When Old Becomes New

For many years I had a secret dream. A dream I wouldn’t even voice aloud to myself, not even in the voice that lived inside my head. 

I felt so undeserving of this dream that I brushed it off when it came up in conversation and made self-deprecating jokes about my inability to handle the task purely to hide just how vulnerable it made me feel to want something I felt so incapable of doing.

It’s been two months since my dream came true with the birth of my daughter, and what began as the most terrifying journey soon became a pleasant and happy experience as I grew with confidence in my own ability and in my relationship with my baby.

As weeks went by I began to miss my autonomy, my friends, my ability to just unwind and not be thinking about sterilising bottles or changing nappies, so last Friday my parents watched our daughter and my partner and I joined my friends on a night out – a night that began in all the ways my drinking history has taught me to avoid.

Unsurprisingly to many, I ended up where those historic sessions always found me; 20 odd vodka redbulls later, not able to tell you my own name – In fact, I was probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been, and that’s coming from someone who has given themselves pancreatitis from drinking. 

The day that followed was the most heartbreaking of my life.

It’s a day of new feelings, and of meeting old ones long buried and long forgotten.

I was dizzy, weak, unable to throw up but unable to keep anything down. I couldn’t pick my daughter up without the fear of dropping her. She cried and my partner was the only one who could help her. I couldn’t feed her, change her or bathe her. I couldn’t comfort her and I probably terrified her with the amount of alcohol that was steaming out of my body. My skin was grey, my eyes were bloodshot and my body shook.

I cried most of the day.

I felt physically better the next day (though by no means what you would call “well”), but mentally, I was beginning the sharp descent into the boozeblues.

This is where those old feelings brush up against new feelings.

It has occurred to me in these days that have followed that mentally and emotionally, I am back where I began in motherhood. I don’t have a single ounce of faith in my own ability as a parent as a result of ending up in that same boozetown I swore I had left behind. 

If I fell this far already, when I was enjoying our life so much, what am I going to do when we have actual challenges to face?

It seems my confidence is intrinsically linked to my control over my drinking – when I fail at controlling that, I lose any shred of faith in my ability to function anywhere else in life. All I see is how worthless and useless and selfish I am to not be able to stop, even when something so perfect is waiting to see me the next day.

I’ve spent the past few days with my old friends regret, fear, self-loathing and The Whisperer – she’s the one who speaks to people when they’re at their lowest, looking for ways to stop feeling those ugly feelings about themselves – she sits on your chest, fills up your veins, squeezes your lungs and tiptoes through your mind, kicking dust all over the things you find most precious. 

Now, when my daughter cries, I can’t say what she needs. Until Friday, I was okay with guessing. Now it feels like everything is a guess. It makes me feel small and not good enough for her.

We’ve been talking a lot the past couple of days, my daughter and I. She’s been smiling at me and laughing. Until Friday, those smiles and laughs were just that – a baby’s smiles and laughs. Now part of me aches because she’s too beautiful for me. She’s two months old and I’ve already let her down.

And now I remember why she was my secret dream, because this is what I knew was in me. This is why I knew I’d fail. 

So this is it. This is the memory I need to keep each time I take myself to the bar to buy a drink. I need to remember how this feels, rather than try to forget it.

It’s in the forgetting that we end up having to remember.

I now know

Nineteen days ago, at 6:18pm, my eyes lit upon a piece of my heart that I’d never known had been missing until we met.

She was tiny and perfect and couldn’t possibly be real. Couldn’t possibly be something my partner and I had created.

She couldn’t possibly be a soul that I would be priveleged enough to spend the rest of my days loving in a capacity that is so sacred, you don’t ever understand the infinity of its depth until you step into those same shoes yourself – the shoes of a Mother.

It’s all you hear during pregnancy – “It can’t be described”, “You’ll know it when you feel it”, “It’s different for everyone”.

Those vague responses are all used to describe everything from labour to breastfeeding to the concept of motherhood itself and I’d always found it to be a cop out… until now.

I think the simple truth is that words just aren’t enough. Words have power, but not here.

This place – motherhood – is enormous. It’s terrifying, confusing, depressing, filthy, humiliating, wounding, and wonderful. It heals, it fulfills dreams, it overwhelms and it brings you undone, both in sadness and in a happiness you never thought was possible.

