This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 788 words.
(Apologies for the three day absence of episodes.)
After what Polly had said about Leah, I was stil strong, and determined to not only make Olly face facts, but also to tell the family what to expect. The last thing I was going to need was my mum saying things like “She should be doing that by now”. To be honest, I was rather relieved. Now I could stop worrying about what might have been wrong with my baby, and deal with what was going to be wrong with her as she got older.
Driving home, I pondered the reality of ‘severe developmental issues’. Walking might come late. Speech and communication could be limited. Vision and hearing might be impaired; either, or both. Feeding, safety around the home, all the expected problems were going to be twice as hard to deal with. Maybe ten times as hard. And what about schooling?
I stopped there. I was getting ahead of myself.
Another check-up in three more months, more depressing lists of things that she might not be able to do by then. Strange how I took some comfort from that dire diagnosis. The fact that Leah didn’t laugh, didn’t attempt to communicate, didn’t focus on me, or enjoy play. I had thought that was all about me, that I was doing something wrong. Now I had some kind of diagnosis that exonerated me from blame, I actually felt more positive.
It was all presented to Olly after dinner. I let him enjoy his food first, raging inside that he had forgoten to ask how the check-up had gone. I knew he was feeling that ‘breadwinner’ responsibility, and at a particularly busy time for him at work. But if he thought he was just going to leave everything else for me to deal with, he was very much mistaken.
His first reaction was to well up, and I thought he might cry. But he swallowed hard, and set his jaw. “Right then, Ang. We will deal with that, we can do it. I’m going to ring my sister now, and tell her. But I will leave your parents to you if that’s okay”. I was greatly relieved. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but it hadn’t been him finding his strength again.
Olly’s sister had worked as a trained physiotherapist in hospitals. Now she was semi-retired, she worked privately from home doing sports injuries and back pains, that kind of thing. She was immediately one hundred percent positive, and moments after finishing the call with Olly, she was firing off emails to me, with links to all kinds of organisations, therapists in Britain, self-help ideas, and groups that got together to help each other. It was early days of course, but it felt good to have things to latch onto.
While I was feeding Leah, Olly was online ordering an expensive home CCTV system that he could set up in her room. We could watch it live on a laptop, and record it to watch later too. He thought that being able to see her when we were not in the room might give us some tips on what she did in there when she was awake. He told me to get an email address from Polly too, in case she wanted him to email some footage once it was up and running.
By the time we went to bed that night, I felt better than I had on any single day since Leah was born.
Instead of phoning my parents, I decided to drive over with Leah and tell them the next morning. Ronnie would be at work, so they could fill him in later. But I wanted to do it face to face, as I had to ask my mum something. I was going to ask for her help. For the first time since I had left school.
Her first reaction was denial. “Far too early to say, Angela. Why have they worried you with that, when she is still so young? How can they possibly tell so much from what they have seen? Surely they won’t be able to tell much until she is at least one?” I raised my hand to stop her. Dad put his head in his hands, so I knew he got it. I told mum that she had to listen instead of talking. Her only grandchild was going to have issues. Even at the mildest end of the scale, she had to face facts that Leah was not going to be a normal baby. And in the worst-case scenario, I was going to be needing a lot of support.
My dad walked over and put his arm around me.