Posted on November 14, 2014
Growing up, I was not a very happy person. All seemed well in my life until early primary school, when years of sexual abuse meant that the happy 6 year old gave way to a sullen child, who never knew where she fit, and most adults didn’t know what box to place me in either. That child turned into a rebellious teenager, moody and negative. I was a girl who never thought she deserved very much in life, and pretty much never got it.
I moved to England and married at 21. It was the beginning of a few happy years for me, where my husband and I, though volatile, were very much in love. We travelled extensively, lived in an exclusive part of central London which was paid for by my husbands employer. It was a heady time, we could go to Paris and Amsterdam for weekends, eat out any time we wanted, and every night was spent in the pub. The trouble started a few years in, when I asked to have a baby, which was something we had both said we wanted, but my husband had changed his mind, and he would never change it back again. That was the beginning of the end, where i existed in bitter resentment at the goal posts being moved to such a drastically different position on the field, and he put up walls I could never again penetrate, angry the he wasn’t “enough” for me by himself. We remained married for 9 years, which in hindsight was many longer than we should have. I guess you hope you can make it right, no matter how much writing is on the wall.
And, then there was Gaz. We fell, fast and furious. I met him at the local bottle shop (whoever said romance was dead?) and I saw his Harley before I saw him. To cut a long story short, i asked him to take me for a ride, and he said sure, where to? I gather he thought I might ask to go around the block, or a quick trip down Beaconsfield Parade to Port Melbourne, but he was affable enough when I suggested the Great Ocean Road. We set out a few days later, and we got a couple of kilometres away, before I realised that my hips (which were pre hip replacements at the time) were not going to hold out until the freeway, and had to tell him to stop. We found a local pub with a beer garden and sat there for 7 hours, putting the world to rights. We were goners by the end of the day, and 15 years and 4 kids later, here we are.
Our path to parenthood was not an easy one. Falling pregnant was not a problem, but for me staying pregnant was. After the misery of several miscarriages, we had to put our plans on hold so that I could have my first hip replacement surgery. This went horrifically wrong, with my sciatic nerve being so badly damaged during the surgery that I was left completely paralysed from the knee down. I spent many months in inpatient and outpatient rehab at Caulfield hospital, and then was hospitalised several times (for a month or two at a time) with staph infections and septic shock which resulted in a MET call. Finally they were certain that the infection had been successfully dealt with, and we were allowed to get pregnant. We set out to do just that, but a few weeks later, on Christmas Day, I landed in hospital again in septic shock, and a bone scan revealed that the infection was actually in my bone, hence the reason it would not go away. This bone scan came a couple of days before our positive pregnancy test, and we were told that we would need to terminate due to the bone scan. We decided however, to take our chances, and what do you know, this pregnancy progressed like a dream, despite the stress, the medication, the subsequent blood clots which had me injecting clexane every day for six months of my pregnancy, the death of my beloved father at 20 weeks pregnant, a four hour operation to clear the bone infection when I was 15 weeks pregnant…at every scan, a bouncing baby (now known to us as our 11 year old daughter Dakota ) appeared on the screen, seemingly unphased by all the drama.
All this led me back to the persistent notion that I had always had – that this was what I deserved. I never took the time to try and work out what it was that I might have done, but to have this much bad luck, it must have been pretty awful.
After that though, my luck seemed to turn. I had three healthy babies in quick succession, all beautiful girls. I must have still been stuck on the idea that fate had more shit in store for me though, as I can distinctly remember writing a post on a parenting website I was very active on at the time, asking if other mums constantly lived in terror of what was going to go “wrong”…..sick children…losing my husband, dying myself….I was never sure what it was going to be, but I was sure it was coming. I simply couldn’t be that lucky.
At the 20 week ultrasound with my fourth child, the sonographer told me that daughter number 4 looked perfectly healthy in every way, and I walked out of there on cloud nine, but somehow, with a sense of disquiet. My head was still full of the odds of having four healthy children, and how they got less with each child. Poor Gaz, who is an easy going guy who just takes things as they come didn’t quite know what to make of me and just shook his head and told me to be happy…that quite frankly, my time had come.
Then Georgia was born….with Down syndrome. We didn’t take long to come to terms with this, and in a way, I was elated, because I had four beautiful and healthy daughters, and I was convinced that THIS WAS THE THING. This was this awful thing that was going to befall me and destroy my happiness, and my goodness, it wasn’t so bad at all….just Down syndrome? I could do that!
And with that, I settled right down. Maybe Gaz was right, and this WAS my time. Perhaps the universe thought it had thrown enough at me, and this stunning family was my reward for getting through it without dying from the pain. And bit by bit, I cast off the negativity, and I learned to enjoy my lovely family, with absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would do so for a very long time.
Then in 2011, Gaz was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was what killed his father, so we were very scared indeed. It shook my still foundering belief that good things were meant for me, but thankfully it had not spread, and despite giving a year of our lives over to it, he was successfully treated with surgery. I was shaken, but not beaten, and after all, I was wrong about Georgia….THIS WAS THE THING. It was a whole fucking lot worse than Down syndrome, but hey, we got this. Happy family, still intact.
2013 was, in many ways, the best of my life. All my children were in primary school, and I enrolled to study a diploma of Community Development, having enjoyed the Community Services certificate 3 I had done the year before, very much. It was a hugely busy year, where I juggled lots of assignments, and the school run and after school care, and sick kids, and placement, and towards the end of the year I felt very run down and tired, but I was HAPPY. Life was too full, but I was so future focused. I saw myself in my future career, and after years of devoting myself fully to being a mother, I had balance. I felt strong, and confident, and like I could do anything, and I had long since cast off any idea that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I’d done the hard yards, and despite everything, I’d come out on top. Yep, 2013 totally ROCKED, until the 11th of December, when a diagnosis of terminal cancer proved to me, once and for all that THIS WAS THE FUCKING THING. This was the thing that was going to take me from my family, take my children’s mother, and there was no use fighting it, it was, in the words of the treating team, un-fightable, and my death, in 3 months to two years, completely inevitable. Oh my word, this was THE THING.
How easy it would have been to give up. A few times I nearly did. The certainty that this was THE THING all along, almost bought with it a feeling of peace. This was what I almost waited for, and I didn’t have to fight it anymore, and didn’t have to fear what was to come, it was here, and it was going to take me. And yet, in the face of this, the biggest challenge and by far the biggest obstacle of my life, I found I couldn’t welcome that negative Julia back in…not that broken child, that unhappy teenager, that girl whose 20’s kinda sucked in a lonely marriage. I couldn’t go back to that person it took so long to shake off. Because I wasn’t her anymore.
And so, this isn’t THE THING, it’s just A THING. I don’t deserve it, and I didn’t do anything to bring it into my life. It’s a big, massive thing, but it’s the last thing, and just something else to overcome. Fate won’t dictate the ending, the one I thought began when I was six years old. That is up to me to re-write, because I finally believe I deserve my happy ending.