So - I missed a week. I’m sorry. But for a number of reasons I can only hope that this is the hardest chapter I ever have to write. But before we get to the why that is – let me answer a few of your questions:
What is your favourite drink?
Ok. I’ll answer this in two parts....
Favourite NON – alcoholic drink
I love Rio (both the
Florida one and the Tropical one) but as it isn’t sold in supermarkets – someone gets it from a cash and carry for us (yes I’m that fond of it). It gets desperate though if I need a Rio fix and we don’t have any in the house because I get so desperate that I’m usually “forced” to get a dirty takeaway in order to have a can (for some reason takeaways always seem to have it....actually - on reflection....it’s probably just for people like me. Touché takeaway owners….). I’m also really fond of smoothies WITHOUT banana and lime cordial with soda water.
Favourite Alcoholic Drink
Here is a question that opens the floodgates. Ok I’m not a massive fan of spirits on their own but I am very partial to a bit of Fireball Whiskey (it’s also lovely mixed with apple juice). I’m increasingly fond of red wine (I’m a “pick whichever bottle is half price” kind of guy) and as a confession I’m also a bit of a beer snob (cue jokes about my surname). And by beer snob – I actually mean a lager snob - as real ale instantly sets my taste buds and body onto a setting called “prepare to projectile vomit” – no matter how much of it I’ve drunk. I do really enjoy trying new lagers though – it’s just a shame that my two current favourites (Warsteiner and Smithwicks) are nigh on impossible to find on tap in this country.
Are you allergic to anything?
Yes. Nuts, mushrooms and some form of banana tasting medicine that makes me explode from my arse and mouth.
If you had a superpower – what would it be and why?
As a comic geek – this is a question that I have asked myself many times. Would I choose to fly? Would I choose to be invisible? (Cue inevitable comments) Would I want x ray vision? (Cue more inevitable comments) Would I want super strength? Or the ability to phase between walls? Or maybe even the ability to change into an animal? There are so many possibilities! How would I handle my abilities? Would I use them for good? Or slip like the guy in Chronicle? Obviously I’d hope the first...but who knows.....Would I want to have the powers of Hiro in the show Heroes? I’d love to be able to teleport and to freeze time....Not only could I see the whole world (and spend no time in airports – incidentally – I hate airports) but I could also cause a fair bit of mischief with time frozen (and yes I would also do good things like saving lives....bla bla bla). On reflection though – I think the power that Id most want is to be able to see the big picture and to see how things slot into place. So many things in our lives are subject to one viewpoint – or one part of the story. It would be great (and perhaps terrifying) to be able to see the whole story – or the whole truth in each one of these moments and situations. But at this point I’d need to ask if seeing the whole picture would actually end up causing more pain. It might sound like a bizarre power request and if this question had arrived at another point I’m sure that my answer would be different – but in this moment – as I’m currently writing this – that is my answer.
Before we move on I need to apologise for something. I have come into contact with so many people over the last couple of weeks that it would be pretty much impossible to mention everyone. So in this chapter – there is no cast list. In fact my life has been dominated so much by one event over the last few weeks (and the build up to it) that I’m not even going to date my entries in this chapter. But let me just say thank you now to everyone who has stood beside us, prayed for us and held us in their thoughts over the last couple of weeks – it’s been a tough time.
A story about sorrow and fighting through the pain
Something that someone actually picked up on and asked after reading chapter 6 was what I was doing in ASDA on Valentines Day evening after spending time mocking others who had forgotten presents for their loved ones / robots. In truth the question was completely fair – because I had included that little bit of information as a set up for a later chapter. I was running round ASDA on Valentines Day evening looking for a pregnancy test to confirm that Cass was pregnant. At this point let me point out that some of the looks I received from ASDA staff that evening whilst running around the store on VALENTINES DAY evening were slightly judgemental (or at least they were in my head). One of the looks read as a rather disgusted “He’s bold. What’s he expecting tonight” from an older lady whilst another read as “get in there my son” from someone that looked suspiciously like they were trying to be the Fonz. I’d built up enough of these looks in my head by exit time to have developed a rather sarcastic answer should anyone actually ask me what was happening. But they never did – so I never got to use my fantastically witty comeback. Anyway – as per usual - I’m digressing. Cass was pregnant. Fast forward a month.
