They say “you can’t have it all.” And this statement rings particularly true when you have a child with additional needs. The week that was is a perfect illustration of that.
I see my persona being made up of several “me’s.” Firstly, and most importantly, the ‘family’ me, the wife and mother. The ‘friend’ me, who is there for friends when they need me, for the good times and the challenging times. The ‘work’ me, someone who is committed to their career working within a business they believe in. And the ‘sociable / going out’ me. (Formerly a huge part of my persona, the ‘sociable me’ has been the obvious one to take a bit of a back seat these past few years.)
At the start of this year, I set out boldly to prove that you CAN have it all. That having a child with additional needs would in no way change life as I knew it and that I could indeed keep all these balls in the air: focus on Marigold and her needs; keep on top of therapies; deal with ongoing illnesses; focus on Harrison starting school; support my hard working husband; be there for friends when they need me, attend social occasions; be an exemplary career woman and working mother; start a blog; bake my own cakes; remember everyone’s birthdays; throw great parties; be socially responsible and do charity work…..yes, I really thought I could do it all. But this past week is a perfect illustration of how you can’t really have it all. Something has to give. Especially when caring for a little one who is more unpredictable on the health front.
Last Saturday it was my 40th birthday party. The sociable me having taken a back seat for so long, I decided to throw a huge party for everyone I knew with a 1980s theme. The six month build up involved almost daily updates on 80s nostalgia and whipping people up into a frenzy about fancy dress/ moon walking and slow dancing competitions. It was a lot of fun and it was going to be MY night, the night I have been waiting for since the 1980s ended (still dealing with this by the way, never quite accepted it.)
The Friday night before the party, we went to bed to make sure we had an early night to cope with the prospect of a bedtime after 10pm (so very rare these days). Marigold had a strangely fitful night’s sleep and ended up in our bed. The sickness klaxon sounded in our heads. By midday we could no longer ignore the fact she was coughing. “Just 24 hours, just hold off 24 hours!” we pleaded. But we knew in our hearts this would be the precursor to another bout of respiratory illness where poor Marigold is knocked for six.
Being a good girl, she rallied enough to see us off with a smile and I suppressed my anxious feelings and managed to have a fantastic party night with top marks from all my friends for outstanding efforts on the dressing up front. Looking round the room to see Dusty Bin, two Banana Men the entire cast of Hi-De-Hi, Michael Jackson, a Fraggle, The Human League and many more dancing to Come in Eileen was a memory to be treasured for always.
I think it was fair to say I was slightly drunk by the time we arrived home at 2am – to find Marigold out of bed with her grandparents and most definitely peaky. Nothing sobers you up more than the prospect of dealing with a sick child so it was limited sleep again as I dashed downstairs every five minutes to check on her, knowing what was to come.
By the Monday, it was the inevitable trip to the emergency drs for emergency antibiotics. But this time, they didn’t seem to work. Another sleepless night on Monday and by the Tuesday evening she was refusing all fluids. Wednesday at dawn, I took her in to hospital where we were admitted and she was put on oxygen and a drip.
It was possibly the worst hangover ever.
Marigold had two respiratory viruses and needed to stay in hospital for four days.
On the Thursday night, there were some industry awards. I had been shortlisted for an individual award for BD Professional of the Year. Naturally, there was absolutely no question, I would not have been anywhere other than Marigold’s side, so I enjoyed the event virtually on social media and my director sent me a picture of my name in the programme. I didn’t win and was not expecting to. But I guess it would have been cool to see my name in lights.
On the Friday, a very dear old friend had his 40th. My university friend of 20 years, I was given the great honour of officiating at his wedding many years ago and he acted as MC at mine. He has had his own challenges recently, yet pulled it out of the bag for my 40th party turning up dressed as a Fraggle. Sadly I couldn’t repay the favour and it was another case of watching the party from the sidelines of FaceBook.
I must be clear, I would not have been anywhere other than Marigold’s side this past week and in absolutely no way do I begrudge missing out. This is the way it is. But what it made me realise more than ever is that I really can’t do it all. I can’t be top mother, best friend, Sheryl Sandberg-esque career woman and life and soul of the party. I will always be letting someone down.
And the most important thing is that I never, ever let Marigold and my family down.
So it has been a week of realignment, working out a new way going forward that creates more balance and well being for me, for Marigold, for everyone. A week of admitting to myself that I am not the super woman I was pretending to be.
So all that remains is for me to thank some people for their understanding on this journey. My husband, for putting up with “the madness.” My children, for putting up with the lack of patience. My friends, for putting up with the flakiness and cancellations. My employers, for their endless support, sage advice and flexibility. Our nanny, for the love and care she had given our precious girl over the past year.
I don’t think we can have it all. And do you know what? That’s absolutely fine. Just make sure you have the right things and surround yourself with the right people to help you. And I think me and Marigold have that pretty sorted.