By Eilidh’s mum, Lynn.
When I told friends about Dave’s plan for his 21 blogs for DS awareness I was often asked when my ‘guest blog’ would be. My response was always “not a chance!!” Those who know me well, will be well aware that an ability to make a point – and stick to it – in less than 1000 words is well beyond my capabilities. Numbers are my thing, not words. Anyway, thanks to the overwhelming response from friends – and strangers – my appearance as a guest blogger was never actually required. It did get me thinking though and despite my better judgement I decided to try to give it a go….
A few weeks after Eilidh was born, a well intentioned friend sent a message to me saying that God only ever gave us what we could cope with. The fact we are not religious aside, this statement bothered me as the last thing I wanted to do was ‘cope’ with my life. I’d coped (though admittedly not always well) when my mum and dad split up when I was 14 and then again when my dad died from cancer when i was 33. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from the only person dealing with tough stuff in their life – I have very good friends who have had much worse to cope with and who do so without any fanfare. What bothered me was that I expected that the difficult times aside, I would be able to enjoy a ‘normal’ life – not merely cope with it. In my head Eilidh having DS meant not only could I no longer enjoy life, but also a normal (if i’m honest, perfect) life was now completely out of reach.
My mum and Dad split up when I was 14, which in the late 80s was not an everyday occurrence. The fact that it was my mum who walked out leaving me, my dad and brother, made it an even rarer occurrence.
Overnight, everything changed. I became the ‘woman’ of the house, swapping hanging out on the street corners with my friends (there wasn’t much to do in Troon) for cooking (or attempting to cook) for my dad and brother and ‘doing the housework’ – that’s a woman‘s job right? I still remember my first attempt at a sunday morning fry up. The fried eggs looking interesting with fragments of black pudding speckled within the white – my dad never once complained at my attempts though.
The traditional family dinner disappeared from my house. It was a very small thing – dinner with your family – but it symbolised what I felt I’d missed out on. Baked potatoes, pasta ‘n’ sauce and savoury rice became my microwave friends while I caught up on the latest drama unfolding on Home & Away or Neighbours. A dinner with actual people, round the table became an event for christmas and special occasions.
I was absolutely determined that when I had a family it would be perfect – I would have the ‘normal’ family life I’d always looked in on but felt I’d never had.
When Eilidh was born, I struggled a lot with many thoughts and emotions. Ashamedly, one of those was that once again I was not going to have that ‘perfect life’ that I’d always hoped for. I had my own wee girl, but the chance to have the mother/daughter relationship I was envious of other friends having had been cruelly stolen from me. All those saturday afternoon shopping trips, watching my favourite disney films, going for a girly lunch /spa couldn’t possibly happen now. Right? Obviously, I now realise how ridiculous this thought was, but at the time it was only one of many irrational thoughts I was having.
I also felt like this was all my fault – I’d carried Eilidh, and given birth to her, and of course I was in the riskier age bracket. Something the paediatrician didn’t shy away from when he visited us when Eilidh was a few weeks old. Of our questions about DS, his response was to highlight that ‘the mothers age’ can be a factor. It wasn’t all he said – but it was all I heard. This was my fault, Dave hadn’t signed up for this, and I had just ruined Rory’s life – like I said many irrational thoughts.
I’m also ashamed to admit that I was consumed with jealousy towards my friends and their babies and found it extremely difficult to join in the joy when told of friends who were expecting their own babies.
Despite my best efforts I couldn’t help but see everything Eilidh wasn’t doing – and wasn’t going to be. All the books tell us not to compare our kids as they will all develop at different times. As most mums will agree, that’s really difficult to keep to in practice – and when the differences became more pronounced it was impossible to ignore as a gulf developed between those her age and the younger children caught up and left Eilidh standing (well sitting I suppose).
I would love to say I’ve stopped noticing the gap between Eilidh and her closest friends and family, but while that’s maybe still to come, I’m glad to say that I’ve overcome the envy I once felt and can enjoy watching my friends children grow up without the overwhelming jealousy I once felt – and the guilt that accompanied those feelings.
From the outside looking in, it might look like those around you have a ‘perfect’ life but I’ve come to realise everyone has their own challenges they are dealing with on a daily basis. Some challenges are more obvious than others, and some people can hide them better than others. We’re almost the flip side, for the outsider looking at Eilidh they might assume our life is harder than it is.
Yes, we have, and will continue to have, challenges but we have a good life, we are all healthy and have family and friends who love and support us. I have had to learn to deal with much more intervention from strangers who apparently know better than me how to bring up my wee girl, and juggle the many appointments Eilidh has, but really, the everyday juggling of childcare and worries about how I’m bringing up my kids is just like any other mum out there.
At the end of the day, I’ve come to realise I’m probably not so different to everyone else with my dreams of a normal and perfect life. But what does normal really mean anyway? There are so many versions of family these days that surely there really isn’t a definition. As for perfect? Well, I think that’s whatever you decide to make it.