Imagine your child can't be home with you.
Imagine, just imagine. Imagine leaving your child, having to say goodbye and walk out the door. It's hard isn't it? I'm not talking walk out the door to go to work, to have a haircut, to have five minutes peace, but to walk off for the night and not return until the morning leaving a vulnerable child. I don't have to imagine, I know all too well.
Shameful.They maybe are a few, but they don't even come close to summing up the well of loneliness and emptiness that you carry with you. Never have you feared silence so much, never have you keenly felt the emptiness of your arms.
There is no etiquette either for how to act. When Wriggles was in Special care and not in any immediate danger, there were the conflicting assumptions: 1) that life had to go on and 2) I should be by her side. It is not physically possible to spend every waking minute beside an incubator, for some parents it is not possible to spend every single day. Yet the times you are not there, you are in a daze, a sort of no-mans land. Time is not as you know it. During the SCBU stint, I had one night where I went to the ballet, taken by a friend who thought I needed distraction (she was right, it turned out to be a crucial night for straightening my thoughts. My premature daughter never left my mind throughout the whole performance, and it was this that really hit home just how much everything meant. As the saying goes, you can run but you can't hide) and for four weeks when I went a little potty, returned to work 20 hours a week in the office. That definitely was a mistake. I could barely concentrate at work, I resented being there however much I needed the money knowing that imminent single-parenthood was around the corner and a long stretch of time off work caring for a child on oxygen, and I ran myself ragged trying to simultaneously be at hospital and office and continuously running (literally, I must have looked mad) between the two, which luckily where a fifteen minute walk apart. I also had to collate all baby items that I had not yet bought in that time and rapidly sort out finances and living space. I would stay at the hospital late into the night and would sleep with a increasingly crumpled photograph of my daughter on my pillow. It was no replacement.Intensive Care was different; her health was an utterly different state of affairs and the experience was far harder. Again, I knew she was in the best hands and separation was a medical necessity but sleeping away from your critical child is not something that is easy. In fact, sleeping may be an overstatement. Can you imagine going to bed without hope? Waking with a hollow dread-alone? A bed had never seemed bigger and night seemed cruel.
We still share a bedroom now, thankfully back in our cosy flat. At first, after the times apart it was a comfort to share a space and know I was not even metres away from her, but could reach out and brush her cot with my fingers. Now she is getting older, I just have not had time or spare hands to move my bed in my own room and give us both some grown up space. I will do very soon, it is time to move on and put some of the past to rest. The bad times are over, and we pulled through, Wriggles triumphant. Now I sleep every night with my snuffler and I love it, whether through the baby-monitor or my own ears.Until she is old enough for sleepovers or I have gone mad with baby-chatter, I will be uneasy unless we are under the same roof each night. It makes me feel safe to know she is nearby. There has been enough separation.
This is part of the Yummy Mummy campaign for CLIC Sargent, raising awareness for children with cancer. Visit www.yummymummy.org.uk for information and fundraising ideas and search Twitter for #dosomethingyummy. No one ever expects it will be then, but what makes the difference if it is, is knowing that there is help and support available.
Go to Nickie at I Am Typecast to view others and see what she has to say.