With one wind-powered smile from my daughter, every single scar left open from my past no longer exists. It’s just gone. It doesn’t matter anymore.

And with one pained scream erupting from her sad little mouth, every single fear I’ve ever had in my life comes together in a great wave to crash over me and set my heart racing.

I spend hours staring at the monitor watching her breathe, or counting the wrinkles on her hands – those perfect little hands, so inconceivably small and delicate.

She overwhelms me.

There are so many things about her existence that I never expected…

I never expected pregnancy to be so empowering. I never expected the sight of my giant belly to bring me peace, to make me feel whole – I’d never realised there was a part of me that seemed to need that confirmation that I was, in fact, a woman capable of nurturing life – but it seems I did because pregnancy gave me a confidence I’ve never experienced before – a confidence where truly, nothing really mattered except my family and our security – outside influences, opinions, rumours all went by the wayside and suddenly, I felt capable of anything – if I can nurture life, I can do anything.

I never expected labour to be anything besides painful and undignified. I had no concept of what it would involve – no way to predict the pain – and sure, it certainly was painful. There were moments when the contractions were one after the other, on top of each other, two at once, almost… and in those moments I wanted to give up, to give in – oh god, take me for a c-section, anything to stop this!

… but in those moments I also realised that there was no longer room in my life to do that running away I’d become so good at. Here, now, I had no choice – there’s no going back when you’re in labour – you have to keep going through it, even though it hurts and you’re exhausted… because very soon (you hope), you are going to have to push through the things you don’t want to do on a regular basis. You’re going to have a tiny human who is entirely dependent on you for their survival – there’s no room whatsoever for “I’ll feed them later. I’ll just watch two more episodes of this and then feed them”.

And so the contractions kept coming, and I had to keep breathing. And pushing.

And then she was there, and her father was smiling and I was exhausted, confused, and in love.

Then everyone went home, and it was just Alia and I, alone in our hospital room. I stared at her, marveling at how much she looks like her father. Even her sleep-smile is his.

Then I remembered the needle thing in my arm, and how it was attached to a big walky-around thing which was plugged into the wall because the battery was flat, and it dawned on me…

she was staying in my room with me. Motherhood had begun.

I was exhausted from labour. I’d been unable to keep my eyes open to enjoy her when she was born and now I was only going to get a couple of hours sleep before I had to feed her? Change her?

Suddenly, I was terrified, and had to call the midwife to do it for me until that needle thing was able to be taken out in a few hours.

My first job as a mum and already, I had to get someone else to do it.

… this was the other stuff I never expected. That confidence I’d had as a pregnant woman was gone, and had been replaced with a feeling I’ve known far too intimately for far too long – fear and insecurity. I can’t do this. I have no idea what I’m doing. What if it’s wrong? They will judge me and I will get in trouble.

This feeling increased over the next few days and tears would just fall out of my eyes at random moments. My heart had never been so sad in my whole life. It felt that my entire body was built solely to house sadness, and it was full of it – it had no room left for it, so it just spilled over, onto my crisp hospital sheets, onto my failed boobs that my child couldn’t latch onto properly, and, if I’d been able to bring myself to physically touch my child – they would have fallen on her, too… but three days into her life, I didn’t want to hold her, change her, bathe her – I let my mother and my sister do that, and when everyone left at night, the walls would close in and I would fill up with that sad fear again.

Just you and me, kiddo.

I never stopped loving her. I never had mean or negative thoughts about her – she was still the most amazing little creature that has ever existed – it was me that was the problem.

But days passed, and with the incredible support of my family and my partner, sunshine crept back into the room and I was able to cope with the rollercoaster I was beginning to ride.

Now, nineteen days into her life, my little girl is feeding well, sleeping well and filling my entire family’s hearts with a light they haven’t known in many years. Our cats – the previous leaders of the house – have reacted in ways I never imagined – they run to check on her when she cries, and boycat even shared a cuddle with her and her dad yesterday.

Things are coming together…

Out of everything that I never expected, despite the constant warnings given, I never expected to find a love like this. It isn’t just love for my daughter, or a greater depth and passion that I hold for my partner, but an overwhelming awe for my own mother and every single thing she has done and continues to do for us – her children – that has astounded me the most.

