By 10.30, I was sat in A&E waiting to be admitted. As I looked round the waiting room at my fellow patients, who included one woman ominously slumped over a pink bucket, a young man with a bloody nose, a pale, tearful, woman sitting opposite me, and a wheelchair-bound older chap who was cheerfully singing world war one songs with his carer, I realised that almost everyone (even vomity-bucket woman) had someone with them. I know it’s stupid, but I suddenly felt really lonely. I didn’t miss or want E, but it seemed odd that he wasn’t there somehow. He’d been with me for every single scary medical thing I’d experienced for over 20 years and this was the first time he wasn’t. It wasn’t that I needed him, it’s just that it felt odd without him sitting there, making crap jokes and offering to find out what the delay was.
As I sat listening to the waiting room TV rattle through BBC 1’s daytime schedule (including, weirdly, a programme narrated by Nick Knowles about the Ambulance service), I remembered the other times I had been in this part of the hospital. Most recently, of course, had been with Youngest Daughter after her overdose attempt. A couple of years earlier, I’d been there with Oldest Daughter and E when her back pain had been so bad she couldn’t walk. Before that was when I was suffering from a miscarriage, and like the woman sitting opposite me, I’d been unable to control the tears when booking in, but then settled into a kind of numb shock before being wheel-chaired up to the Gynaecology Ward for an ultrasound, where a very kind consultant held my hand and told me my ten week pregnancy was no more. Finally this was all bought full circle, by the memory of the time when I was 12 weeks pregnant with Youngest Daughter. I’d started bleeding and, having had two early miscarriages before, I thought the nightmare was happening all over again. E and I sat silently side by side for hours unsure of what was happening and waiting for a scan. This time, after a six hour wait, the ultrasound showed Youngest Daughter with a strong heartbeat and moving joyously around oblivious to the concern in the outside world.
After a couple of hours, I was called into see a nurse with the kind of Russian accent that would make E’s knees buckle (and would make a damn fine Bond Villain). She was lovely, but brief and to the point (“I poot cannula. I take bluds. Ve vait…..”) and I was swiftly sent back to the waiting room, cannula attached to my right arm, to wait for a bed to become available.
I don’t know why, but I’d assumed that I could just have a blood transfusion and then go home the same day. But, as my wait to be admitted stretched towards the four hour mark, and everyone in the waiting from had begun to eye vomity-bucket woman with increasing suspicion, it began to dawn on me that there was every chance that I wouldn’t be out of hospital that day, and that the kids would be on their own that night and that there was nothing I could so about it. E hadn’t been around much in the latter days of our relationship, but I’d always been able to depend on him when it came to the kids. But now, I realised with a sudden shock, I didn’t have another parent to rely on. Obviously, I’m surrounded by amazing family and friends, but I felt oddly bereft not being able to ask my kids’ father to help me. I’d never really noticed the difference between being a joint parent and a single parent much before, but all of a sudden it hit me really hard.
I suppose I could have called E (not that he’d have answered his phone), but I knew there was no way Youngest Daughter would tolerate him in the house. I also suspected that, even if he did answer my call, there was no way he’d leave everything at short notice to look after the kids (after all, he hadn’t paid child maintenance for six months, if he didn’t care enough to make sure they were fed and clothed, I was guessing he would have similar amounts of concern re them being home alone for a night), so he wasn’t really an option. Realising this brought home to me afresh how the welfare of the kids, really was 100% down to me now.
Obviously they were perfectly ok to be left alone for a night – Youngest Son is only 12, but Oldest Son and Youngest Daughter are 15 (nearly 16) and 16 (nearly 17) respectively and more than capable of looking after things. I have lovely friends and neighbours who were more than happy to look in and check everything was ok. They also had me and the ever practical Oldest Daughter on speed-dial, so they’d be fine. But, it still felt wrong to leave them, even for one night.
By the time I was admitted to the ward, it was 3.30, and I’d been told I needed two units of blood – each of which would take 4 – 5 hours to transfuse. By now the boys were home from school and the girls had told them where I was. In contrast to Oldest Daughter who had spent the day texting me to make sure I was ok and keeping people updated as to what was happening, Oldest Son was supremely unbothered my ‘plight’, but Youngest Son was concerned and asking when I was coming home. After I’d spoken to them all (Oldest Son seemed mildly surprised that I’d even called), and I was reassured that all was ok and that they could feed and clothe themselves for the next 24 hours, I settled in, watching with fascination as someone else’s blood dripped slowly into my arm.