2012 was a big year (and a year of not much blogging as a result!). For the first half of the year I was working full time, studying part time, parenting two young boys and was pregnant with our third child. To say life was busy was a serious understatement. With all the juggling I was doing it is surprising that I wasn’t recruited by Cirque de Soleil!
Then at the beginning of June tragedy struck and I found myself witnessing one of the saddest sights I have ever seen – my high school classmate carrying the coffin of his 11 day old baby daughter into their church for her funeral after a sudden, catastrophic illness took her life. I don’t think it is possible for anyone to witness such a scene and remain dry-eyed. I was crushed for my friends – though they would forever hold their baby girl in their hearts they would never be able to hold her in their arms again.
Arielle was their third child, and their first girl. At the time of her death I was 37 weeks pregnant and also carrying our third child and our first girl. Tragedy continued to roll in. Ten days after Arielle’s funeral I received the worst text message I’ve ever read. My best friend (who was also pregnant and due ten days before me) had went into labour but her son was stillborn. Her beautiful baby boy Walter was so perfect, but she would never be able to take him home. My heart broke for her. At 39 weeks pregnant my husband and I took the labour bag with us (my two previous boys had been born at 38 and 39 weeks) and traveled 6 hours to attend Walter’s funeral. Only going into labour would have stopped me.
Ten days later Wyn was born. To say it was an emotional birth is an understatement. For the first time I was able to labour without drugs. I finally felt like I got this labour thing and how to help my body work through it. The pain felt right, like this baby waiting to be born was such an amazingly precious thing that I had to work hard to earn. Joy mixed with exhaustion and pain – both physical pain and emotional pain for my friends.
July and August were filled with the days that pass in a haze of a newborn baby’s needs but also learning how to support my best friend through her grief. How could I – who held my baby in my arms – comfort her when she did not? Was I the right person to do that? Should I just leave her be and let her family and other friends support her? Could I ever be anything but a source of pain? I took it step-by-step, doing what I could when we were separated by a long distance. Everyday when I held Wyn I would think of Walter and Arielle and wish I could take away their parents’ pain. Seeing my classmates’ updates on Facebook as they learned to navigate life without Arielle, taking up their wonderful adventures with their boys again, and finding amazing strength in their faith was both touching and a source of strength for myself in helping my best friend.
In September Wyn was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. This saw us embark on a medical journey I never thought I’d go on with kids. Perhaps it was a naive assumption but I had never envisaged having a child with health problems. Then again, I had never envisaged having any of my children die and my eyes had been opened there. The sad reality is that miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death are a lot more common than thought because they are surrounded by silence. So there we were over the latter half of the year sitting nervously in the waiting room of the children’s hospital whilst our baby was in the operating theatre. It was the first of many trips and I became part of a new (largely online) community of parents with kids with hip dysplasia.
Many parents feel terrible grief when their baby is diagnosed with hip dysplasia because if their bub needs to be treated with a harness, brace or surgery they do not get the same experience of babyhood as other parents. Whilst they may be grateful that it is treatable (especially when diagnosed early) it can be the start of a lengthy medical journey with its own unique challenges (nappy changing a baby in a spica comes to mind!). I didn’t feel upset at Wyn’s diagnosis though. I have never cried at my baby being encased in a spica cast – my baby still smiles and laughs and chuckles. She is still my baby. The events of 2012 have changed me as a person – changed my perspectives. I am far more in tune with the heartfelt aspects of life and somehow feel more of a genuine “grown up” who is able to roll with the punches. I don’t sweat the small stuff in life so much anymore. Previously I would have been devastated that having a baby in a spica cast meant I had to use disposable nappies 24/7. How could I not live up to my green ideal? Now my focus is on enjoying my baby, not on living up to preconceived notions of how I should parent.
Because we are gluttons for punishment we decided to round off the year of chaos by putting our house on the market. So we attempted to make a house where three young children lived look like it was lived in by an interior designer for each open house. To make the garden look a bit better we decided to get some mulch to spread around. Being both budget conscious and a recycler I decided to source some free mulch from a tree lopping company. They had a minimum load delivery of 4 cubic metres so we decided to go with that. I think in reality we ended up with about 10 cubic metres dumped on the footpath outside our house.
In classic comedic style the mulch was delivered when my husband had just left to take my sons to watch a soccer match and when I had just successfully got bub to sleep and was going to have an oh-so-rare nap myself. Instead of napping I found myself out on the street desperately shoveling mulch in a vain attempt to create a thoroughfare for pedestrians. I shoveled till 10pm that night. I shoveled for the days that followed. I offered mulch on Freecycle. People came and collected mulch in trailer loads and still I shoveled.
I remember saying to my mum when I’d just completed 10 barrow loads and saw no visible difference in the size of the pile that “hip dysplasia hasn’t broken me but this bloody mulch might”. But it didn’t. I kept shoveling, kept wheel-barrowing, and people came and took some of the load and gradually the footpath appeared again. And perhaps that mulch sums up 2012. When we started out we thought we were going to make a neat garden. Instead we got piles of stuff we didn’t want and didn’t know what to do with. We had to work really hard and pull together to deal with what seemed totally overwhelming but with the help of family and friends and even kind strangers we got through it and we’re stronger for it (feel my arm muscles!). Yet that mulch was so big that it feels like it will never really go away – there are still great piles in my garden and I still find bits in the lawn that are painful to walk on. But each day it settles a bit more and life determinedly goes on underneath it, things grow and change. But I’ll always remember what it, and what 2012, has taught me.