Waiting for the rain to fall…

I weep in the shower so no one will see my tears fall,

I scream silently so as not to make people feel uncomfortable,

I smile broadly when people ask how many children I have and I reply “just one beautiful daughter”

I cry when I chop onions and I cry when the wind blows against my face. I cry when no one will ask me why. 
I watch our daughter blossom and smile at the young lady she is becoming,

She doesn’t see my tears in the swimming pool as she says “watch me mum” knowing she won’t seek my approval for much longer.

Once again my tears are hidden by the water, yesterday the shower and today the swimming pool. I have enough love in my heart to have two children shout “watch me mum”, I can’t bear this being how the story ends in my journey of motherhood. 
My smile when I talk about my daughter is so genuine but my eyes remain sad. My eyes tell the story of a journey of motherhood different to the one I always anticipated I would have. 
I envisaged a big table with several children all doing their homework whilst I stood chatting asking them about their school day and cooking something nourishing for their dinner. 
Making the decision to have another child after such serious postnatal depression that left me hospitalised for 5 months last time was huge for us as a couple. We made the decision then decided I must complete my nursing degree first and establish my career again. So long before we were trying, which seems like forever now, we were planning therefore in the years since we made the choice we always anticipated our desire to have a baby would come to fruition quickly. We had an appointment with a perinatal psychiatrist a year ago now and formulated a plan which we anticipated we’d need before long, it hadn’t entered our head we might still be waiting. 

Some women are not as fortunate as me, some women will never answer “yes one beautiful daughter” and I can only imagine the torment they feel. I don’t feel worthy of the tears that fall when I remember the blessing of our daughter. God blessed me with a daughter and my tears are disrespectful. My tears show I don’t trust His plan for my life. 
I pray that one day I will hold another babe in my arms, the thought of not becoming a mum again is too much to bear. We haven’t planned anything this year, no holidays, no weekends away, I didn’t even enter the Great North Run. Why? Because we assumed I’d either be poorly with sickness (I had hyperemesis last time) or that I’d be hugely pregnant and not up to going far. Neither are true and yet our lives are still on hold. 
Each month it gets harder, each month I stand in the rain to disguise my tears for a little bit longer and peel a few more onions. Next time you go to make small talk and ask someone if they ever thought about having another baby or indeed whether they want children at all; don’t. Please don’t. It’s the hardest lie in the world to retain ones composure when waiting for the rain to fall. Hold my hand and stand with me in the rain please. 

Being patient being the patient… 

I offer a disingenuous smile as I accept directions from the nursing assistant to the xray department in our local hospital. I smile to stop tears from falling as I am so afraid. I found the lump in my breast on the bank holiday weekend we had at the end of last month so it was a few days before I could see my GP. I kept telling myself that it was ok and felt sure that my GP would say it was nothing, just fibrous tissue maybe?

My GP was lovely and smiled kindly as she said that usually at my age she would ask me to return in a couple of weeks at a different point in my cycle but that my new found lump was ‘so significant’ she didn’t want to wait and that she would refer me to our local hospital. My ears pricked up at that point when I heard her tell me that she was referring me on the two week pathway. I knew what she meant, she hadn’t said the words but I heard her questioning breast cancer loud and clear. 

I am a nurse, I’m used to examining the evidence base of my actions therefore that’s what I did with the help of Google when I got home. So now full possession of the evidence would tell me that statistically I am in a really low risk group for breast cancer, that most lumps in women my age are harmless but I could still close my eyes and see visions of my daughters graduation and her wedding day without me in it. 

My appointment came through in the post within a couple of days and as per the pathway was within two weeks of seeing my GP. 

As luck would have it, and I say that in the loosest sense of the word, we had a CQC inspection at work during those two weeks so I was left with little time to think about the lump and the implications which could come with that. 

My husband took the morning off work to come with me and my boss told me to take as much time as I needed today and not to rush back to the office, I had told a few friends and they text me to tell me they were thinking about me and praying for me. They reminded me my strength is always in Christ which never fails to make me feel stronger to face whatever challenge life throws at me. 

