My my my. What a start to the week it's been.
I have got to thank God for answering our prayers regarding my dear friend V.
I really want to have a bunch of photos to illustrate this post but V and I met in the waiting room of the Babies' Health Clinic in 1995, a number of years before the digital camera became de rigeur. We were both older, first time, professional mothers and both having moved about a bit were in need of a support network. Our first encounter, waiting for our babies' 6 month check (or whatever it was) was easy, fun and struck a common chord. We didn't exchange numbers, it seemed forced, so we went away from our encounter just knowing that there were kindred spirits out there.
A few months (weeks? it all blurs into one nowadays)later, I signed up for a baby massage course. Southampton being the small town it is, V was there, as was another significant person in my life, L, my water birth mentor.....but that is another story.
From then on it was 'full tilt' as the football types say. There were a group of us from baby massage and we made a commitment to meet regularly. Some of the happiest times of my life were spent with the three families that made up our baby group. We all were older parents, had limited support networks and had only one child. So we leaned towards each other.
V in particular had an amazing story. Her son was the result of IVF conception in the US whilst her husband was there on a research grant. Initially, three embryos implanted and it looked like she was going to have a big instant family but after 8 weeks she lost one. Time passed and at 12 weeks they were due to fly back to the UK at the end of her husband's study leave when she miscarried again. This time the doctors read her the riot act and told her she must be admitted to hospital and put on bedrest for the time being to ensure the safety of the remaining embryo. Unfortunately, with the end of her husband's contract came the end of their US health insurance not to mention the fact that they were booked to fly out of the country in three days time! Against the advice of the doctors she flew back to the UK as planned. Miraculously, she did not miscarry and her little boy was born in June 1995, 6 weeks prem but ok! The doctors decided to induce her to ensure the baby's safe arrival and afterwards, in typical V style, she exclaimed,
"You know I wish I could have felt just one labour pain, just to know what you are all talking about!"
V is an extraordinary person; a little eccentric but with a huge heart and the most generous of natures. V was always organising outings for the 'baby group'. She had always heard about things or seen things that she thought would be great to do together: country farms, museums, castles, steam train rides, theme parks....When the millennium was on its way, the neighbours around where she and her husband were living, organised a Millennium Ball on their common ground and you can bet V was in there on the committee; hiring marquees, booking DJs and moving and shaping the events. It was a wonderful night and an extrordinary way to bring in the new century. Most of us had 'sensibly' planned to put the children (who were four at the time) to bed back over at V's house, with her 70 year old maiden aunt, before midnight; but V declared,
"Oh no, no, no, imagine when the children talk about the millennium in years to come and people ask 'where were you?', and they have to say, 'we were in bed'!" And so, against our somewhat uptight English characters, we let the children stay up until midnight! Of course, they had a great time and in the end it was V's husband who went home to bed with the kids while the rest of us partied until dawn. Including the maiden aunt!!
V and her husband moved to London in 2000, just before the children started school. They were lucky enough to be able to buy a beautiful house in the northern suburbs with an inground pool (most unusual in the UK) and so of course we were often invited up for sleepover weekends with plenty of swimming and trips on the Tube to see the British Museum or a west end musical. V loved to throw children's parties too; Halloween, Christmas and of course birthdays. She would often ask me, as the most theatrical friend she had, to do some kind of 'turn' at these parties; story telling or organising games, while she prepared and dished up mountains of wickedly indulgent party food and fizzy drinks and wondered why the children were bouncing off the walls and she was exhausted by the end of it! :-)
I also developed a wonderful relationship with V's husband. A medical specialist, who loves all things Macintosh, sci-fi and IKEA, Dr D's dry sense of humour and cynical approach to everything would leave me gasping with tears of laughter. It could be said that Dr D was perhaps unprepared for everything having children entailed. As ordered and obssesive as V is expansive, Dr D became a bewildered and uptight observer of childhood behaviour.
"V, V,' he would call, "the children have destroyed the lounge room, we're going to have to rebuild it from photos!"
I'm sorry, the thought of it still reduces me to giggles here.
V would call me from time to time and say,
"Come up to London and play with my husband, he's driving me mad!" and I would dutifully pack the Baby Angel into the car and we'd make our way up to find D enthusing over the latest sci-fi DVD or Mac computer program or gizmo or gadget. Being a teeny bit nerdy myself, D and I would have a fab time sitting up watching movies or playing with the latest camera or computer game and I would rib him unmercifully about his taste in techno trance music while we plotted and planned together to make our fortunes by coming up with the next 'Maisie' or 'Mr Men' style book and merchandising empire.
The UK is a long way away now and those baby days have sadly gone. To be fair, they are replaced by even more exciting phases in our children's lives and all the kids are now facebook friends, although, come to think of it I suspect V's baby has recently 'unfriended' me. Worried his parents might view his site through me perhaps? Don't know...but I do know I can still see his site through the BA so hahahahahahahaha F baby! You cannot escape me :-D
This past year V, an inveterate smoker, has had to face the breast cancer beast head on. After successful removal and treatment, in consultation with her specialist, V opted for a bilateral mastectomy, just to be sure. Last week D let me know she was being admitted for the routine (albeit major) surgery and later I received a text message saying all had gone well. I have to admit I didn't think too much more about it as the weekend progressed but then came the shocking news on Sunday night; she had gone into liver and kidney failure, was in ICU and was fighting for her life.
I think all those years of being an insulin dependent diabetic have taken their toll and the surgery was too big a strain on her system. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, V is such a big personality, such a huge character, that the thought of her going was too much to bear. More than anything I struggled to think of how Dr D and F would cope, two much loved, nay (dare I say it), indulged blokes who are slightly socially dysfunctional at the best of times! V is the glue that holds the family together and the magnet that draws people in. The thought of the boys on their own was unthinkable.
And so I called out in desperation to my friends from the blogosphere and the facebook community. And you all answered.
Thank you, thank you all for your prayers and well wishes. D is convinced her amazing turnaround was a result of our prayer and that she was lifted up. The ICU staff were amazed and the specialist who had called D in and given him the 'prepare yourself' speech, was full of smiles and relief by Wednesday. She is a resilient cookie!
And so I say, in all sincerity, Thank You God that we didn't lose her. I haven't seen her since 2005 and I don't know when I will see her again, but knowing that she's still in the world fills me with relief and joy and the hope that when we do make our way back to the northern hemisphere, sometime in the future, that we'll all sit down to one of her amazing Tandoori lamb roasts and open a bottle of bubbly and tell stories of our baby days, just like we used to. Some friendships are just like that.