This time last week, I had just woken up after an emergency operation. Although beforehand I was scared by the prospect of having an emergency operation, the thing that had me crying in the hospital waiting room was blind panic over what would happen to S while I was in hospital.
S is five years old, and until last week she had spent 3 nights away from me in total, in her whole life. Those had been for events I was attending, and we had talked a lot about what would happen beforehand. On two of those occasions, she slept in her own bed and my (quite legendary) sister had stayed over.
Originally my operation was scheduled for this week, and a friend had offered to have S live with her and her family for the week. We knew it was coming up so I had been chatting to S about it for a while.
On Wednesday when my hernia first got stuck, my main concern was how the heck I would get to school to collect S. I texted a friend named Emma who had offered to help out after the op, and she not only collected S from school at short notice; she fed her tea and brought her home just before bed time, giving me time to compose myself and figure out what to do.
The following morning I chatted to S about the possibility of my going into hospital while she was in school. She was not at all concerned about this, but then she has no point of reference; I think the only time she’s ever visited anyone in hospital was when her cousin was born. How I managed to avoid passing my panic onto her, I have no idea. We packed an overnight bag together, but I didn’t really think we would need it. Another friend named Abi came to collect her and drove her to school.
A couple of hours later, Abi came back and drove me to the GP. She waited outside before going on to drive me to the hospital. On the journey I was randomly jabbering about the things that needed to be done at home. I didn’t realise until afterwards, but Abi then went back to my house, sorted clean washing so that S would have school uniform to pack in a bag, collected an order from The Entertainer for birthday gifts I had ordered, and sorted out lots of other things – including sourcing birthday cards to go with the gifts!
When I realised I was probably not going home from hospital before having an operation, I began to panic – not so much about myself, but about S. She had coped fine with having a friend’s mum collect her from school, and seemed fine with the prospect of staying with the same family overnight – but really, I had no idea how she would cope, and whether people would be able to take care of her at short notice, a week before they had volunteered to be available.
At times like this a lot of people would probably call their mother to help out. That has never been an option for me. I did text my mother to let her know I’d gone to hospital early; she replied hours later to say she hoped I was ok, and the following day she texted to say she was glad the surgery had gone ok. After that, I didn’t hear from her for almost a week. She’s not somebody upon whom I can rely in a crisis, and it bothers me when this fact is highlighted in such a stark way. Having to go to hospital for emergency surgery is one of those times when you think, who can I call…
As it happened, I had nothing to worry about. I sent panicked messages from the hospital to a couple of friends who had volunteered to help out with school runs after my original operation date. By the time I went in for surgery Emma had confirmed she could collect S from school and keep her overnight. When I woke up I had messages confirming that between them they had sorted out getting S to and from school until the end of the week, and that S would stay with my friend Nathalie over the weekend, before being handed over to Alex, who would have her all of this week.
Between them Nathalie, Emma and Alex have taken amazing care of S over the last seven days; she’s having a fantastic time playing with friends and doing fun things. Meanwhile Abi collected a food order for me and filled my freezer, then brought me a food parcel with more gluten free goodies. Other friends have brought me gifts, offered me lifts, called to ask if I needed anything.
Ever since S was born, I’ve not really relied on anyone other than my sister to babysit, except the occasional stay with my mother here and there, or with a couple of other people. People have offered to look after her for me, but I’ve never accepted. I didn’t want to impose on them and I have always had trouble asking for help. This last week I have had no choice but to ask for help from friends – and actually it’s felt pretty good to know they were there, and I could rely upon them. My friends have taken amazing care of S; as far as she’s concerned she’s been on a tour of her friends’ houses, sleeping in bunk beds, learning to do hand stands and having movie nights with her friends and their siblings.
I can’t even describe the feeling I had, waking up from the most terrifying experience of my life and finding that actually my friends had rallied around and things were being taken care of. I’ve never really felt able to rely on people like that before; either because the people closest to me were a bit flakey and unreliable, or because I didn’t want to impose on them (or a bit of both).
Right now I feel like the most fortunate person in the world, to have these people around me – to have made such amazing friends upon whom I was able to count when it really mattered.