Friday, 3 October 2014


Remember Club 18-30? The cheap package holiday people who welcomed binge-drinkers with open arms, and sold them budget bonking breaks where they were guaranteed to come back with letters after their names, just as long as those letters were STD?

Well, tomorrow, I’m joining the 16-24 Club. You won’t know what this is, as I’ve just made it up. I’m a long way past 24, an’ all. Let me explain.

Sixteen years ago today, I was packing a nightie and toothbrush into a bag. I was also checking the other bag that I’d been stubbing my toe on in the hall for a few weeks. In that one were sleepsuits, nappies, cotton wool wipes, and other babygubbins. The next day, October 4, 1998,  I was booked in at the hospital for an induction, to kick-start my tardy baby’s way into the world.

Twenty-four hours later, I was holding my daughter, forgetting the weirdness of an emergency Caesarian, and concentrating on the wonderfulness of thinking she was just damn perfect.

Another 24 hours later, I was craning my neck to see through the window of a door, where 10 metres away from my bed, on the other side of the glass, a paediatrician and his colleague were discussing my weak, floppy child. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to lipread, and at the same time knowing I didn’t need to. One look at their expressions and body language told me something was wrong with my child.

Twenty-four hours after that, I was parked by an incubator, shell-shocked, looking at the tubes and machines attached to my baby and not knowing what to think, what to do, how to help, why she couldn’t feed, why her muscles were so weak, what was wrong, what was happening, and when I would stop wanting to scream.

At the lowest, most awful point, when I thought she had brain damage and would never even be able to move, I had the worst thought imaginable (see blog post Secret). I was wrong. I was never more wrong and I never will be. 

The days became weeks. Some questions were answered, many were not, more were asked, and each day we tried to deal with what we had to deal with. 

We now knew our daughter had Prader-Will Syndrome. We didn’t know anything about it. Twenty four hours later, we knew too much.

The 24s continued. Twenty-four hours on, things might be different. Twenty four hours on, we might have a new challenge. Twenty-four hours on, we might have a triumph. Twenty-four hours on, we might have a new problem. Twenty-four hours on, we might have a laugh. Twenty-four hours on, we might be able to cope. Twenty-four hours on, she might smile. Twenty-four hours on, we might feel like giving up. Twenty-four hours on, it just might be a brilliant day. Twenty-four hours on, a meglomaniac double agent might try to assassinate the President and let off a nuclear bomb. No, wait a minute, I just went all Kiefer Sutherland on you, there, I do apologise.

Tomorrow, my baby is 16. When I fill out her PIP form I know I have to concentrate on all the things she misses out on and can’t do, and every pen stroke I make feels like a hateful betrayal.

But here, on this blog, today, every key I press on the keyboard feels GOOD. Beacuse I’m thinking of all the amazing things she has achieved: the rolling, walking, talking, laughing, growing, learning, dancing, loving, being. Being herself. Just that.

Tomorrow our daughter is 16. Tomorrow, she will astonish me somehow, like she does every 24 hours. We’re going for a curry, she’s having a sleepover. I’ll be up until midnight tonight loading up then wrapping up her tablet computer, and I can’t believe we’re here, at this point, with this life.

We’re going to light 16 candles and carry on taking things 24 hours at a time. Like we always have, and always will. 

That’s us. Club 16-24. We don’t penalise anyone for having extra baggage, and there are free Pina Coladas. Or at least a pint of Cobra and a stack of poppadoms.

Video is Joan As Police Woman - Holiday 

1 comment:

  1. Have a Cobra for me. Or Kingfisher. And give the birthday girl a hug from the founder member of Club 53/54: those who have reached 53 but think 54 sounds old.