I arrived for my appointment and was seen by a consultant and a nurse who asked me about family history and my own medical history. The consultant then examined me, he agreed he could feel a lump so gave me a slip of paper to take to another department where I was to have a mammogram and an ultrasound scan. He spoke warmly with a reassuring tone in his voice which was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I attended for my mammogram first and realised in the small room how alone and how vulnerable I felt. As I undressed I was struck by how naked I felt, not just physically but emotionally. The radiographer sensed my nerves and talked me through the procedure. She asked me to sign a form to confirm I wasn’t pregnant and as we have been trying to become pregnant for a year now this stung more than a little as I signed to confirm not. The harsh clamp of the mammogram made me hold my breath, I wondered in those seconds whether I would ever breathe again. I felt like I was drowning, not in water but in a lust for life I was terrified I wouldn’t get to experience. I was drowning in moments I found myself wondering if I would maybe never have. 

I was then returned to my husband who knowingly squeezed my hand, we have seen off worse challenges than this as a couple. His hand squeeze told me it would be ok whatever the result. After a short wait I was called through to ultra sound where again I was asked to remove my clothes and felt so painfully vulnerable again. The consultant radiographer and her assistant were both wonderful putting me at ease, they talked me through what could have been a deeply dehumanising process whilst ensuring my dignity at all times. As I lay on my back in the ultrasound room I felt a lone tear roll down the side of my face, the emotions of the day beginning to escape without my permission. The radiographer noticed and offered a caring smile, I explained how long we had been trying to conceive and how I had envisaged being in an ultrasound room for such a different reason this year. I hide my disappointment over that behind a smile daily as people as questions such as how many children I have. I scream silently and try never to show that emotion other than to a select couple of people yet today it spilled out of my eyes and I told a complete stranger in the radiographer. 

Back to the clinic I went clutching an envelope which I knew sealed my fate, she she passed it to me the nurse said to use the walk back round to think of any questions and to use the time with the consultant to clear my mind of any worries so I can go home with less weight on my shoulders. Good advice I thought. It’s a strange thing to be the patient when so often I am the nurse, it’s a good reminder how the small comments of care and compassion make such a difference to a patients journey. I shall think on that this week as I plan the care I deliver. 

Waiting to be called back in to see the consultant my heart was beating so hard I thought my rib cage was at risk of bursting. What if it was bad news?

I suspect the consultant is an incredible poker player because I scanned his face for clues as we entered the room but nothing was disclosed by his face. He quickly told me that he had seen nothing sinister on the scan or the mammogram but as he can feel a lump he would like to do a needle biopsy. I have a blood clotting disorder so a needle biopsy would need clotting factor treatment beforehand therefore given the probability of risk after seeing the scans etc we decided to wait a few weeks and see if the lump disseminates on its own or if it is still there in 8 weeks when he has asked me to return to clinic he will do a biopsy then. 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, my heart was going almost as fast as my brain which has been like a hamster wheel for the past week. I headed to work almost on automatic pilot, trying to process the morning. I felt such relief at what he had told me but with a much reduced but still evident sense of foreboding at the fact he may still do the biopsy in 8 weeks if the lump is still there. 

I usually do well to mask my emotions from the world so today was difficult for me to admit my vulnerability. The nursing and medical staff were to be highly commended for putting me at ease, for making a difficult day a little easier. As I reflect upon today I an reminded how frightening being the patient can be. Being a patient today will influence the nurse I am tomorrow with the care I deliver. Those who cared for me today personified the values we all aspire to hold in the NHS, I hope I do that for others. I’m so tired now yet my brain won’t switch off. Hopefully I will rest soon. Good night folks. Xx

My thoughts on The Stanford Uni case…

It has been a while since I blogged but the Stanford University case has left me angry and utterly bereft at rape culture in western society in equal measure so I felt I needed to write about this. I read the impact statement written and read bravely aloud by the victim of Brock Turner with tears in my eyes, the hash reality of her words mirroring the harsh reality of rape. The violation of sexual assault does not deserve flowery verbiage, when she described how “You do not know me yet you have been inside of me” this is a line so many women will have read and related to, even more will have related to yet and yet will have known their attackers.

