by Elizabeth Flynn
In two separate areas of South Dublin in the early 1980’s, two young women were not to know how their paths would soon cross. Young adult newly-wed life began for them as next door neighbours in the leafy suburb of Killiney – fresh-faced, youthful and above all, full of expectation.
They both were instantly attracted to each other and friendship was a given. Easy smiles, merry laughs soon led to chat about life plans. They were created to be friends. Laughter was so much their sound.
Yes they eventually wanted to start a family. Sure all the young women nearby were having their first babies in those early years, and it was natural that the young neighbours’ thoughts also would turn to this sooner or later in a long since gone time when mothers actually stayed at home with their children and mortgages still got paid. The halcyon days. Careers and holidays went on hold as new ideas sprang into life. Nest building and parenting took up their thoughts.
Two baby boys were born – one in 1985 and the other in 1986. Imagine the joy of both young mothers experiencing first time motherhood. They were amateurs at parenting – they did not know anything about babies.
However, it unfolded one year after another that both these little boys, just one year apart in age, were born with disabilities. How strange and unusual…… just next door, just over the garden wall from each other.
Those words ‘not normal’ nor ‘disabled’ were never used. Not reaching milestones, not thriving, not speaking in time, not sitting, not walking etc…. and on and on went the dedicated PHN but to terrified ears, oh, so very terrified ears. Endless trips to specialists took over the long days and years… it seemed too horrific to comprehend, could it even get worse? They did not know. They were better off not knowing anything more than the moment in hand.
Days came when the PHN regularly knocked on the doors of these homes – the poor lady herself also mesmerised to have two dramas living next door to each other in her catchment area. It surely was her worst nightmare too! She would find the mothers conveniently (!) out or at least missing. It was hard to be nice to this austere lady. The mothers got used to her often blunt manner and her unfortunate knack at getting the babies’ names wrong as she pointed out what therapies were needed, what tests were ordered, what not to do, what to do – Blah BlaH BLAH….. she truly meant well. We looked on at her, sitting in our respective sitting rooms, with venom in our hearts.
The reality was that the mothers were in shock, and in total denial of the truth and the rocky road that had suddenly appeared on the long horizon. There was no such thing as available counselling even if they wanted it.
It is true to say that to be truly empathetic one must experience the same level of trauma as the troubled person. Well you could say that this, at least, was a win win situation as these young women DID understand each other so very well. They did not struggle alone.
As time progressed, a sense of acceptance reluctantly set in. They still harboured a slight dream that they might just be able to reverse the life scene that stretched out in front of the children and both families. They were young parents, anything was possible. Or so it seemed. Moving statues ‘moved’ everywhere in Ireland in those days! It was the 1980’s. Miracles happened in some places. People sometimes even went to Lourdes!!!
Days went by in Killiney, walking and chatting with the baby boys in their buggies. The beautiful scenery in stark contrast to the worried faces of the young women as they went out and about. A lot of chocolate was consumed, a lot of tea was drunk in front of open fires on cold winter days. Support and laughter was the most important commodity that was in constant supply between the two. There is no memory of tears. They walked the walk. They talked the talk. They were shattered by the road less travelled but they SURVIVED.
If today someone needs support and YOU can give it, do believe that it is that which makes the world go round and lives are made so much better always.
I know. I am one of the mothers in my true story, still supported by many people who know who they are.