you are exactly 18 months old. This may not seem like a big milestone to some, but for us, it's a miracle. This was the age there were times I never thought we'd make. This was the age I set ourselves to reach at the darkest abyss of the beginning - 'if only we can get to 18 months, we can get through it all', I would say, wishing away every minute.

There are four babies I'll never hold, so holding you was life-changing. I remember the joy of your birth. My mum was with me and we laughed and joked and smiled at the wonder of it all. Hubby was overjoyed and especially delighted when you came out ginger like him! Daisy and Poppy couldn't believe their luck - a perfect little doll that moved. All was well with the world.

And four days later, I lost my mum. She did not die, but I was left with her shadow and the loss of never being held ferociously again, as I held you.

Those days and weeks and months that followed, I'm ashamed to say, were dark, dark, dark dark days. It was as if my heart wasn't big enough for all the love and all the grief I was feeling, and so the grief overwhelmed it all. There were days, even moments, when I literally did not know how to get through to the next.

But you are a fighter. You are an energy force unlike anything I have ever encountered. You are a mystical beautiful beast that rose from the ashes of my life and battled and beat me until I broke through the grief and bathed in the love. You are like dynamite. You are a ball of fire. You are a hurricane of love and glory and mischief and enchantment and magic and mayhem.

We have made it to 18 months and you got me there by the sheer will of your love, the ferocity of your hugs, the glory of your gusto. You are a little goddess of goodness, and a little demon of devilment.

You have broken every bowl in the house and have started on the new batch. We no longer have stools or chairs in our kitchen as you use them to climb into the cupboards and break everything you find. You're favourite was dragging the stool over to the fridge door and pushing the water dispenser until the floor was flooded. No-one is allowed a drink because you pour water over my computer whenever you can. You eat snails and worms and terrorise the cat. You've battered the kitchen cupboards so much all the locks have given up in defeat. You've drawn on every surface of the house, and yesterday poured my nail varnish all over our bed. Most days, all any of us say is a screeching "Rubeeeeeeee!"

But you have the smile of an angel. You have the giggles of a cherub. You have the capacity to love and show affection like an army of babies. When you run into my arms, and bury your face in my neck, squirming to get your body as close to mine as humanly possible, it's like the earth melts away and we are floating in space. And nothing makes my mum's face light up as much as the sight of you.

Today you are 18 months old. I no longer wish away the moments, but relish every frustrating, fabulous second (with a slight trepidation as to what you're going to put me through over the next 18 months, the next 18 years, and the next 18 years after that. I'm on a health regime just so I can stay alive long enough to keep you out of trouble for as long as possible).

We made it. I've been up since 4am with Poppy coughing. Yesterday Daisy called me a Poo Poo Head before storming out of the room. And you? You smashed my iphone. For the third time.

Happy days.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

struck by a stroke

It's been a funny week. Last year, every day was dominated by my mum's stroke - either in the practical arrangements of travelling constantly to Belfast with a newborn and two children, or the emotional - the sheer pain and weight of missing her. But this year has brought an acceptance, an ability to take the weight off my shoulders occassionally and live my life, even enjoy it. Her stroke has melded into our lives instead of dominating it - and living with it has become a way of life.
But there are moments when it flares again, a reminder of what is, and what was.
Yesterday my brother was over seeing my mum. He decided to wheel her round to one of her friends for a change of scenery. On the phone to him earlier, I had begged him to put something decent on her, brush her hair and put on a bit of lippy. My brother and dad are great with my mum, but let's face it, they're men. She has a tendency to look like the Wild Woman of the West in their care. An hour later he called back. He needed guidance. He had made sure she had some good clothes on and now he stood opposite her, staring into the mystical abyss that was a woman's make-up bag and he needed me to tell him what to do. So I found myself standing in my kitchen, phone in hand, directing my 46 year old brother on powder blush and lipstick.
"Is it meant to leave a brown ring around her face?" he enquired dubiously.
I'm not sure how she looked in the end, but he tried. And I love him even more for it.
And today, one of my articles appeared in the Irish Times. I had written it a couple of months ago, and I HAD written it. But still. It was a shock. To see our story in print. To see my account of my mum's stroke in a national newspaper. I link it here.
The impact of a stroke can strike at any time.