Saturday, 20 December 2008

the gift

Gosh, sorry about that. Everything rather came crowding in there, for a bit. 'All better now' would be an exaggeration, but 'No longer completely potty' probably sums it up quite well. How long does it take to stop being bone tired, though? We both look like extras from a zombie movie. I'm thinking months, after what we've been through. Months would be fine. There are lots of months ahead. And no more of them are in 2008, for which I think I'm probably very grateful.

Eleanor is improving. The bronchilitis is still there and the GP and Health Visitor are monitoring her closely. But she's put back on the weight she lost in hospital and is eating okay. And is very alert. So that's all good. We have been told to keep her away from people with colds and chest complaints until the bronchilitis clears up, which makes sense. The added benefit of this is that it means that we can avoid Kate and Vic (B's parents - I really need to update my 'Who's Who?'). Kate has a chest infection. They were supposed to be going to Venice for Christmas - she booked it in a fit of pique when we weren't speaking. She has cancelled it because she is too poorly to go and now wants to come and see us. This is Not Happening. Not Happening. Not. Happening. Has the woman no brain?

Things are getting back to normal. Normal includes:
  • Making marmalade
  • Decanting sloe gin
  • Making soap
  • Spinning off honey (B is doing this in the kitchen as I type)
  • Worming and cleaning out the chickens (this morning)
  • Killing and plucking the three spare cockerels (Yesterday - part-exchange for two (or three) hens and a pair of ducks in a complicated poultry/honey transaction)
  • Swapping a pair of hens for a wooden clothes airer (photos to come, it's FAB)
I am going to make up a little box of gin, marmalade, honey and soap for various friends and family - we have bought some bits for Leo, but Eleanor is too small and we have decided that we just don't want to go down the bought-present route for other people any more. I am just about to make up some little boxes and cover them with pretty paper to put the bits and bobs in. I haven't managed to achieve Christmas Cards this year; I have given in to the dreaded 'round robin email', something I swore I would never do. I haven't even managed to write and thank people for the gifts they sent to Eleanor and some people have asked me for our address to send things and I haven't even manage to send them THAT. It's official. I am Officially Disorganised.

But that's okay.

This year has been truly, truly dreadful for us. Awful. I am sure that worse things could have happened; but what HAS happened has been quite enough. The final door-closing has been that in Welshpool yesterday, we saw 'our' old house for sale in the Estate Agent's window, for an asking price of 30% less than we paid for it two and a half years ago. It really hurt - I came home and cried. But that's that, now. That door is closed.

We have come away from the year with nearly everything in our lives changed.

Our relationships with both my family - because of Pa's death - and B's family - because of 'The Row'. Our relationship with each other, because of those upheavals, and because of the arrival of the children. Our work - not being a limited company is a relief in a way; but I think I would probably also speak for B - who will no doubt comment if he feels the need - when I say that there is also a small, sneaking sense of failure that we were unable to keep it going. The positive side of that is that we can pick and choose what work we take rather more than we could with the start-up debts around our necks. We have also lost the house in South Wales that I lived in before I moved in with B, that was supposed to be our pension fund. And finally, our home. When we moved to The Dream House in 2005, we really thought it was The Place. It was going to be the home where we had our adoptive family, where we had a productive garden, where we kept bees and chickens; everything. The heart of our lives.

And now it's gone. We literally ripped that heart out of it before we left. All the things we had put in with such love and such hope - the greenhouse, the neutraliser, the solar panels, all got taken out when we moved. We have been reduced to almost nothing, materially. No savings, no property, sometimes, not even any hope for the future.

And then Eleanor. I haven't even touched on what that has meant, have I? This cycle of events started with Pa dying, I suppose. A good death, in the fullness of his years, surrounded by his family. It hurt. But it hurts in a way that was right and expected. The cycle has, hopefully, ended with Eleanor recovering. We were so, so scared that we were going to lose her. A premature death, caused by a bad hand in the DNA lottery or a chance mouthful of myconium swallowed as she was born. And now, she is smiling. Grinning like theCheshire Cat, in fact. I love it. I love her. I'm less frightened thatI'm going to lose her now. I am forcing myself to pick her up and feedher. I had a bath with her last night, which was lovely. The bonding isvery fragile and very delicate. But it's there. And every time shesmiles at me - the smile that seems to take over her entire face - itstrengthens a little bit more.

2008 has given me some things, too, as well as taking them away. I have been given an enormous ability to cope with stress. I know I can cope, that I can survive things that would probably have crushed some people. I know that my relationship with B can stand literally anything. I know I don't need 'stuff' to be happy. I have had my trust in the moving moral force in the universe tested and tested and tested. Yes I had a blip for a few weeks; but I reckon I'm back with it again now.

Things are good. We have a strong relationship, two beautiful children, a fantastic family. We have a lovely place to live - okay, it's rented. But so what? There's space for ducks!