I now know what she went through to bring us into this world, physically. I now understand the fear that would have flooded her each time our safety was in question, and I now know that it is impossible to measure the depth of her love for us, and just how overwhelming that is.

I now know that I will never be able to show her how grateful I am because she wouldn’t accept it – wouldn’t deem it necessary – our very existence gives her no choice – she does what she does because we are more important to her than she is.

I now know that that’s what parenthood is all about and that it lasts forever.

The building blocks you wish to crumble

Little girl. Big teeth. Eyes magnified by purple-rimmed glasses, one lens of which her mother has wrapped in kitchen paper to correct her newly diagnosed astigmatism… and yet the playground doesn’t taunt her. Nobody laughs at her. Or calls her four-eyes.

She plays with girls, with boys, her shy, chunky legs awkwardly trying to escape in a game of catch and kiss. Butterflies. A game of Witches (or hide and seek with a pointed hat).

Two years pass. Two years swinging from monkey bars, or bringing barbie dolls to school in a Grace Bros bag that had once carried those denim shorts she wore every weekend.

Sleepovers and secrets, giggles hidden behind hands as the divide began to emerge between boys and girls.

Filled up – that’s how she felt, all full of sun and smiling and the love of friends. Confidence, you’d probably call it, if you weren’t 8 years old with no real concept of what that meant.

Then a new face appeared – one with more confidence than everyone else combined. You didn’t need to know the word for it, you just knew she had it.

By association, so did we.

Until that day that the little girl with the big teeth and magnified eyes showed up to play with all her friends, and was met with silence, and a wall of shoulders covered in winter.

Her eyes locked with the girls she’d known since that first day she stepped into that giant kindergarten room. They couldn’t hold it. They stared at their feet, but she saw their own confusion, and .. something else she didn’t recognise.

Her heart beat faster.

“What have I done?” she asked them, confused.

Then angry.

Then sad.

Then scared.

“What have I done? Why won’t you talk to me?”

That silence, that cold fucking silence that stole the power from within her and lay doubt and self-blame at her own tiny feet. Her little brain tried to understand – logically, there was no explanation – the only reason someone would suddenly stop speaking to you was if you had done something bad.

So what had she done? Why wouldn’t they tell her?

The bell rang. Class started.

She couldn’t concentrate. She had to know. Nothing came to mind. She hadn’t said anything mean, or left anyone out. She’d brought dolls for everyone the day before. Her Grace Bros bag sat next to her chair, little plastic faces peering up at her.

Recess. She tried to speak to them. They walked away, no answers. Eyes began to watch, to whisper. The playground buzzed with the news. An empty metal seat beneath a tree held her nervous, confused, body as she cried for the first time. Alone. She had never been alone, before.

The bell rang for class. Nobody tried to speak to her. Nobody volunteered to sit with her. Nobody seemed to understand what had happened, but instincts kicked in – the Alpha had chosen an Omega.

The rest of the day was spent in a fog. She doesn’t remember walking to the bus stop, waiting silently in the bus line, or even the trip home. There was too much incomprehension to process.

She didn’t want to go to school the next day. Her body had never known depression or fear like this. It didn’t know what to do with it. She didn’t say a word to her parents, to any teachers. She climbed off the bus and walked into the playground.

To her friends, smiling at her. And to the Alpha, who put her arm around her and asked her why she didn’t sit with them yesterday. Had they done something wrong?

She remembers her heart filling with relief. Gratitude. Safety. And she remembers how easy it was to put aside the questions she had in case those questions saw her put out in the cold again.

She remembers how quickly the role of victim became hers. How quickly self-preservation crept into her makeup. How alert she became to warning signs that she was going to be picked again and how normal it felt for your stomach to boil, your heart to pound and for a part of your brain to start being told to be quiet when it whispered that this wasn’t normal.

“What is your biggest fear?”, asked a stupid Buzzfeed quiz.

I couldn’t answer.

“The silence of a person you love” wasn’t one of their multiple choices.

The Little Things

There are always little things your significant other does, which elicit an uncontrollable response in your body.

