I waited until my friend took GinGin and Roo out of the nurse’s room and I cried. I sobbed my little heart out on the nurse’s shoulder. It was too much. I’d managed to hold myself together in front of the girls. But once they were out of sight, and I knew they were safe, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
My teeth were chattering, I was shivering cold, shaking uncontrollably and unable to stand up by myself. And I was trying to keep hold of my jumper and coat while two nurses were desperately trying to strip away some of my many, many layers of clothing. I was so cold. But I had a temperature of 105.4 degrees and the sweat was running off me like some sort of mini-waterfall.
There were voices in the background. I could hear them, but couldn’t focus on what they were saying over the noise coming from the oxygen mask that had been strapped to my face. A nurse, a doctor and two paramedics were throwing words like “sepsis” and “pneumonia” around. Surely they weren’t talking about me?
Embarrassingly I was wheeled out of the doctor’s surgery and into the back of an ambulance that had arrived in lightening speed. My car was left abandoned in the car park. The same car park I’d collapsed in less than an hour before.
That was the 8th of February this year. It was possibly the worst day of my life so far. I mean I might have had worse days, but I don’t dwell on the negatives and I have a terrible memory *laughs at myself!*
“That’s what we do. Right?”
I’d been ill for weeks. And so had Jon. GinGin and Roo weren’t great either. We’d all had a cold. Thankfully I was still on maternity leave so I didn’t have the added pressure – and guilt – of missing work. But I had an eight month old baby and a hyper five year old girl to look after. Oh, and Roo was teething!
So because Jon still had to go to work – and he was quite poorly himself – I just carried on as normal. That’s what we do. Right? Us mamas, we just carry on. Our little ones depend on us. (And so do our bigger ones!) So we stay awake all night to soothe our poorly babies. We rush around to make the mad-dash to school twice a day, trying to remember everything that should and shouldn’t be in the school bag, the book bag, the PE bag…
We just keep going. We have to. But about three weeks into feeling poorly I was struggling. A mummy-friend of mine had very kindly offered to take GinGin to and from school for a few days so I didn’t have to worry. But I do worry. It’s my job to look after her. It’s my job to see she gets to school on time. To give her just one more hug before she goes in. To blow her a kiss through the classroom window so “I can keep it in my pocket for later mummy.”
Don’t get me wrong – I was relieved – but it still made me feel bad. Plus GinGin was starting to look poorly. She was complaining of an ear ache. And Roo seemed to be developing an upset stomach (nice!) and so I called the doctor to get them an appointment. I rang the school to explain why GinGin would be late for school. And I drove the few miles to the GP’s surgery.
I was winning!
I parked the car. It took me three attempts to open the boot to get Roo’s pushchair. But eventually I managed that too. I was winning! But, when it came to getting Roo out of the car, I had no air in my lungs. Breathing in didn’t help. There was no air. I was stuck. I just managed to put Roo safely in her chair. And then I collapsed into the boot of my car.
It was so surreal. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. Other people had started to notice something wasn’t right and were asking if I was okay. Stupidly I did the female thing where you pretend everything’s fine. Thankfully these people weren’t fooled. They got help.
Two nurses came out with a wheelchair to get me. They took charge of GinGin and Roo. They called the doctor to see to them – GinGin had an ear infection, and Roo was pooey because she was teething – they were fine! I’d got them to the doctor and they were going to be fine. Mission complete!
While all this was going on, I’d been transported to a bed in the nurse’s room. I was hooked up to an oxygen machine and the nurses were trying to take my vital readings. I told them I thought I had a cold, but I was fine. Of course I was fine. I had my babies to look after. I had to be fine.
I wasn’t fine.
The doctor laughed at me – I must have looked and sounded ridiculous *eyes roll.* He said, “you don’t have a cold; you’re much more poorly than that and you’re going to hospital.”
This was when the panic really started to kick in. They’ve rang an ambulance. I have to go to hospital. I can’t get hold of Jon. Who’s going to look after my babies? Who the actual heck is going to look after MY babies?
My mind raced through the people who I trusted and who wouldn’t mind too much if I bothered them with my mini-crisis. Thank goodness I know some awesome people! We managed to get the girls sorted. They’d both been so good. Kept busy by the brilliant staff at the doctor’s surgery. I smiled, blew kisses, told them I loved them both and waved goodbye as my friend took them home.
And then I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I cried. A lot. I don’t know if it was just relief that GinGin and Roo were going to be okay, or because I finally didn’t have to hide how poorly I was. I could admit that I was really very ill. I was struggling. A lot. Drinking fluids and taking paracetamol wasn’t the miracle cure I needed.
“I wasn’t dead and I didn’t have to pay for all my treatment.”
Later that evening – after isolation rooms, tubes, monitors, x-rays, masks, medicines, oxygen, medicines, more oxygen and a bag full of more medicines to take away – I was stable. I was looking better. My temperature had come down to somewhere near normal. My resting heart-rate wasn’t pushing 200 beats a minute anymore. I could very nearly stand up all by myself. I was allowed to go home!
Our national health service is amazing. I wasn’t dead and I didn’t have to pay for all my treatment. Imagine that!
If you’ve got this far – well done! – you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to the “most important mama-lesson I’ve learned so far” bit. LOL.
Well, here it is.
The most important thing I’ve learned about being a new mummy again is that, actually, I do need to take care of myself. Back when Roo was born, I shared a hospital room with another new mummy. She was desperately ill. She did have sepsis. I said to her: “you need to make sure you look after yourself; after all you can’t fill a glass from an empty jug!”
You see I knew the fundamental principle of self-care. I knew that to be able to look after my girls I would first have to look after myself. It’s simple. Right? But real life sometimes gets in the way of well-meaning advice.
We all know that we need to care for ourselves. That we need rest. That we need to eat well. That we should get outside more. That we should drink plenty of water and take regular exercise. We know that we should slow down when we’re sick.
But knowing something, and doing something are totally different things. It’s nearly four months since I collapsed at the doctors. I had flu. Possible pneumonia. And then pleurisy.
Only now am I starting to feel my normal self again. Four months later. But my lungs still feel broken – like someone has gone at them with a cheese-grater – when I do too much. I mean I was no Mo Farah before, but I could push Roo’s pushchair up a hill without too much puffing and panting and stabbing pains in my chest.
So the lesson I’ve learned is to slow down. To take better care of myself. To listen to my body when it tells me I need to stop. To not feel guilty if I’ve not ticked all the things off my impossibly-long to-do list. To know that I can’t do everything by myself. And, more importantly, to know that I don’t need to do everything by myself.
So ladies – and fellas – take note of my embarrassing story. If you’re feeling under the weather, rest. If you don’t start to feel better after a few days, go see the doctor. Get better. Properly better. You’re no good to anyone if you’re collapsed in a heap in the boot of your car!
Mummies – it’s your turn! What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since having babies? Share it in the comments below, we can learn from each other 🙂
PS – the eating well and taking regular exercise stuff are still on my to-do list *tuts*