That's Life ( Pt 5 )
It was nearing the end of February 1983 and I'd been at the refuge since the beginning of January. Because my son was born with a soft cleft, which is a tiny hole at the back of his throat, I'd taken him to see the ears, nose and throat specialist at the hospital at least twice since I'd been at the refuge. The specialist said he'd need an operation to stitch the hole, but they couldn't perform it till he was six months old, which meant he'd have to wait till April, but at least he was feeding a lot better now.
Because it was ingrained into me from the moment I arrived at the refuge, that there was safety in numbers and you shouldn't go out anywhere alone, my friend had accompanied me and was a great shoulder to lean on during that first visit to the hospital.
Not knowing what to expect, the specialist said my son would need grommets in his ears, which would mean yet another operation. I thought to myself! Oh No! Not another complication to worry about. It was such a dark time with everything else that was going on.
By now my son's father had taken legal action with his solicitor and was demanding he be allowed to spend time with his son, which I understood completely, so through our solicitors we set up a time and place to meet and hand my son over, It was all very disconcerting and left me on edge. My son's soon to be godmother was an incredible comfort for me once again, coming along to hand over my son.
As we stood in the crowded city at the arranged meeting place, I held my baby to my chest and began to cry as I saw my husband walking towards us. My nerves were in tatters as I handed him over with a bag of things he'd need, like SMA feed, bottles, nappies and a change of clothes.
For the first time, it was as if I were handing over a part of me, I felt empty and all I could say was; “Take care of him...I'll see you Sunday at the arranged time.” Tears kept filling my eyes as we walked away. My friend told me not to look back, that it would only upset me even more, so I didn't, we just kept walking.
For the next two days, I couldn't think of anything else but my son, I know it sounds stupid, but it's strange how all the worse case scenarios went through my mind, leaving my imagination in tatters. The weekend seemed to go very slowly as I tried to fill my time, sitting in the kitchen on Saturday night and chatting to the other mothers while downing cans of Newcastle brown, but not wanting to leave the comfort of the refuge.
On the Sunday, we were in the middle of cooking dinner, I was still thinking about my son and missing him like mad, wondering if he was alright. I wasn't aware I was peeling most of the skin off the potatoes, till my friend informed me we'd be eating potato skins if I carried on.
My imagination as I said was all over the place, with silly stupid notions of my husband taking my son and leaving the country, how the mind plays tricks when your sanity has been damaged. My friend told me to sit down and she'd carry on with the peeling, but all I could do was wonder at how I'd cope without my baby.
Eventually, after lunch my friend came with me to pick up my son, I couldn't wait to get there. I was so grateful that my husband turned up on time.
“How was he?” I asked, hardly giving him time to reply, I then again inquired, “Did he feed okay?” I took my son and cuddled him close, he smelt different, his clothes had been washed in some different washing powder, I didn't like the smell, it was more than I could handle.
“He's fine!” Said my husband. “I took him to my mum's and she knew what to do.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, this man that I'd once loved had been born with a cleft pallet, which meant he'd been born with the roof of his mouth missing, so his mum knew exactly how to cope with the feeding.
I thought to myself, 'why couldn't he always be this considerate, instead of playing with my sanity and emotions!' All those negative scenarios that left me paranoid and worried he was going to run off with our baby, seemed so stupid looking back, because I know now he wouldn't have been able to cope with a baby full time.
Having a breakdown devours all your sense of reason. To add to my stress of that weekend, it was on the following Wednesday that a few of us women had returned from the shops after collecting some food for the evening meal.
As I entered the front door, one of the aid worker caught sight of me, calling out. “Jenny! Can you come into the office please...I need to talk to you.”
My immediate impression was that I'd done something wrong, so handing my baby over to my friend, I entered the office unable to even ask what was wrong. She told me to sit down. As I pulled up a chair, she started to explain. “It's about your stay here,” she took a sip of her coffee, then continued. “I'm afraid we'll need to let you go.”
I was in shock and felt non plus by the news. “Have I done something wrong?” I asked, feeling like a lamb to the slaughter.
She smiled, nodding, her face scrunching up in an amused manner. “Of course not, whatever gave you that idea?”
I shrugged, unsure of how to reply. Then she continued. “We need to make room for other women coming in. It has come to my attention that you are a lot more in control of your life now, with all the help you've been getting you're finding your way around. I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding new accommodation.”
I knew this day would come and I had to admit my confidence had returned. “When do I have to be out?” I inquired, trying to maintain a calm exterior, but feeling very upset inside.
In a completely relaxed manner, she said, “you have till the weekend to find another place to live. I suggest you get the local paper and make some calls.”
I never uttered another word, I could feel the tears coming. I just got up and left the room, realizing I only had two and half days to find a place. I ran to the toilet and sat there sobbing, thankful that at least there was some toilet roll to blow my nose. There was a knock on the door as one of the women asked if I was okay?
“No!” I replied, “I'm not all right...but I will be once I've pulled myself together...can you look after my son for a moment please?”
There was a pause, then my friend agreed to take my son into her room with her daughter, leaving me to get over the shock.
Finally, at last I was thinking a lot straighter and once I'd had a good cry, I decided to treat this as just another challenge to overcome. The friendships I'd made in here were more than lifting my spirits, we were all here to help each other, I was sure I'd get the support I needed, but yet again I was to enter a new chapter in my life.
To be continued...