They are tiny things, things that no other person outside your bubble would ever understand, or react to. Things that are yours alone…

Like the way you can tell which footsteps are his in a crowded room.
The way you can sense that he’s coming up behind you to rest one hand on your shoulder as the other stretches out to shake that of the person who has just introduced himself to you at the party.
Or sometimes it’s the sight of his keys in the change bowl when you come home which causes your heart to flutter and skip a couple of beats.
What about the way that you know exactly how he is going to react to something based solely on the manner in which he has removed his shoes for the afternoon?

For some of us, these things bring warmth and love and gentle sunshine smiles that fill up all our corners.

For some of us, these things are catalysts that elicit the fight or flight response. They fill you with fear – Fear of the known, but unpredictable. The fear of his raised voice, or that quiet, cold one he gets when he pierces you with his eyes. The dread that fills you when he places his hand on your shoulder while he shakes the hand of that man who introduced himself to you at the party.

… the fear of a man introducing himself to you at a party.

You ignore them, at first. If you do mention them, you are embarrassed to be informed that you merely overreacted. Sometimes this news is given to you with an indulgent smile and a little pat on the head as your significant other walks out of the room, silently letting you know that the conversation is over.

So you shrink away from the world. Away from the people asking the odd question here and there – Are you okay? You’re very quiet tonight. Is Significant Other okay? He seems a little cranky. You run out of excuses and cover stories quicker than you’d suspect.

So you shrink into your bubble with him, where you can somewhat control the environment to limit the things that cause his hand to ball into a fist and find that soft spot just to the left of your spine.

Your voice becomes small and your vocabulary shrinks to “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. You ask for permission to read your book, to shower, to go to your family’s house or a friend’s birthday. Your every move and every thought, handed to him in the hope that by asking for his permission, you will not only be allowed to apply for a new job but will be rewarded for your obesiance.

You think about leaving. You do. It crosses your mind a lot, but then you hear his gentle arguments, explaining why you deserved it. You feel his fingers brushing your hair back from your face, the tendrils stuck to your wet cheeks, cold ropes of hair being tucked behind your ears as he whispers all the ways in which you wronged him, and do you understand now? Do you understand what your actions did to his feelings? The way you confuse him? You can be so loving sometimes, and then you disrespect him like that. Or sometimes you just imagined it, you must have been having a different conversation with a different person because that’s not what was said in the one you had with him.

You stop listening to any voices who try to convince you to end it. You don’t have the energy to listen to them, your energy is all gone now, it is constantly being used to predict his next outburst, to tiptoe through your own life and make as few ripples as possible to mark your passage.

Eventually you can’t even hear your own voice, begging. You hear it through his ears where it has become an ugly whine, a pathetic whimper from a useless, weak, ugly woman who will never amount to anything.

It is by this point that nothing in his behaviour shocks you anymore. You are used to the fear that fills you when he does something nice for you. You know that you will have to pay for it one way or another. You are used to him dangling carrots of hope before your eyes and the enjoyment he gets when he takes them away from you. You are used to your place in the world, now, curled at his feet, covered in dirt, ready for the kicking.

You are used to feeling like a spider, stuck to a tiny strand of web, floating on the whim of a breeze with no idea where you are going to land or what you are going to be faced with when you get there.

And you don’t deserve anything better.

You don’t even remember the girl who once knew she deserved better. You don’t think of her because, like everyone, she is judging you and finding you wanting.

And still, you can pick the sound of his footsteps in a crowd. Your heart still skips a beat when you return home to see his keys in the bowl or his shoes lined against the wall. Only now, your heart is always hammering, your breath always catching in your throat, and the only reason you now use the word “please” is to place it before the words “I’m sorry, don’t hurt me”.

The world outside knows there are troubles. They know he can be a little bit cranky. That he is a little stingy with money, or that he doesn’t like you to go out without him, but the world doesn’t know that every time you feel him lift the covers to climb in beside you, your entire body goes rigid, tense and fills with a blind, raging hatred that finds you clenching your fists and digging your fingernails into your palms to give some kind of voice to the invisible, voiceless pain you feel at not just losing your soul to the whims of another, but handing it over, willingly, to gutlessly save yourself from whatever may happen next.

It wasn’t always like that, you know? That’s what we always say when asked why we stayed.

Because it didn’t start that way.
It started with The Little Things. 

It was an accident

“I killed a bee once” she said through lips twisted by that one eye she has closed to block out the sun.

“In a glass, I mean. Not like, from it stinging me”.

