Saturday, September 28, 2013

September can do one

Honestly. It can. If there's ever been a month that's taken great pleasure in pissing on our chips, it's this one. 

September. The month with all the uncertainty that surrounded James's emergency eye surgery. September. The month when, on Monday, we made our first, but I doubt our last, dash to A&E with Samuel. He had a mild rash which we weren't too worried about until the GP uttered phrases such as "can't rule out meningitis" and "better to be safe than sorry". Cue a mad dash to the hospital, a gut-wrenching wait and, finally, a simple shot of Piriton and a paediatrician's reassurance that it was just a virus. By the evening he was doing much better but, my, what a fright. That night, before I put him into his cot, I held him that little bit closer for that little bit longer.

September. The month when, two years' ago today, a family of four went into a different hospital in a different town and came out a family of three. The month when calendars and diaries cast their morose shadow and remind me, albeit ever so briefly, of those sad final days with Dad rather than the countless happy ones. The important ones. 

Oh and there are other things too. There are the bully boy freeholders who want to carry out major - and entirely unnecessary - works to our building and charge us thousands of pounds for the privilege. There's the end of my maternity leave looming on the horizon and the enormous decisions that need to be made about my future and about Samuel's. I'm absolutely convinced that I will pull my head out of the sand any day now. 

But whoa there, Drama Queen Doreen. This month might have been a bit of a roller coaster, but it's not all been bad. I'm coming out of it a lot more grateful than I was going into it. I'm grateful for my husband's sight. I'm grateful for my son's health. (And, since he's just learned how to stick his tongue out and decided that burps are hilarious, it's quite literally rude health.) I'm grateful for our family. I'm grateful for our friends. 

What's more I was thrilled to discover during last night's CBeebies Bedtime Story that I read Giraffes Can't Dance about a million times better than that bloke who plays Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire. And honestly, I can't tell you how good that feels. 

But, you know. Roll on October.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reasons to be cheerful

So James can see again. Not perfectly. It's fuzzy, there are crazy lights streaming everywhere and there's still a big gas bubble in his eye. The bubble is shrinking every day, though, and a tantalising little sliver of vision is getting bigger. And today, with a bit of careful positioning, he managed to see Samuel's face. Talk about joy. 

There's still a long way to go and we don't know how it will end. He's exhausted (or Makka Pakk-ed as we've started saying. We don't get out much.), dizzy and can't do too much, but he's getting better. And after an unimaginably dark week for him, there's suddenly a lot of optimism going on around Gipsy Hill. Crikey, how amazing is modern medicine? And how lucky are we to live here in this country in this era and to be able to benefit from it? It's not just James's sight that's come back, it's his chance to see his little boy grow up.

Anyway, getting a bit gushy there - I think  I'm a bit Makka Pakk-ed too. For that reason I was overjoyed when my mum swooped in this weekend to lend a hand. And aren't mums brilliant? She arrived with what appeared to be the spoils of a smash-and-grab at M&S Food and Krispy Kreme, took Samuel and packed me off to the hairdressers so I could get my roots sorted. Samuel was thrilled to have a bit of Granny time too. Legend.

And just in case we needed any more reasons to look be cheerful, me and Mum found one when we took Samuel to the park today. Somewhere between our front door and the playground, he dropped his beloved Sophie giraffe. I resigned myself to the fact that Sophie was gone for good - that there was no chance we'd ever find her again in London. And then, as we heading back, mum spotted her and laughed out loud. There she was, perched astride a plaque, with a panoramic view of the city behind her. Some kind soul had made sure she'd be spotted and reunited with her grumpy little owner. 

This week is going to be so much better than last week. I can feel it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Whenever a tower of stacking cups comes crashing down, whenever Samuel falls over, and whenever anything unexpected or scary happens, me and James shout 'Boom!' in a comedy fashion.

I suppose it's because we want Samuel to know that even though things may happen out of the blue, you can still deal with them without bawling. Well, over the past week we've had a 'Boom!' of our own.