*At this point DO NOT grab your phone to say congratulations to us….please read on…….*
We had our meeting with the midwife and discovered that we were actually further along than we thought - and because of this the midwife said that she would make sure that we were scanned “as soon as possible” as a priority. She even gave us her mobile number and said that if we had a problem at any time we could text her and she would reply. If she wasn’t available – the call or text would transfer to another midwife who would be in touch.
The weekend passed and after waking up on the Monday morning and writing about Wigan’s survival hopes I received a text from Cass saying that she had discovered some spotting in her urine. I didn’t know what spotting was – but for Cass to have mentioned it – she must have been worried (If I haven’t mentioned it before I’m really squeamish). So I quickly got dressed and rushed downstairs to check through the pregnancy pack we received from the midwife to see if this was mentioned anywhere in there and what we should do or who we should call for advice. There was no information about this in the pack - Nothing that explained this scenario or at what point I should be worried or even what I should be worried about. I called the midwife and left a message and then text her asking for help. I remembered her saying that we should contact our GP if we had any questions before our first scan – so I called our doctor’s surgery only to be automatically transferred to an out of hours line. An out of hours line…..AT LUNCHTIME! I spoke to the lady on the phone who explained that doctor’s surgeries had lunch breaks and that in those times calls were transferred to this out of hours line. I was told that I could request the emergency on call doctor to call us back – but that would take at least 90 minutes. I then asked the lady what she thought I should do - to which her response that she wasn’t medically trained and couldn’t advise me about anything (she didn’t even suggest that I called NHS direct……)
To put less strain on your out of hours on-call doctors would it not make sense to have someone medically trained picking up the phone? That way they could actually filter the calls to ensure that only genuine emergencies are sent to the on call doctor when surgeries are closed for lunch? It would also mean that other calls are instead directed to the right place – wherever they may be? On another note – have you ever heard of staggered lunch breaks? It’s a crazy idea. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to the NHS and I don’t want to take you for granted – but I cant help but feeling that you lack common sense.
As Cass came home I was a frustrated figure. I couldn’t show or let on that I was worried - for Cass would pick up on that – and that in turn would make her worry more. In truth though – I was terrified. To think that there may be a problem with our tiny baby didn’t bear thinking about and with no return call from the midwife or text from her to either of us (Cass had text her as well) I decided that we should go to A&E. I just wanted someone to tell me that it was going to be ok. I needed to know that my child and my wife were going to be ok.
After seeing the initial nurse and having reached the conclusions from sitting in the waiting room that A) in the universe there are an abnormal number of ankle injuries and B) old people are really clumsy we were called through to go and see the nurse on duty.
Within moments of seeing the nurse I was left both gobsmacked and completely livid. We were told that Cass wasn’t an emergency and that we should have known better than to come to A&E. We were told that we should have called our midwife or spoken to our GP and not have come to A&E to waste their time. The nurse at this point had pretty much ignored me and was directing every part of her “you should have done” rant at Cass. With my frustrations from earlier returning and with every imaginable emotion colliding in my mind I looked at the nurse and looked at Cass. My wife was welling up and was being made to feel stupid by this clearly overworked yet power crazed dragon nurse. I could see the effect that she was having on Cass. In that moment - I snapped.
“Who ON EARTH do you think you are speaking to my wife like that?! We have never been in this situation before and your packs don’t tell us what to do?! We’ve tried getting hold of our midwife and our GP is on lunch. The out of hours doctor was going to take an hour and a half to get back to us and to be honest HOW ARE WE MEANT TO KNOW WHAT AN EMERGENCY IS?”