Her hands were hidden beneath her thighs, her legs swinging back and forth over the brown water flowing in the river beneath us. This old, rickety bridge was just where we went to once everyone found out what happened to her sister.

I looked at her, but remained silent, wondering whether this story would be the one that turned the key in the lock.

“It was buzzing around in the daisies and I’d just finished my drink. I just wondered how long it would last under the glass but I forgot about it. I got bored of watching after awhile, and then I just forgot, and then that afternoon, mum came in from the backyard carrying my glass”.

She was picking at a freckle on her knee, knowing it wasn’t going to come off.

“I went back out there and it was under the flower, just laying there. It didn’t move when I poked it, so I guess I killed it”.

She was staring at me again through that screwed up, sun-staring face of hers, waiting for me to say something. To connect the dots between this story and the question I’d asked her.

“So was it kind of the same deal with Ashley? Just something you did and then got bored and forgot about?” I asked.

She nodded, watching the brown water below us.

“You wanted to see how long she’d hold out, waiting for you to find her?”, I pushed.

She shook her head.

“She wanted to play, I wanted to not play. I got sick of her whinging. I told her to go hide and I’d find her. But I didn’t even look. I forgot she even existed once I told her to hide. I just.. I was busy. Stupid busy. Just chatting online and tumblr”.

Faster now. Her words weren’t flat and far away like they had been these past few months. They had feelings in them and I could almost taste the tears they carried.

“I got hungry. Like, hours later. Hours. The sun had moved so far. The house was dark on my side and I remember that I suddenly got real cold. Heartcold, not weather cold. I remembered her. And then I heard the silence. It was the silence of her not being in the house.”

The words hadn’t slowed as much as they had started to detach from her. I could feel my skin begin to prickle as she recounted the moment that the pure horror of her realisation began to walk up her spine.

“Four hours, Tristan”, she whispered.

“It was an accident”, I reminded her, watching teardrops bloom on the denim of her shorts. “You didn’t know she’d hidden there. You didn’t hear her in the shed. You didn’t know the coolroom had locked and you didn’t know she’d had an asthma attack”.

The silence stretched as we watched logs and leaves come and go beneath us. I didn’t know if she’d heard me.

After awhile, she looked up at the sky again, barely needing to screw her face up.

“The sun’s moved”, she observed in the sad voice she had been wearing since Ashley died.
She grabbed the rail and pulled herself up. “I’d better go”.

“See you tomorrow?”, I asked the back of her.

She shook her head, stopped at the end of the bridge.

“They don’t want to be here anymore. The house. The town. The sympathetic looks they get”.

“So.. what? You’re going? You’re moving? When?” I shouted in panic, taking a step towards her as she began to turn around to face me, hurt and fear clouding her face.

“Two days, if we can get packed. Mum doesn’t stop crying. She sits in the shed, outside the cool room. She won’t let removalists come in to do it for us. Dad’s stopped talking to me. To anyone that isn’t mum. Now the only thing that breaks the sobbing is mum’s crying and dad’s shh’ing”.

She was gripping the railing and I could feel the guilt radiating from her.

“Abby, it’s not your fault. It was a horrible accident. You know her asthma was bad. You didn’t do anything to her.”

“I didn’t do anything for her” she whispered. I didn’t know how to respond.

“They don’t say it, but they hate me just as much as they love me. I’ve killed pieces of all of them”. This time the words fell in ragged, drool-dripping heaves. Her eyes were pouring pain onto the worn boards of the footbridge. I was beside her in seconds, helping her to the ground.

“Have either of them spoken to you?” I asked, my arms wrapped around her as she shook. Inhuman sounds came from her throat.

“This is the first time you’ve spoken about any of this to me. Is it the first time you’ve spoken to anyone?” I asked, squeezing her, desperate to hold her, to love her.

More inhuman wailing. Guttural, choking, mournful cries so painted in pain that I felt my own tears dripping from my chin.

The sun moved a little closer to the hills as we sat on our bridge, grieving for Ashley, and for Abby. Eventually, her grief turned to exhaustion and her eyes began to stare into nothing.

“My mum misses you. I think it’s time you stayed over at mine again”, I said, guiding her to her feet. She followed, like a puppet, hearing nothing, seeing even less.