Things had been going so well. I remember looking at my 'to-do' list last Tuesday morning and the only thing written on there was 'buy replacement rubber ducks'. I won't elaborate on why replacements were required, but I figured that if that was the most difficult task of my day, then life as a mum had to be getting easier. Then on Wednesday I took Samuel to James's office for a visit and it was lovely. James was beaming - he looked so happy and so proud to be showing off the boy. As the three of us squeezed into a work shower cubicle for a nappy change we giggled at the absurdity of the situation and I remember thinking, 'Cor, life is good.'

Samuel and I headed home and later that day I got a call from James. He told me that his vision had suddenly deteriorated in his right eye so he'd gone to hospital. He discovered that he had a detached retina - something that can just happen randomly if you're very shortsighted - and he needed an operation as soon as possible or he would certainly lose all vision in that eye. Boom! But the operation came with no guarantees and many risks. It might not work and he might lose his vision anyway. It would be a while before we'd know the results. Boom! All this came in the shadow of the fact that he only has extremely limited sight in his other eye due to another detached retina after a sports injury as a child. So, you know. Boom!

We knew that I couldn't join him at the hospital and I felt terrible about it. There was just no way I could take Samuel to Moorfields in the evening. He'd have gone berserk - and I suspect that we would have too. But nobody should ever have to come out of an operation blind, vulnerable and alone. I sent a taxi to collect him and I helped him up the stairs and into bed.

And bed is where he's had to stay ever since. You see, the operation involved inserting a gas bubble into his eye which pushes the retina back to where it needs to be and acts as a splint. In order to keep the bubble in exactly the right place, James has to lie on his left side for a week. He's allowed to get up for five minutes in every hour, but that's it. From what I can tell, it's a combination of tedium and terror. He can't see and he can't know what the future holds yet, but he has all the time in the world to dwell on the numerous 'what ifs'. He's handling it all incredibly, though. He's calm and he's dignified and he's funny.

The worst thing, he says, is that he can't see Samuel. He can't see him trying desperately to toddle around. He can't see his comedic look of confusion as he tries so hard to crawl forwards but only manages to go back. What's more, he can't go near him for fear of a flailing little limb causing even more damage to his eye. It's heartbreaking.

But Samuel is lightening the mood. He interrupts serious conversations with well-timed farts. He laughs like a donkey for no apparent reason and then blows raspberries at his dad from across the room.

We're a few days down the line now and James's sight does seem to be coming back, if incredibly slowly. It's just colours and shapes that look like they're being viewed through a fish bowl, but each day they seem to become more defined. I'm extremely optimistic. I know he'll be able to see again soon. I know it won't be long before he'll be able to read this post himself and see how fiercely I love him.

So yes. There's been a 'Boom!'. Things came crashing down. It's been unexpected and scary. But we'll deal with it. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Granny's garden

The London summer got to me this year. Samuel got bored of my company. Everyone headed out of town and the baby classes all went on hiatus which made the long days seem even longer. What's more, the combination of the dirty city heat and the fifty steps up to our front door made it difficult to summon up the energy to get out and about much anyway. It was time for a break. It was time to hit the reset button. It was time to head up the M1 and visit Granny K's house – my childhood home.

We had a blast. We were spoiled rotten. We did loads of stuff like visiting family, having old friends over, eating copious amounts of food and feeding ducks. But I think the highlight was having a beautiful garden on tap that we could walk straight out onto from the living room. Imagine that! A Londoner's dream. Samuel seemed totally amazed by it, and loved the feel of the grass under his feet. And in his scrunched up fists. And in his mouth. He grabbed and marvelled at the trees and stripped all low-hanging branches of their leaves.

And after a week or so with Granny K and Little Sis (who had the small matter of a 30th birthday in need of celebration), we got back in the car feeling happier and ready to enjoy London in autumn, my favourite season. I'd be lying if I said going away with a nine-month old baby was in any way relaxing, but the old adage is true: a change is as good as a rest.