Monday, 14 August 2017

Turbulence Part 4: A Very Pregnant Pause


Trauma is a complex. The definitions of trauma relate to both physical injury and personal distress. Alongside the tangible physical trauma, my fall in Italy left had me with another scar. This scar etched itself across my mind as a loop. Over and over again I witnessed the smack of my skin and bone hitting the ground. I saw myself falling when I closed my eyes, or when I was mid conversation, or while watching TV. These flashbacks lasted intensely for many months and are occasionally still present to this day.

Lately I have come to perceive emotional suffering and trauma as a type of self-portrait. How we are broken and exactly what breaks us, is intrinsically unique to who we are, where we have come from, our nature, our nurture, our responses, our choices, the things we do, the things that are done to us and the things that happen around us. The self-portrait of my own pain reveals as much (if not more) to me about my humanity, my values, my desires and my needs, as any success, conquest, joy or satisfaction. From the moment we are born we live our lives in transit, dealing with the pain of one loss after another. Loss has been a big underlying narrative of all the music and art I’ve made as a kind of grappling with the eternal question of “How to live with this continual cycle of loss?”

Suddenly I was in the middle of a new paradigm of loss.

I’d lost the full use of my legs. Bill, an artist, had lost the use of his right hand. Our bodies had been partially snatched from us. Neither of us knew if our limbs would make full physical recovery at that stage. I weighed it all up with the relief that on the other hand, we hadn’t lost our daughter. Other friends dear to me had experienced that loss, I mourned for their losses as I clung to my lifeline of growing the child inside me. There were also the smaller losses, the loss of the new EP I’d been preparing, the gigs I’d booked in, a collaborative music project I’d been working on. The body snatchers had not been altogether unsuccessful. We were still here, but not as the people we were. Normal service was put on hold. Our dreams and hopes of home births and ‘blooming’ third trimesters were literally snatched from beneath us. The rest of the world steamed ahead regardless, leaving us trailing behind with crutches and slings. I was left with a single purpose of growing our baby. On the good days I focussed on deliberately trying to take each moment and hour and day at a time, sometimes I surprised myself in being successful at this, a lot of times I wasn’t. The bad days were full of frustration and disappointment. People rallied around us and we felt held by their tangible support. Visits from my great friend and cello playing band member Rosy who was 8 weeks further along in her own pregnancy helped me hold onto my sanity. When the world does not stop for the lame and the infirm or even glance back, how quickly your place on this planet becomes colder, harder, lonelier and that term ‘a friend in need’ really begins to mean something. Thankfully we had (and still have) some amazing friends who took time out to walk with us.

My muscles stayed locked in cramps and spasm. I developed SPD painful ligament condition, and then several other complications that had nothing to do with my injuries, just tough, grim pregnancy related things, (bizarrely including carpel tunnel syndrome in my wrists, I had no idea this could be pregnancy related but it really is!)  Once a week I attended hydrotherapy sessions, enjoying a temporary weightlessness as I floated in the warm water and eventually I was given a wheelchair from my physio which meant I could get taken out of the house more easily. People stared at us at the supermarket. We made for an unusual sight! Bill with one arm in a sling pushing me with my huge pregnant bump along in the wheelchair. Suddenly the world was a place that I could barely access and even with help and the external aid of a wheelchair, I could not reach or see simple things like the eggs on a shelf at the supermarket.
It was eye opening. I understood just how much as an able bodied person I had always taken for granted. 

I learned. 

I learned that you just have to find a way to get on with life. I remember giving myself a stern talking to one evening along the lines of “for goodness sake, people far less able than you find ways of doing things” Desperate times need desperate measures – or very creative ones and we began to create our new paradigm of coping. It made me laugh as we settled into the breakfast routine. Bill would use his left hand to put toast in the toaster I would then spread the butter and jam and pour the coffee after he’d boiled the kettle and brought it to the table (as the finer knife skills and pouring boiling liquid was proving beyond the capabilities of his left hand at that time) We were living in survival mode through a very pregnant pause, waiting for our daughter to arrive.  Bill, ever resourceful taught himself to draw with his left hand so that he could carry on the art projects in primary schools and youth prison service he had on at the time and we muddled along as best as we could.


Unfortunately however if I go back to my initial flight analogy (from a few posts back) all that we had just experienced was only the first turbulent shake up the second much harder drop was still to come. We were in it for the long haul…

1 comment:

Bethan Nia said...

I am really gripped by your story Rachel. I know that you had been through a really tough time with your fall and complications and everything but I had no idea about Bill and the full details of your struggles at the time. You write so beautifully and courageously with insight warmth and humour. Thanks for sharing! x