I have a few friends who have decided not to have children. And it makes me think sometimes. It's not that I have a problem with their decision (not that it's any of my business) or think they're going to regret it, or one day change their minds. I don't want to tell them all the things they're missing or how much richer their lives might be if they had children - they can do what they like, really, I say more power to them. What I do wonder about though is the whole "thinking" about having children and "deciding" to or not to. You see, I never did.
Well I did. But it was in a very compressed timeframe and it didn't really involve anyone else.
I did not project my life out in 5 year clumps. Or 2 year clumps or any clumps of any really significant clumping number. Sometimes I think about what I'll do at Christmas and that'll be about as far ahead as I can manage. I did not decide to get married at 20, then wait 3 - 5 years before cutting my hours at work down to half and getting pregnant and starting a family before I was 30. I never ever had anything like a life conversation with my boyfriend/fiance/husband before during or after our relationship/engagement/marriage. And it seems, that a heck of a lot of people *do* have that conversation, *do* think about such things and *do* make that plan (or *a* plan, at least) and it bewilders me that I've made it this far without one!
What happened with me was that one day, a wee while after I married Greg, I got clucky. I came over all maternal and broody - for about a week. In that week I decided I wanted to have a baby. So I made a list - what would I have to do in order to become pregnant and have a baby (I probably underlined it at the top of the page)
Stop using contraception was one thing - I decided that I would stop taking The Pill for six months. If i stopped taking the oral contraceptive now (then) and waited 6 months (for my body to get over the shock of it all) then I could get pregnant and have my baby in (counting on fingers) September.
Sounded perfectly reasonable to me.
Next on the list was health. I'd have to be healthy to have a baby, so I'd need a full medical to make sure I was. I made an appointment with my doctor - who, by the way, laughed when I told him I wanted a full medical examination because I was going to have a baby later in the year. I guess it was my crestfallen expression that rallied his jocularity to a more serious tone and he told me it was a very good idea afterall and deemed me fit and perfectly healthy to breed.
Next on my list was to read up about the subject of conception, birth and raising children. As I am not so keen on libraries (the books are stacked in such a way as I can't see the covers) I went to my favourite bookstore and purchased way too many books on the subjects - I liked the ones with graphic pictures the best.
Last on my list was 'discuss with Greg'. That pretty much consisted of "Greg, I want to have a baby" and him saying "what? no it's Liverpool in the red strip get out of the way Michelle I can't see the television" (ok it wasn't *quite* like that, I'm sure he remembers it differently and more to the point: accurately - but I won't ask him cos then he'll tell me and then I'll know and I already know too much about myself as it is)
So that's me *deciding* to have my first child - involved a decision, a list, some research and some co-operation from my partner. I didn't think about how it would affect my life, I didn't think how it might impact my seedling career. I didn't think about it financially, dynamically, relationship'ily. I certainly didn't think about the bond of children either - that double edged sword of love and family that ties tighter than you'd ever know even if someone told you beforehand and you believed them, you still wouldn't know until you experience it.
And it's okay not to want to experience it - because it's not just the love side of the sword you need to feel as a parent - it's the other edge too - the one of loss. And thank God and whomever I have to pay that I've never experienced that, but today like a number of days since I became a parent - I felt the potential of that loss. Even the hint of it is like cold stone fear in your stomach, and metalic horror in our mouth. And just like the family ties and love that bonding with children brings; even if someone tells you beforehand, and even if you believe them, you'd never ever be ready to lose a child - and the *potential* of losing a child is like the scent of horrible dread on the wind.
Today Amy got sick. She got very sick, very quickly. She seemed to have a temperature. She had a headache that made the whole of her skull, her eyes and her neck hurt. She became extremely sensitive to light. She lost her balance when she tried to move. She felt stiff and sore in her neck and shoulders. She said the pain in her head made her want to throw up. When you live in New Zealand, you know about Meningococcal disease and when those flu-like symptoms include the restricted movement of the neck, you get thee to a doctor.
We went to our local Accident and Emergency Superclinic in Botany. To the annoyance of some of the other patients who were there when we arrived, we where whisked into consult ahead of them all. The Doctor on duty did a thorough and methodical examination on Amy - it seemed he was working through a checklist. He suspected it might be Viral Meningitis and phoned through to the Hospital to tell them we were on the way. Before we left, Amy was given a shot of penicillin.
Amy seemed to be getting worse. By the time she was on a gurney in A&E Middlemore 30 minutes later, the stiffness and soreness had spread down her body to her legs, she couldn't stand any light, her face was flushed, she had a temperature and she was complaining of being very cold. After being examined they decided she needed a lumbar puncture.
She did very well to stay as still as she did because it was painful. But they got the samples they needed - drops of precious spinal fluid and sent it to the lab to be tested to show if she did, in fact, have meningitis. They would also be able to tell what type of meningitis she had and if it was a bacterial strain, it could be treated with an antibiotic. If it was viral I'm not sure there's a hell of a lot they can do but ride the storm of it.
I'm not one to fret. I don't worry about what might happen in this type of situation. I steal myself for possible scenarios but I don't dwell on them and I just make myself ready for each decision as it comes up. I think I'm pretty logical in a stressful situation - and I know I'm very focused on the task at hand. I'm also one to fall completely to pieces later on when I'm at home and my child is sleeping and the stitches are holding the wound together beautifully. So, although Amy was feeling so very ill, it was a fairly relaxed atmostphere in our room - and we waited. She talked a little, tried to sleep a bit. Mostly we just wished people'd stop coming in and turning the lights on to check on her.
Then one of the doctors came back to say the tests had not revealed meningitis, the spinal fluid was completely clear. By this time Amy was actually starting to sound better. Talking more, and more alert - I think the penicillin had kicked in. They were still concerned about the photosensitivity she was experiencing, but having ruled out any meningococcal disease, they and we were a lot happier.
She's still there in Middlemore Hosptial tonight. When the orderly who was delivering meals asked if she'd like some dinner, Amy said yes, she was feeling quite hungry. That's a great sign, we said. The orderly asked Amy if she'd prefer corned beef or fish, Amy said "Seriously?" a culinary rock and a hardplace but she decided corned beef and struggled through some of it with "God mum, i even prefer your cooking to this!"
So after our long day, I came home. Home to a black cat who'd been unceremoniously locked inside all day and was at once both glad I was home and busting to get outside. Home to my cold cup of tea and half made lunch. Home to emails from clients and cancelled nightclasses. I stood in my kitchen and looked at my cold tea and toast and thought how different this day might have gone had she been as sick as we'd suspected. How damn lucky I am that the scent of loss wafted away on the wind yet again.
[UPDATE] Amy is home, and sore and sick but so much better than she was. They don't know what she had just some viral somethingorother and so she's in bed sleeping after being in the noisy hospital where everyone woke her up every five minutes to take her obs and check she was okay through the night. Thanks to everyone at Botany A&E for taking the situation seriously without me having to pull out a tantrum, and to the Doctors at Middlemore who were proactive and real - especially to Eric the very cute resident. And thank you to all-yawl for your comments and emails and phonecalls and txts - I was a bit embarrassed this morning when I realised how much I'd written last night - seems eating a packet of ginger kisses for dinner at 11pm after not eating any food all day then blogging about stressful events means lots of words. But thank you so much for your care.
Last night, before I left the hospital Amy said to me as she txt talked with her friends "look, i'm nearly dying and I'm still txting" to which I admitted "well I sent that pxt of you in hospital to the jamjar and when I get home I'll probably blog about this." she agreed, we both suck - but we have great friends.