10 August 2008


Indeed, membership of the Granny-Club implies emotional triple whammies. If it is your turn soon, Be Warned! Let me explain:

But first, another little warning: this entry might get very emotional, tissues may be needed…! You have been foretold!

So there I was five months ago, all excited, so impatient for this first grand-child to be born. Then I was told that it was going to be “anytime now”, in a few hours like… Oooh, and there this funny business starts. I froze. Just simply emotionally froze. Suspended above myself, above any feeling, just waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the news. I thought: “Surely, once the birth is announced and confirmed, it will all burst out of me!” Well, actually, it didn’t really. Of course I was happy, of course I made all the calls to the frenchies (a lifetime away I started this immigration business that has become so popular in the last few years – all copycats! – and settled in Ireland from France, at a time when everyone was getting out of the country while a certain Charlie, wearing a Charvet shirt, was telling the Nation to tighten its belt – I must have been mad! But I am still here!), sent dozens of texts with the good news. Still the joy felt somewhat restrained, hampered… I needed to see this new little being, I had to see him, before the reality could hit me. It felt SO strange! Was it a forewarning? Maybe. Easy to think this in hindsight.

I finally got to the Coombe, after getting stuck in Dublin evening traffic, feeling increasingly anxious. Hugged my daughter, hugged the new Dad…
- Hey, where he is?
- Oh, he is upstairs, they are checking him out.
- Actually, hem…, we have something to tell you: there is the possibility he has Downs Syndrome, and also a heart murmur….
Outwardly, the practical me took over: Downs? We can see to that later. The main thing is that his heart is ok. Inwardly, panic was setting in, fast. Christ! What the hell?

Then the new Dad showed us (me the novice, Grandad J who has been around this “Grand-hood” block several times before, and my son, the newly promoted Unkie Ro) the first photos taken. And from the height of my experience with Downs (e.g. seeing people with “slanty eyes” and slightly strange features while walking around shops and supermarkets), I just Knew – Yes, it’s Downs alright!

After a while it was time for all of us to troop up to ICU, for news. What happened next is etched in slow motion in my memory, what you might call a Defining Moment. The new Mammy and Dad were shown into a room, the door was closed, Grandad J, Unkie Ro and Nan P stayed standing in the corridor, waiting, waiting. And then a sound came through that door that broke my heart, turned my life. My daughter was crying, sobbing so loud, too loud! I turned to Grandad J, and whispered “It doesn’t sound good!” and tears started coming. Grandad J just shook his head. Unkie Ro, quite unlike himself, but none of us were ourselves at that stage, did the best thing my child could do for me. He simply said “I think you need a hug” and took me in his arms… I never hugged him so hard since he grew up into the strapping young man he is now. I was hugging him, me, my daughter, the world!

And during that time, I discovered the Emotional Triple-Whammy that has brought me here: my heart was quickening, physically hurting, almost exploding, with fear, anxiety, grief, pain. While a hand was reaching into the centre of me, grabbing my guts and twisting them so tight.

And I knew I was feeling this because my own baby was hurting, and I was powerless to make it all go away – WHAMMY NO. 1.

And I knew that she was feeling exactly the same thing for her own child, and that made it even so, oh so much worse! – WHAMMY NO. 2.

But, and this was a surprise, I knew I was also feeling this because this new little being I had not even met yet was in some way a part of me, and the panic, the fear, the pain was also there for him. I was as powerless to make it all better for him, as I was for my own child, and that was killing me – WHAMMY NO. 3.

I don’t know if this happens to all grand-mothers. On this I would love feedback. I know that the birth of most babies is full of joy, with none of the shock that we all received that day. Still, this Grand-motherhood business is tough on the old feelings!

After a while, we were allowed into the room, and I could finally take my daughter in my arms, trying in such a futile way to comfort her, feeling the pain of her pain. I NEVER, EVER want to feel this again! I hugged the new Dad too, held his hand. So helpless! We were eventually allowed to go and see Cathal, in groups of two, until he was transferred to Crumlin (and for this I am grateful to the ICU staff of the Coombe for their understanding and gentleness in such a difficult moment). I could at last see him, touch his skin. He was resting nice and comfy in the incubator, he looked So Perfect, So Beautiful. Surely, surely the doc’s were wrong!

It has turned out that Cathal does have Downs, and that his heart is quite messed up. I have tried to explain to him that the Great Engineer drew a blue print for the human heart that has been tried and tested over zillions of people, and that Cathal did not need to bring in not one, not two, but three considerably important amendments to the design. On that occasion Cathal just looked at me blankly. OK, he was only a few days old at the time, but children always think they know better, don’t they?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Pascal, I so happy to find this site so I can finally congratulate you on the birth of Cathal. We are all very lucky to have someone as special as Cathal in our family.He has opened up a whole new world to us of which I am happy to be a part of. If I may say so,I think Cathal is one lucky ducker to have such great parents and a very loving and caring Grandmother. I am only sorry my Mother is no longer around to experience Cathal, she would have adored him too.
Auntie Margaret from Germany