I'm hoping today was the last of our madness. It started out well enough; I knew it would be busy, but everything was running more or less to time. And then chaos. Our morning plans fell apart thanks to public transport problems, a cancelled commitment and some frantic attempts at rearrangment. Cryptic much? You'll just have to guess!
So with a slightly differently shaped morning, I collected the girls from school and dropped Little Fish off with my mother. Little Fish likes going to Grannie's work; lots of people think she's "very special" and spoil her rotten. Last time she was there they gave her permanent markers to play with - her Tilly Doll has never been the same since. Ah well, Little Fish has scars, why shouldn't her dolls?
Little Fish dropped off, Mog and I pootled along to the train station. To make the always pleasing discovery that our planned train had been cancelled. Marvellous. We had the pleasure of watching the proposed replacement disappear as we hit the platform, so settled for a cheese sandwich and the third option.
Full marks (and not of the nit lotion variety!) to Oxford railway station. We hadn't booked assistance, but they found the ramps instantly, told us where to stand, sorted out assistance at the next station along, and generally made our journey as easy as it could be, considering the several delays and cancellations.
Connect at Reading then off at Paddington and into a special car. In theory. We did have several conversations about the necessity for a wheelchair accessible vehicle. "Oh, you mean a people carrier?" No, a wheelchair accessible vehicle. One in which Mog can travel in her wheelchair. "So, a car with space for her chair to fold up?" No, a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Look, just tell the transport company you need a wheelchair accessible vehicle. They'll know what you mean (I hope). They did. Well sort of. I did mention that Mog's chair was too big to fit into a Hackney Cab and be strapped down. We ended up holding her chair steady for the half hour to our final destination.
Our destination? Television studios! Two mothers, one Mog, and a Richard and Judy. And dozens and dozens of assistants. We made the always pleasing discovery that I had forgotten to pack Mog's spare nappies; instantly a minion was despatched to buy some. We had minions! We had makeup, we had endless cups of tea. We had people filming Mog at play, and people wanting to hear about Mog's life. Mog had a present waiting for her in the dressing room - a beautiful turquoise teddy bear which lights up when cuddled. She was very pleased. Especially since it matched the butterflies on her cardigan. She was in her element - so much attention. Plenty twitchy, plenty noisy breathing, but generally one busy little girl. She didn't get makeup - the makeup team promised to make us all look ten years younger - as Mog is only 5 we felt it probably best they avoided that.
I think she panicked the production team - they called a paramedic to be on standby!
After an afternoon of general fabulousness (at least as far as Mog was concerned), it was showtime. The production team wanted Mog to sit between us on the settee, but as she can't sit unsupported, we decided that cuddles was the way to go. This pleased Mog! Lots and lots of noisy breathing - I think she was playing "see who can make the most noise over Mummy's Mic". She won.
A friendly interview I thought. I haven't seen it yet, we were told it would be about five minutes, but it felt much shorter than that. I hope we came across as ourselves - I'm sure Mog did. I'm hoping one of her doctors might see it actually - we've been concerned about her breathing for a long time, and yet whenever we get seen, she stops. Hopefully having this on video might be something they can see for themselves - she's been doing it pretty much nonstop for days now (until you come near her with a SATs monitor or a someone of a medical persuasion). It might just demonstrate what we're talking about. I'm not sure what they could do about it though; we're told it is due to her having a tight windpipe. Not sure you can stretch them out - and I'm not sure I'd want them to if you can!
Back to the dressing room and then to the green room for wine (us) and canapes (theoretically all of us, although since Mog choked on a taste of sour cream dip she didn't get given the hummus or taramasalata. All the more for the rest of us! Nice honey dipped sausages - I must work out a recipe for them.
All good things come to an end. The cars were waiting, so we loaded ourselves back into it, together with Mog's new teddy and some thank you cards, and headed back to the station. Where we (naturally) missed the train. Next train in half an hour, so we sat and slurped some soup. I suppose it was inevitable that I would somehow flip my bowl up and over the tablem narrowly missing Mog's head and the man at the next stool's trousers. Stool Man and a stoic waitress mopped up the mes, and then we had the true highlight of the day.
One woman was circling us, hovering behind us and obviously wanting to talk. So we smiled at her, and she came over and mentioned she recognised us from the Guardian article. She wanted to thank us for writing it, it had been so helpful to a friend of hers. She didn't think she'd make the same decision as Julia, but it had been really useful to know that others had been in that same position, and had done just as Julia did. I think we both felt that this put all the negative publicity in focus. If, by going public about Julia's decision, and about our lives now as an extended parenting team, we help just one parent in their own situation, then it has been worth it.
I very much hope that woman does enjoy and appreciate and love her new child for who he or she is. Neither Julia nor I are suggesting that Julia's decision is one which all parents would or should or could take. But I also know that for me, knowing there are alternatives actually helps me to stay strong in my chosen course of action. It becomes an active decision rather than a default setting, and that gives me strength to carry on.
I am phrasing things badly. I suspect that no matter what I say, people are going to interpret my words according to their own thoughts and beliefs. I just think it is important for Julia's story to be heard. I'm a fairly private person (which I suppose is a silly thing to say considering I'm writing a fairly public blog!), but I have given up a part of my privacy in order to share my side of the story. We've helped one woman. Maybe not in a big, life changing way, but if we gave a measure of reassurance to someone at a difficult time, then that is good, right? I can't honestly imagine anyone reading Julia's book and deciding to hand their child over to social services as a result of it. I can imagine (and have heard from) people who have read the book and found it helpful in their own circumstances, who have been grateful for someone willing to talk openly about this subject.
But I digress. We made a (small) difference. I think that's a good thing. We then thanked the woman (who thanked us), and headed for the next train. The travel staff told us we were too late and we wouldn't make it, we told them we would, and we ran. Up the platform and onto the train, where we somehow squeedged ourselves into the gap between two carriages, the three of us and half a dozen business men and women with laptops and mobiles and smart shiny coats. Catching our collective breath (and it was a squeeze; I think we all shared that breath) we waited for the whistle and the chug chug chug out of the station. And waited. And waited. And watched 7 policemen run to the top of the train and remove a passenger. And waited. And finally WHEEEE Chug chug chugchugchuchuchuchuchugCLANKsqueeeEEEEEE! and we were off. One man arrested for assaulting a member of the railway staff, one unapologetic apology from the guard, and finally home James.
One very happy very tired Mog. Two very tired mothers, hoping we came across ok. And so to bed.