My mum was walking through the hallway when I opened the door. She took one look at me, at Abby, and her face crumbled. A surprised, hearthurt gasp broke from her chest and she took a couple of rushing steps toward us. Abby responded by throwing my arms off her and running to my mother, burying her face in her shoulder.

I walked around them to the kitchen, where I began to make cups of tea that neither of them would end up drinking. I phoned Abby’s parents to tell them where she was, but nobody picked up. I left a message, hoped they would check it.

Abby spent that night curled in my mother’s arms, their heads fused together, my mother’s caring whispers eliciting silent, healing tears from the girlfriend I lost the day her sister died.

The next morning at the breakfast table, as my mother fussed over bacon and eggs, Abby stretched her arm out, closing her hand over mine. She smiled, then, and her smile sparkled in her red, swollen eyes.

I smiled back, but inside me my heart swelled. Inside me, I wept with relief, and an overwhelming sense of love.

Too soon, this joy was broken by the flashing lights of a police car outside. Too soon, this sliver of peace that had settled on Abby was shattered by the Policeman asking Abby to confirm who she was. Too soon, did I once again hear the sound of inhuman wailing that had broken my heart as Abby was told her parents were dead. By their own hand.

I haven’t seen her in a long time. She hasn’t seen me in even longer. Abby doesn’t see anything anymore. She stares, but she doesn’t see. She doesn’t speak, listen, love, laugh, draw, write, cry or live at all – Abby sits in her hospital bed and stares.

Three years later, I still see that smile she gave me across the breakfast table, and I still whisper “it was an accident”.

She still doesn’t hear me.

She is my light in dark places

You know that place where the feelings disappear?

Where there’s nothing but silence, a companionable silence that has no meaning behind it, just acceptance of whatever is, and that vague sense that what preceded this place was the snapped-elastic sensation of giving up on everything, all at once? And now there’s no resistance, just a weightless silence of nothing mattering anymore.

You feel relief wash over you, like you’re bathing in it, swimming in it, just floating in freedom from yourself, but there, under the water is a current. If it had colour, it would be a cartoonish wisp of blackness that tickles your toes and reminds you that this isn’t a dream.. that this is real. You’re finally here. You’re at the place where the noose hangs from the tree, the poison sparkles in the bottle, the pills pile up in your hands, the gun glistens in the moonlight.

It’s when that brings no fear that you have to tread most carefully.

I was lucky.

It was the feeling of pure calm that made me realise it wasn’t me who was holding the reins that night. No, they were being held by The Girl Who Lives Inside – the little downtrodden one who finds her voice when I find the middle of the bottle.

I used to feel sorry for her, when I realised she was in there. She’s the little girl me, the girlfriend me, the one who kept trying to tell me to leave these harmful people and I kept telling her to shut up.

I don’t feel sorry for her now. She isn’t a nice girl. She is made out of knives and bee stings and hatred and vomit and just like those people she kept warning me to leave, she also tries to hurt me.

She hates that I know about her now. She hasn’t been allowed out because I haven’t opened a bottle. I haven’t left the shores of sobriety for seven months – not a single escape tool has passed my lips – no cigarettes, no alcohol, no drugs.

I suppose she’s in there just biding her time, knowing that in a few very short months, my main reason for keeping the lid on the bottle will be out in the world, no longer sharing my blood, my oxygen, my body.

And I wonder if she will pounce. If she will take me back to that weightless place a month or so into my lack of sleep, when the sound of crying causes me to do the same. When the responsibility of being someone’s world becomes too overwhelming, will that elastic snap again? When it all piles on too heavy, I know she will be there with her bee stings and dagger-eyes, laughing at me for thinking I could get away.

What she may not have taken into account is something I’ve just realised – She’s never met me. Not this me.

This me is someone who is now needed by someone who won’t go seeking a better version of me elsewhere. For someone, I am finally going to be enough. I’m going to be their mum. And nobody is going to make me feel like she would be better off without me.

Psh. She’s only braver than me because she’s in shock. So what if she’s 5?

It appears that I don’t cope entirely well with hospital visits.

To be fair, I haven’t really had any practice, I’ve never really been sick in my life beyond the odd headcold.
I’ve never had to stay overnight in hospital – not even when I fell through the glass door and needed surgery to repair the nerves and tendons in my wrist – they sent me home after I woke up and I didn’t even get to see what a shitty hospital dinner tastes like!

