I have debated on posting this blog for a while now but a recent work trip helped put things into perspective for me and I figured if writing this blog means it connects with one person who is sharing a similar experience then it has served its purpose.
When I was pregnant with Sienna, as much as it was a happy time, there was also something lacking for me, not having my family here with us to celebrate, mainly my mummy. Yes, almost 40 and still refer to my mum as my mummy, must be an Irish thing.
Blogging for me is a creative outlet and a form of release where I share my thoughts and feelings without actually having to physically talk about them..if that makes sense?
My mum did fly out for two weeks just after Sienna was born which was amazing so I still had that experience of having her close by as a new and first time mama. We were really fortunate that when Sienna started day care and I was back at work, my mum flew over from the UK a few times those first 18 months. When I was pregnant with Rocky, she came for four months and I was so thankful she was here before and after he was born. It was around that time, I would receive messages and questions from my family in the UK asking if I had noticed a change in her behaviour, specifically, her memory. Honestly, looking back then if I’m honest I did see the signs but a mix of not wanting to believe it and caught up in a new born I chose to deal with it my own way. I remember, with us here in Australia she seemed calm, yes a little forgetful and would repeat herself but she was in her early 60’s and I put it down to age.
At that time, she was also selling her property in the UK and in the process of having a new property built which is a stressful time for anyone. I could see the daily face times with my sisters talking about kitchen layouts and tiles was stressing her out but it wasn’t until a few days before handover of the old property my family called to tell me that mum had went to Australia and left the house picture perfect, still fully furnished with a stocked fridge and freezer. I think at this stage, we all knew, this wasn’t mum.
My mum was widowed at 37 (younger than I am now), with 4 children aged 1 to 16. My dad was murdered during the ‘troubles’ in Ireland. Overnight she had to become this fierce protector for the 4 of us and honestly I do not know how she did it. I remember, years later, overhearing her telling someone she literally went grey overnight, and looking back, although I was only 9 years old, I think she did.
Rocky was born, and being caught in that bubble where the first 6 weeks pass by in a blurry haze, I remember falling into bed some nights and asking Tom over and over again ‘does she seem ok to you?’ or ‘what do you think?’.
When Rocky was 8 weeks old and we got the approval to travel, mummy, Sienna, Rocky and I made the long trip back to UK for my family to meet our new baby boy and spend some time at home.
So this is us about to board our flight, unbeknown to me the experience was not one I had planned. We literally boarded and both kids starting vomiting. My mum kept saying to me ‘I’m just going to go back to our room and bath the kids as they cant sit here like this and where are we?’. I was trying to remain calm and unfortunately we weren’t seated together on the first leg of the journey and my mum was on the next row behind me. I couldn’t relax and was trying not let this show to the kids or my mum.
During food service, mum told the air hostess she didn’t ‘order this food and hadn’t seen a menu’. This may sound trivial, but in that moment, I was afraid and I knew I was on my own with these 2 kids, 1 a newborn and my mum. Throughout the flight the kids continued to be sick and my mum wouldn’t eat or sleep which was making me more anxious. We finally landed in Dubai and she breezed through customs holding Sienna’s hand wondering off whilst I had a baby strapped to me, travel pram, nappy bag and carry on bag. We had a quick change in Dubai and I knew once we were on the next flight, 8 hours or so and we would be touching down in Dublin where my family would be there.
I got off that flight and I unhooked Rocky from the baby carrier and handed him to my sister and said I need a moment. I was covered in vomit and definitely wasn’t one of my finest moments but I knew my mum wasn’t herself and I was ready to listen to my sisters.
When mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it was confirmation of what we had all expected , and being on the other side of the world..I struggled to accept it. My mind went to the place of ‘how unlucky can one person be, widowed at such a young age and now this’ , I struggled with my faith in God. Things were slipping and I was lashing out at work, and was referred to a counsellor, and then switching into mum mode and also trying to be there for my siblings in the UK, it was bloody hard.
Tom told me I just needed to go home, even if it was just for 1 week and see her and then maybe I could accept it. So I did. And then a few months later I took the kids home again on my own for 6 weeks. I wasn’t prepared for her not recognising me at the airport, or the extreme weightloss. From the back, she had the same frame as my 15 year old niece. I also wasn’t prepared for the wedge and friction this was drive between me and some of my siblings.
I think having the kids around was a good distraction for her and gave her a sense of purpose. It was tough and tough on our little family with Tom remaining in Australia for work but I was glad I did it. I have tried to educate myself on this horrible illness and the impacts it can have across families, particularly with me in Australia and feeling guilt constantly that I should be doing more to support my siblings.
I remember the consultant telling us, the worst thing you can do is correct your mum or tell her ‘you have already said that’. A few weeks ago, I was travelling back from Melbourne for a work trip and I watched this movie ‘A Head full of Honey’ I definitely had my ugly Kimmy K crying face and the poor guy next to me asked if I was ok!?! I was so glad I came across this movie as it helped me see things from a different perspective, mainly my mums perspective. There was a line in the movie that resonated with me’ just step into their world and go with it’. I walked off the plane and facetimed my mummy and we spoke for 32 minutes which is rare, most days we speak for 10 minutes and then we say our goodbyes. But those rare 32 minute calls are the ones I will hold on to when stepping into her world.
Love you mum xx