I get the feared call from pre-school on the last day of term. You’ve hit your head, badly.
I keep a close watch on you for signs of concussion and thankfully, there are none. I feel shattered from the worry and the shock. I give up on work and pamper you for the rest of the day.
The hardest thing is when you’re hurt or sick. Or when I’m sick. Or worst of all, we’re both sick. That’s when it’s hardest to be a single parent. The worry that I might miss the signs of something serious. Of seeing you suffer. Running out of supplies when we can’t just dash to the shops for more food or more medicine. When I have to miss work and I can’t think of an alternative. Now it’s 2015, in Denmark. You’re two. I’ve told Nadia the Principal that this is my last year, we’ll be going home to Australia in the Summer. I want to go out on a high, the way I felt when I left for maternity leave. You got sick on Friday. It’s flu or something. I will you to be well by Monday. I’m worried about work. But Monday comes and you’re not. I have a toddler with a fever who needs my care and a room full of students waiting for me. There’s nobody to step in for either role. I miss a whole week. After the course a student wrote on their evaluation form “It was a terrible course. I don’t understand why she couldn’t just get someone else to look after her sick kid.” No, you wouldn’t understand. It’s not something you can understand. Until it’s you.
When I was nine, I got sick like that, and the disease progressed but I didn’t get better. For weeks, then months I didn’t get better. Tests began. I was tested for everything. Invasive tests, horrible tests, with no conclusions. I’ve always thought of this as my story, but now that I’m a mother I know it’s just as much hers. It took a year to get a diagnosis. Myalgic Encephalomyalitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was an active young kid, sport was the thing I did best, it was where I found my self-worth. And then I was bedridden, for a year. The diagnosis was a relief, I wasn’t dying, but it was a burden and a curse.
The hardest thing is when you’re hurt or sick. Or when I’m sick. Or worst of all, we’re both sick. That’s when it’s hardest to be a single parent.
This production is made by me, Sophie Harper, in partnership with Wondery. Thanks to my family, my friends and my daughter for being part of the story. I’m supported by generous listeners. Story editing by Michelle Webster. Music from freemusicarchive.org - CC NC License: Transpire by Dexter Britain, Dolphin and Snow Monkeys by Candlegravity. Someone to Watch Over Me by Blossom Dearie (invoking Fair Use). Ad music from freemusicarchive.org - CC Commercial License: Drop of Water in the Ocean by Broke For Free. I’m now on Patreon. If you’d like join the kind people who are already supporting me to produce each new episode, go to patreon.com/notbyaccident. Thanks so much to Margaret P. Jones, Russell Kerrison, Julie Greenhalgh, Rebecca Reid, Kasey Tomkins, Dianne Firth, Anne Staude, Adam Coulson, Melanie Ann, Lea Durie, Laura Getson, Bill, Sue Giugni, Maia Bittner, Elizabeth Adcock, Jessica Kindynis, Laura Cherry, Bethany White, Paul S Mitchell and Mariele Thadani for your support. To everyone who’s written to share your stories and to support me in continuing, thank you. I’m very behind with my replies, but want you to know each message means so much. Go to www.notbyaccident.net to find out more about the series, join the e-newsletter or to get in touch. We’ll be back with the next installment in about 2 weeks.