I woke up last Thursday to several messages from Paul, who was in London for work. He was having a Crohn’s flare-up, and it was getting worse. He was going to A&E. I asked him to keep me posted and got the kids up, took them to nursery. A little later, my brother-in-law Scott sent a message to say that Rachel had been taken to hospital in the night with chest pains. I drove into Leicester, to one of the many hospitals I know so well. Rach was still waiting to see a doctor. Scott looked shattered. He’d been there since the early hours, and he’d had their boys with him. Shortly after I arrived, he went home for a shower.
Our parents turned up. In a strange way, it was nice for the four of us to be together. Rachel was tired but the pain had mostly gone. We shuffled around, taking it in turns to sit in the chair beside her bed, while she had blood taken and had an x-ray and the medical staff ruled out anything too serious. Meanwhile, Paul sent me a photo of himself in his hospital gown, asked whether Rach looked as good in hers.
I felt split in two. I wanted to go to London to be with Paul, but I needed to look after the children. And there was Rach, too. About six hours after I’d arrived, I left the hospital. It was almost time to pick the kids up from nursery. I sat in the driveway for about ten minutes after pulling up, trying to summon the energy to go inside the house. I read a message from my mum: Rach had been discharged and was on her way back to the care home.
I felt tired in my bones. I wasn’t sure how I was going to bath Joseph and Elodie and get them into bed, which takes all my energy on a good day. But when I got back home after picking them up, I saw Mum’s car in the driveway. She’d come to help me out. Between us, we gave them milk, chased them up the stairs, cleaned their teeth, washed their little bodies, read them stories and sang them songs. And I was more grateful for the help and the company than I could express.
Paul usually gets back from London late on Thursday, and the kids are always excited to see him on Friday morning. We all get into our bed for cuddles. But Paul was still in hospital, waiting on the results of a CT scan. I got the three of us up and dressed, trying to curb the trail of destruction as I went. Eventually, we were ready to go downstairs. But then I nipped back into Joseph’s room to open his curtains, and I didn’t see that he’d opened the stair gate until it was too late.
I turned around to see Elodie standing at the top of the stairs, and then I watched her fall down from top to bottom. It took a couple of seconds and it took forever. When I reached her, I was crying, and she was crying, indignant. But after a minute or so, she stopped crying and started playing. She ate her breakfast. She chased her brother around and laughed. But I couldn’t stop crying. At one point, Joseph said, ‘It’s ok now, Mummy, it’s finished’, his voice a little worried. I couldn’t stop.
When anything happens, good or bad, I think about texting Rach. That morning, I got as far as reaching for my phone before I remembered that I couldn’t do that. And then I thought about texting Mum, but remembered that she’d awoken the previous day to the news that her daughter was in hospital with chest pains. I didn’t want to send her more bad news. And then I thought about texting Paul, but didn’t, because he’s a terrible worrier, and he couldn’t do anything, and he was already in hospital, miles from home. And then I felt utterly alone.
Eventually, I pulled myself together, asked some mum friends what they thought I should do, stopped crying. Mum turned up and we took the kids into town. Paul called to say that he was being discharged and would be coming home the next day. And later, a friend I haven’t seen much recently turned up on my doorstep with homemade soup, and hugged me. And I felt less alone, but no less shattered.
The weekend brought yet another virus for Elodie, a lot of snow, and Paul (whose dad drove from the New Forest to London to pick him up and then delivered him here, had a sandwich and turned around to go home). A friend who lives nearby offered to take Joseph for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, and Paul’s mum turned up on Sunday afternoon, much to everyone’s delight. Paul and I both had a nap that day, and I woke up feeling new.
Things aren’t quite back to normal, but they’re not far off. I saw Rachel today and she was fine. Paul is very slowly starting to eat solid food again. Joseph asked Paul, when he was supposed to be going to sleep, if he could see a picture of Paul’s brain. Elodie told me she wants to be a car park when she grows up. And I’m feeling grateful, for good friends and family, and for the way toddlers bounce.