On Monday, my Doctor gave me the flu vaccination because apparently people like me – those incubating another human inside them – are one of the three groups most highly recommended to have them, and I figured that since he’s been to medical school and I haven’t, it would be best to listen to his advice.

Approximately four hours later, I began to regret that decision when The Worst Cold Plus Other Things started happening to me.

My chest became tight, but I ignored it because over the past few months, a giant ball of baby has begun to sprout from my midsection, and I’ve found that occasionally, this causes all my breathybits to get squished.

I stood up to relieve the pressure but it didn’t really help, and before I had the chance to sit back down, my head began to pound like the drums of Moria after Pippin dropped the stone in the well – this was also something I ignored because Did You Know, hormones create headaches?

As I began to loudly vocalise these problems to my coworkers, my throat started aching – a deep, broken bone kind of ache – not even the “I’m getting sick” ache! It was weird, and so I vocalised this observation too.

“Apparently it’s pretty normal to feel like you’re getting a cold”, reassured one of my co-workers who had just paid a visit to Dr. Google.
“I don’t think your tongue is meant to start stinging though, right?” I replied, trying to get a look at it.

Around 40 minutes had passed since the initial tight chest and now, along with the headache, sore throat, stinging tongue (and lips), every joint in my body had its own little headache and I wanted to cry, and/or die – whichever came first.

I decided to call my dad to pick me up. I needed groceries to make scrambled eggs for dinner because my lifelove had had his wisdom tooth removed around the same time I was getting stabbed with THIS POISON THAT WAS NOW RUINING MY LIFE!

A few short minutes later, I had all my ingredients and climbed back into dad’s car, where I decided it might be time to phone the medical centre again because I was pretty sure I was about to vomit, and shouldn’t really be shivering like this.

They wanted me to come in – the stinging mouth was slightly concerning.

Check-ups were made and consultations with the Bible of Vaccinations were undertaken and it was determined that I wasn’t having an allergic reaction, but a “documented, but rare reaction”.  This is fairly common practice for my family. We don’t do medication normally.

Doc determined that I would feel better if I went over to the Emergency Department to get some IV fluids into me.

By now my fingertips were going slightly blue and I was shivering more than a medieval bride waiting for her gross old husband to make a woman out of her.

I wasn’t allowed to move my wrist, because my veins are almost non-existent and we were forced to IV me right there where my hand comes off my arm – that part of you that you don’t realise you move a lot until you’re no longer allowed to. In fact, were you aware that you bend your wrist approximately INFINITY TIMES A SECOND?

I really needed to move that wrist – I wanted to be on my side. Preferably watching television on my own lounge and for these pain feelings to not be in me. Life was so unfuckingfair.

I looked at the clock with big, hope-filled eyes. Ten minutes had passed. Ten minutes out of the approximate two hours that I would be required to spend there. Fuck a thousand ducks.

I moaned my complaints to my visitors – my ever patient and loving mother – who advised me that I’d already had some miniscule hundred mls of the fluids and only had ONE MILLION MORE to go.
My back hurt. My bones hurt. Even the air that touched my face hurt.
My other visitor – my lifelove with his recently removed wisdom tooth – patted me sympathetically, smiling through the swelling of his face.

Then the emergency ward began to buzz with life as a little girl was brought in – a suspected broken elbow due to a fall from a trampoline.
Apparently it was a bad one. She needed immediate surgery and she was so brave, she was barely making a sound!

That’s because she’s lucky enough to be in shock!

Really, you should worry about me, my body not even protecting me from my own incredible pain.

Plus, the morphine you gave her probably helped! I only got Panadol – and it was in tablet form – tablets I had to sit up to take when I couldn’t even bend my wrist. I had to wriggle my way upright with one hand and then get my mother to hold the cup of water while I popped the tablet in my mouth. Then we had to swap again so I could pick up the SECOND tablet!

My brow definitely needed mopping after that ordeal.

Two and a half hours later, my IV bag emptied of its precious life-saving fluids, I was allowed to go home.

“See you again in a few months” said the Emergency Department Dude, nodding at my bellybump as I held the plaster over the gaping wound that had been gouged into my arm by the needle.

Thankfully I have shown that I bear the burden of pain stoically.