Its Monday, and I decide to go sort out this social services thing once and for all. They were supposed to visit on the ward and I’m so glad they didn’t. Not back on Friday, when I was all hospital gown and disorientation; Far too vulnerable. I will go and see them, instead.
I still have the outfit I came in wearing, 4 days ago. I put on the trousers and boots, along with my “going home” top and the cardigan with the brooch on.
They are just ordinary trousers, in a size 14. It seems incredible that I wore them the day I gave birth. How could I not have noticed something was wrong?
Social Services have their office one floor down in the outpatient clinic and I breeze in, in this painstakingly put together outfit and the hospital tags still on my wrists.
Susan MacDonald is a kindly looking woman in a very “public sector” jumper. In other circumstances she could have been a colleague or a friend. She says “You’re looking very good so soon after a cesarean I was barely able to move this soon after mine” and for the first time, I think that perhaps my self conscious display of hyper competency isn't necessary after all.
We talk about Jimmy and his progress. His blood sugar is still unstable. He needs to take more milk through his nose and then, later, through his mouth. Then they’ll want me to come into transitional care with him, before he can come home.
Susan mentions my discharge- today isn’t it?
“Oh no” I say “I just thought I’d get dressed today to make a change.”
As if I would have ever have cone to a meeting like this in my pajamas.
“Well the ward tells me it’s today”
I am not in the slightest bit surprised that no one has told me this. No one tells you anything. I just say “Oh, well that’s good then” and the conversation moves on.
The appointments were sent out to the wrong address. Susan has chased it up and it turns out I was right. I go to my handbag for a document that might shed some light on the mix up. It is still in the NCT folder. This is exactly how I hoped things would go a week ago.
Susan confirms that there are no child protection concerns and she will close the case. It’s like I’ve been given the best present ever: The chance to be a mother, unchallenged and unsupervised. This is so, so precious to me.
Then she says something surprising. She says:
“I imagine this must have been very worrying for you”
There is such a huge emphasis on compliance; on “engaging with services” that I honestly didn't realise they knew this.
And yes, it has been worrying- it has been fucking terrifying.
How was I going to prove I could mother? I was brand new- never done it before.
I imagined weeks, months of home visits, of “helpful” suggestions, of feeling the need to defer to the experts instead of learning how to do things my own way. Of any tiny mistake being picked up on- only confirming the need for involvement, prolonging it.
I remember the terror I felt when it occurred to me that if this child is taken from me- future ones might be taken too. At birth. I could have forfeited the opportunity to be a mother forever.
And that was before he was born. Before I even knew how important he was going to be to me. How terribly wrong it feels to be apart from him.
“Yes” I say “It has been a bit of a worry”
“Well, I’ll close the case then and pass on the message on to the NHS. Unless you feel you might need some support?”
“No thanks” I say “I’m fine”
And I am now, I really am.