I’m sure we all remember that famous front page of the Independent newspaper in the UK a few years ago showing the stark difference between the number of rapes which occur, the number who report their rape, those who get as far as court and then the pitifully low number who get a conviction. What that incredibly shocking front page didn’t go as far as to show was for those very few who succeed in conviction following prosecution how poor the sentences imposed often are. It answers the age old question as to why so few women report rape.

The outcry at Brock Turner only being sentenced to six months imprisonment in all honesty would have probably gone unnoticed were it not for the callous remarks made by the judge passing the sentence. Judge Persky shared his concern that a longer sentence could have a “severe impact” upon the life of the young athlete turned rapist. As someone who has experienced rape, albeit not stranger rape, I can assure you Judge Persky that his actions DID have a severe impact however they had that impact on his victim. The impact on Brock Turner has a different name altogether, that name is Consequences!

Next to step in to this by now infamous case discussion was Brock Turner’s father who could have chosen to stay silent out of respect for his son’s victim or even given commentary that he stood by his son but that he recognised he needed to be punished. He didn’t choose either of those options, he chose instead to try to shame his son’s victim again by stating that in his opinion “20 minutes of action” shouldn’t ruin his son’s life. One doesn’t have to look far to realise where Brock Turner got his morals and sense of entitlement. His son’s “20 minutes of action” will have life long implications for his victim, she may heal well but his actions will still catch her off guard on occasion; she may find herself seeing his face instead of her husbands when making love or the pain he caused her physically may return during an intimate examination or may intrude on what should be her perfect experience of childbirth. His “20 minutes of action” will be with her for life.

Brock Turner was found guilty and his victim should have been comforted that he was being punished for his crime, no custodial sentence would ever compare to the life sentence she was awarded on that January night. No prison sentence will ever restore her dignity or her mindset. She can and hopefully will heal emotionally as well as physically however she will forever see the world through tinted glasses. Her vision tinted, tainted even, with the violation of that night.

Actions have consequences and no mitigation offered by Turner such as his blaming of “peer pressure”, “party culture” and “drinking” make him any less culpable for his crime. Although rape culture in western society does take all of these things into account, if it didn’t he would have been sent to prison for far longer. If it didn’t then he may never have felt that his behaviour was acceptable and never have acted this way. It seems that although both Turner and his victim were intoxicated his intoxication is deemed to offer mitigation for his actions yet her intoxication have society questioning if she brought this upon herself.

Let me be very clear here alcohol does not make people rape or indeed make people get raped. Rapists cause rape. Not difficult as a concept is it?

In the same way short skirts or walking home alone or even a premiscuous past do not cause rape. One thing causes rape; Rapists. Brock Turner has released a statement sayig he wishes to educate his peers on the dangers of drinking excess alcohol, here’s an idea – educate them on consent!!! It’s simple really if someone doesn’t say yes then that is a no. If they say no, struggle or are even simply unconscious and unable to consent then this is rape.

As a society we teach our daughters how not to get raped, we tell them not to wear certain things and not to walk home alone late at night but we don’t teach our son’s not to rape. We talk about the dangers of alcohol and drugs but not about consent. Does it make you uncomfortable? Maybe it should! Rape is an uncomfortable subject and a life changing experience. Brock Turner has talked about a culture of promiscuity, I have not heard anyone refer to forcibly penetrating someone with a foreign object as promiscuity, just rape.

The victim in this case has said she has chosen to remain anonymous because “I am every woman” well “I am every woman” too and so are some of my friends and we stand along side her. We stand together to raise each other up when one of us doesn’t have the strength in our legs to hold us up. We stand together to challenge rape culture. We stand together to say victim blaming is not acceptable. We must ultimately teach our son’s not to rape and not simply rely on teaching our daughters to wear longer skirts.