And the one gift that 2008 has really given me is an appreciation of people. Not where you live, not what you have, not what you do. It's who you are, deep inside that matters. And it's the people that you connect with on that level. The extraordinary kindness of online friends via this blog and; freecyclers; health-professionals; old school and college friends; people we have come across over the last few years as our interests and lives have intersected; colleagues, clients and suppliers. This year we have really learned who our friends are. Some of them are not people we would have expected count as friends. Some of them we have known for years. Some of them I haven't ever met in person, just online or on the phone.  But friends are friends are friends.

The gift I have been given by 2008 is one that will never wear out; it is the lesson that it's people that are important. Nothing else.

Friday, 12 December 2008


Eleanor came home on Thursday. She still has bronchilitis but is considerably better. We are all still reeling from the shock of it all and to be honest, I'm a bit bonkers. Can't stop crying, want to get in the car and drive off, don't want to touch the baby, or B, or speak to anyone. That kind of thing.

It would have been Ma and Pa's fortieth wedding anniversary today and I've just rung her. She's in a little wet heap, too. Sister Natalie is having Job Issues that sound as if they are veering from 'A Quite Shit Manager' in to 'Constructive Dismissal' that are taking up all her brain space and making her really grumpy. And she's upset about all the Eleanor stuff, too.

I got drunk and had hysterics last night and that doesn't seem to have significantly helped. I'm going to see the GP this afternoon, with Eleanor. I suspect B will come as well.

We are plodding on. When the unthinkable and the unimaginable happen, you just get on with it, don't you? However bad one feels, the children still need to be fed, the chickens have to be let out, the washing and drying have to be done. Bills have to be paid, groceries have to be bought. I cannot imagine feeling any worse than this. B says that we can share the emotional load - but I feel like this despite that sharing. Outside I am like an automaton, going through the motions, smiling, talking, functioning. Inside I feel numb. As if someone has scooped out the middle of me, all the bits that make me ME, with a spoon.

If someone touches me or even speaks to me with kindness, with anything other than a random contact, it is as if they are pressing on a bruise. As well as the numbness, there is the anger. The only way I can describe it is that I feel spiritually bereft. If a benevolent moving moral force DOES exist in any form in the universe, how can it have allowed all these things to happen to us in the last year? Blow after blow after blow? What did Eleanor do to deserve being that sick? 

B says, perhaps all these things would have happened anyway and the force for good that we both believe normally looks after us has done it's best to mitigate them for us. Perhaps that's true.

But at the moment, I just can't see it.

Monday, 8 December 2008


Just a quick update - firstly, thank you everyone for all your good wishes, good vibes and prayers.

Eleanor has been gradually improving over the weekend and is a bit better again this morning. They'vetaken her out of the CPAP and she is only on nasal oxygen now. And sheis tolerating small feeds every two hours - they tried her with a gastric tube yesterday but after she pulled it out twice they gave up and started giving her small bottles.

Her temperature has beenmuch reduced since last night. So, I think we're over the hump. Theysay that they won't let her come home until she has been breathingnormal air for at least twenty four hours and that they like parents tobe able to be around for most of that final period. They are so tinyand things change with them so quickly ... I am terrified about ithappening again, which I suppose is normal. I've just spoken to thehealth visitor who is coming for a council of war later in the week.

B's taken Leo up to the hospital again now and I'm getting some R&R - yesterday this included helping a friend despatch ducks and today it is going to involve cleaning out the chickens and making lentil and garlic soup.

For today, that is all.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

prayers please

Eleanor was taken in to hospital in an ambulance last night at 7pm. She is stable now; but whilst I was going to pick B up from the 6pm train, she stopped breathing. Ma did mouth-to-mouth on her for twenty minutes whilst waiting for us to come home and the ambulance to arrive.

She is now on a CPAP machine, with pressurised oxygen helping her to breath (the next step down from a ventilator). As well as the bronchilitis, she has a bacterial lung infection which means that there is clouding on the top half of the right lung. Apparently the struggle to breath was making her so tired that she literally kept running out of steam. She stopped breathing twice in the ambulance and was taken straight to resus; and whilst they were putting the CPAP machine on her she kept stopping and starting. She is now on broad spectrum antibiotics and they say that she should start to pick up when they kick in; which should be in about forty-eight hours.

B is still recovering from food poisoning he got on tour on Tuesday night and we are both wrung out physically and emotionally. Ma has now gone home and is preparing to come back when Eleanor gets out of hospital - although we have no estimate of when that will be. Ma says that anyone else who was here would have done what was needed - but that doesn't get over the fact that it was HER who was here and her that kept our daughter alive.

I am now going to have a small sloe gin and put Leo to bed. He's fine - he's too young to know what's going on. Someone has given us a rather scary cuddly Mickey Mouse, which he says is a Woof Woof - I have taught him to sing 'Woof Woof The Mouse' - 'Woof Woof Ma!" -  as a small blow against the Disney Levithian.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

brief list

  • E has been in hospital for forty eight hours with bronchilitis. It's distressing for her and for us to watch but she just needs nursing care rather than any massive intervention. The children's ward have given us open access to bring her back if she worsens again.
  • We have bought a new car - a fiesta from the parents of a person who works at Leo's nursery. I like it.
  • Ma is staying whilst B is away with work and has changed her plans to stay longer to help me with E until he comes back.
  • I'm knackered. But okay.