Cass put a hand on my leg to calm me whilst the nurse (clearly shocked at my eruption) took a step back. Her face changed and a softer voice emerged. She did a few tests and then called our doctor to make an appointment on our behalf. As we were leaving the nurse half- apologised “I’m sorry BUT….” – the moment I heard the word BUT I shut off. I didn’t want to hear anything else from her. I could feel myself shaking with a mix of both fear and rage and didn’t want to get into another argument with her (mainly because of Cass).
We left the hospital – and headed to the doctor’s. The doctor was in complete disbelief when I explained what had happened throughout the afternoon – but she then confirmed the guesswork diagnosis that the dragon nurse had provided. Cass had a urine infection and she didn’t think it was anything to worry about. But to make sure she called the Ante Natal clinic and asked them to give us a call the next day to give us some advice on what to do.
The next day came and sure enough the clinic called and asked us to come in for an appointment. I was feeling positive – buoyed by the knowledge that the doctor didn’t think it was anything to worry about. We got to the hospital again and saw a nurse. We explained again what had happened and the nurse reacted by saying that we had done exactly the right thing in our situation. She couldn’t believe what we had gone through and was shocked that the dragon nurse hadn’t sent us straight through to the clinic the day before. The nurse explained (again) that there was probably nothing to worry about but gave us the worse case scenarios just in case. We were to have a scan that morning that would act as our 12 week scan. I calmly sat in the waiting room awaiting the call to the scanning room.
I stood in the scanning room watching the screen and watching the scanning lady. I’d been told by so many others that this was the moment for them that they realised that they were going to have a child – that their lives were going to change forever. This was going to be the moment when the joyous (yet terrifying) feeling of impending parenthood kicked in. I carried on watching the screen and the scanning lady.
I can’t remember when it was in my life that I realised I was good at reading people and their reactions. I know that I’ve been able to do it for a number of years – and most of the time – very accurately. But this time I didn’t want to be right. The scanning lady had stopped asking questions and had retreated into an invisible shell – a bit like she was shutting herself off. I looked at the screen and the area that she was focusing her scanner on. The area of the screen was black. I knew what it meant but didn’t want to believe it. The scanning lady and her reactions had already given it away. As the lady started to give the news I held Cass’s hand. I didn’t need to hear. I already knew. Our child had not survived.
The reasons as to why this had happened didn’t matter to me - as nothing could change the fact that it had. I felt like a glass image of myself that someone had taken a hammer to and shattered. I felt like I’d been ripped apart. I felt broken. And for the first time in my life I felt completely and utterly helpless. I might well have thought that I’d experienced this feeling before. But this feeling wasn’t diluted like it may well have been at previous points in my life. I felt like part of me had been taken away. But I gathered together my strength and put on a brave face for Cass. I held her as we went back to the waiting room. I couldn’t understand why we were waiting to see the nurse for her just to give us the news again but this time in more detail. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide. My mind started to slip to thoughts of what could have been – thoughts of what I thought our life was going to be like in 8 months time. I tried to stop thinking like this. I tried to switch off. But each minute we were waiting pulled me further into my mind and my vision of what could have been. The 20 minute wait felt like hours passed. The nurse explained to us that although Cass hadn’t miscarried yet, she expected it to happen in the next few weeks. Our child had stopped growing. We went home.
As soon as we were through the door we stopped for a second and I held Cass. It’s a moment that I will never forget because that moment acted as a reminder for each of us that we were a partnership – that we were going to be going through an amazingly painful time together. We would not be individuals. We would not be alone. It would hurt – of that we had no question. But we would be going through it together. It’s amazing how much power one brief moment can have. Cass called her mum, whilst I went upstairs and called the office to explain that I wouldn’t be in that night. As I spoke - all of the feelings and emotions collided and hit me. It became real. As I explained what had happened tears started falling down my face. As I hung up - my phone fell from my hand. I dropped to my knees and uncontrollably wept. Anger, heartache, pain and sorrow started rushing through my body. What had I done to deserve this? Why had this happened to me? Why did my wife need to go through such pain? I didn’t understand. I shouted at God. I screamed. I cried out. And when the tears returned I prayed for peace and prayed that my anger would be calmed. I prayed for an understanding of what had happened. I prayed that Cass wouldn’t need to go through two weeks of pain. I prayed for it to be over quickly. I made a promise that I would not leave her side throughout her suffering. I made a promise that whatever I could do to help – I would.
