Part 11. My Babies
While managing this I’ve tried to be present for my girls, both of whom are dealing with this shit brilliantly but very differently. I’ve felt like I haven’t focused just on them for weeks so have tried to address that. It’s been successful and challenging all at once. A friend commented recently on a Facebook post that being a single mum is hard; being a single mum with a full time job harder; and being a single mum with cancer maybe the hardest. Well it ain’t easy. And there are some things that the 3 of us have to get through alone, despite the help I know I always have on call. Some people reading this know my girls well, some know them a little, some not at all. I’ve confided in some of my closest people about the challenging parenting stuff I’ve come up against. But the fact is no one knows my girls and our relationship like me, so no one has the instincts I have about them. That and the fact that they want alone time with me all the more now means I have to do most of this stuff on my own. And that’s pretty hard at times.
I’ve steered clear of writing about the girls to date. It’s the most difficult part of all of this for me. I’m not worried about me, but I’m focused on me, more than I ever have been since they were born. Because they need me well. They need their mum, Emma, the ballsy, sensitive, cuddly, sometimes take-no-shit but don’t sweat the small stuff, funny, grumpy, tired, noisy, tickley, and all-the-rest-of-it normal mum. Their needs, their happiness and my deep sadness that they have to live through this with me are some of the reasons I’ve avoided writing about them. One day they’ll read this and I want them to know that I respect their feelings and privacy. I am fully open about what’s happening to me and around me right now, but I’m not sharing this blog with them yet, and I’m not sharing their feelings for them. As it is I think they’re still working out their feelings and working through them.
G and N are 14 and 9, soon to be 10. I will gladly share publicly what an incredible source of pride they are. Their initial, individual, reactions to the kind of news a mother never wants to impart were so honest, healthy and full of love. The days following that hideous discussion were days of physical and emotional closeness that we 3 always have, but that we clearly needed all the more.
G has taken a leap in responsibility even in the small things like deciding to text her Dad at 3am that first night rather than wake me as she knew how drained I was. She’s held me close as a sister or close friend would on the very few occasions I’ve cried – mainly due to a new found inability to deal with any domestic stress at all! And she was the first to do my full make up after I had my head shaved. She’s taken every step with love and humour after her initial horror and distress, and she’s demonstrated calm and such an abundance of love and compassion. And the best part for me is she’s still telling me her outfit woes and asking for my help with English homework. Normal. We need normal. G has always worn her heart on her sleeve (like her mum), but she is yet to fully recognise her own resilience and capacity for love and care. She is a force.
N is a fiery girl, always has been. Only the closest people to her know that. She’s quiet around others. She’s the one who burst out of me at birth in contrast to G who resisted leaving the womb for the best part of 3 days. On the day I told them I have breast cancer N listened to me intently. She sat close watching my eyes and my lips as I spoke. She mirrored my language, asking questions and making statements beyond her years, like taking the next few months a day or week at a time. This life challenge comes in the middle of her own hormonal spurt, one that’s getting her fire going. On the one hand this makes her cross and needing to feel in some sort of control of whatever she can control. On the other it makes her exude such love it’s like she’s absolutely still connected physically to me. She’s a wonderful enigma.
Their schools have been fantastically supportive and I know both girls do and will get all they need. As it is they’re both acing school with recent reports that astounded me in their excellence, not least because their attitudes are noted as being outstanding. G has gone through the process of choosing her options with calm consideration. And when I told N her recent report was the best I’ve ever read for her and how proud I am and she replied, “that’s especially good for someone who’s mum has cancer”. Fucking right my girl.
I don’t need or expect excellence at school. I do expect them to do their best and all the while they’re doing well at school and have happy friendships I know they’re OK. Life is challenging right now and I know that’s not just to do with cancer, it’s to do with being 9 and 14. Sometimes it hurts because I’m not the mum I usually am. I’m weak physically and mentally at times and I want what every mum wants, I want to fix their challenges for them.
I know this though. My girls are OK. I also know that they won’t just be OK when this is over, they’ll be amazing. This will deliver lessons for them, as it is for me, and they will be positive lessons. They’ll be the life lessons we could all do with a refresher on about the really fucking important things. They’ll know how precious their people are, if they don’t already, and that those relationships are the riches to treasure over and above anything else.
They will know how strong humans can be in the face of something frightening. Not brave. For me brave is to put yourself in the path of something when you don’t have to. Strength is to face something when there’s no choice but to look it in the eye. They will know how focused and determined their mum was to be well and have a good life with and for them. They’ll know that hair doesn’t define who you are, that you can laugh when you’re in pain, that crying is strength, and that when you’re talking about the possibility of both boobs coming off (that may or may not be something I have to consider) you can face that down knowing it means you’re safe.
Mostly they will know they are loved. So loved by so many. But no one can love them like their bald, toxic, lumpy mum does.
G & N.
My girls. My babies. When you read this all of what has passed will make weird sense. You will be ready for any challenge life throws at you and you’ll be equally ready to dance in the sun whenever you can. Because you know what’s important. It’s not the small stuff, it’s to live, love, be loved and laugh. It’s to look after yourself and that beautiful mind and body before anything else, only then can you look after the ones you love. And it’s to both grab life by the balls and be still and observe. I’ll be right there with you when you want or need me. If not I’ll probably be exploring, dancing or lying on a beach with a giant gin preferably served by a hot man (sorry)!
Keep giggling, singing, dancing and cuddling. They are all natural remedies for what ails you – even my stupid fucking cancer. Thank you for being such strong, funny, loving young women. I am so proud of you both. You are a part of my cure, remember that. Mum xxxxx