Putting on a brave face again I went downstairs – but seeing Cass brought all of my emotions flooding back. With tears once again streaming down my face I told her “I can’t be strong this time. I can’t put on a brave face”. Cass turned to me and simply said “don’t worry” and then held me. I started thinking things like “It wasn’t meant to be this way round. I was meant to be holding her. I was meant to be comforting her”. And at that point I realised that in a strange way I was comforting her – because by showing my emotion – by showing my true feelings we were able to share the burden and comfort each other. We found strength in each other - that's the truth of it - but I can say without any hesitation that I have never felt more love for my wife than at that point.
The miscarriage happened the next day.
A week of grieving, takeaways, Battlestar Galactica, our wedding anniversary (there will be a chapter on that at some point) and 80’s films followed……….
Over a week has now passed since Cass had her miscarriage and on the surface we are doing ok. If I’m being completely honest – I don’t think that either of us yet have completely processed what has happened. It still hurts and it will do for a long time to come. If I’m doing something I’m fine. If I’m active then I don’t feel it or I can push the niggling hurt away - but then my mind will switch to what has happened and I start to feel everything again. And even then I'm increasingly amazed at the strength of my wife.
I’m not stupid – I know that it is going to take me a long time to process and I guess in a way to accept what has happened. I’m a Christian - but that doesn’t automatically mean that I have all of the answers to life’s questions. I have questions about stuff like this as any other person would. But I still have faith. I still believe. It's easy to have faith in the quiet times - but so much harder when the storm clouds start to rage. I know that those statements must sound crazy to some of you given the story that you have read – but I’m not going crazy. I can’t explain why any of this has happened and I might not ever be able to. But I’m sure that somewhere along the line some good will come from this – we might well even be able to help someone else through the same situation.
What I have started to realise about this situation though is really interesting. Its information that I knew and have spoken about to to other people - but until last night hadn’t clicked into place. I zoned out when the scanner woman was talking. I heard what she was saying – but I wasn’t listening. The same happened with the nurse after the scanner woman. I realised last night that what they were actually saying was that the baby hadn’t survived because of where it was growing. What happened was one outcome. The other outcome would have been that the baby continued to grow (but potentially would still not have survived) but Cass would have been put through agonising pain for months. And that is something that would have completely destroyed me. I never want to have to write about anything like this again – but massive thanks to my wife Cass and to Bex Metcalfe in the office for convincing me not to take the easy opt out option in this chapter. You made me write about my feelings – and for that I can only thank you.
10 Resolutions will return as normal next week with a special selection of questions from my family members as well as extra toilet humour and ranting to make up for this week’s somewhat sombre entry – but if you feel like this chapter has impacted you in anyway please let me know. Oh – and if you have any questions to ask – please ask away by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll just leave you with this – especially relevant as today is Good Friday.
I stood still. Terrified. The man had the gun pointed straight at me. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to watch. I was petrified. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. The man squeezed the trigger. BANG! The gun went off. Then silence.
But wait. I was feeling no pain. I slowly began to open my eyes. The man with the gun had gone. All I could see was a pool of blood and a man – a different man - lying in it. I fell to my knees and held him in my arms – tears now streaming down my face. “Why!?” I asked. “Why did you save me?” His eyes slowly opened. He held my neck and pulled my ear to his mouth. “I died so that you could live” he whispered “Don’t waste it”. And with those words he died.
One man died to save me. Me! Why would he do that? I’m nobody, I don’t matter to anyone. But then I sat down and started to think. Weeping – the truth dawned upon me. I’d been given a second chance…………….I’d been saved.
Happy Easter and God Bless - oh and the midwife still hasn't got in touch with us......