Why do we force ourselves to be extra happy this time of year?
Over indulging in everything from mince pies and mulled wine to consumerist over-buying and spending money we don't have on things that we would probably not unless it was "crissmass"?
For a multitude of reasons I have never been a big festive fan.
A mixed feeling towards remembering Xmas as a child both fondly and with dread probably drove me to working as many as I could in my early adult life. Not being religious means Xmas doesn't mean much to me and I prefer to keep my mind busy, but my life changed forever on the 5th December 2010 and I am slowly working towards getting over it but I'm not sure I ever will...
It was about 8am in the morning when I left Glasgow on the train to head to Edinburgh to begin preparing for the busiest night of the year in my Edinburgh restaurant "Rucola" just off the Royal Mile in the City Centre...
usual morning pleasantries exchanged and the hotel ops daily meeting I sat down in my office with a latte and was shooting the breeze with Wayne our breakfast chef. He was a godsend, literally. Without him I would have had to start even earlier on my days in. As it was I was doing 0900-2200 as it was 6 or 7 days and it was tough enough going already.
My (now ex) fiancée called to say that she wasn't feeling well and was on her way to the hospital. Nothing unusual on the basis I had her there most weeks myself and when I had left her in bed hours earlier she was fine.
By the time I had made mise en place lists for the day and worked towards another cheeky coffee and a bacon buttie such was the breakfast of champions on a weekend, I had received a few messages form her that I hadn't read. I pulled prep from the walk in and started in on my list.
When breakfast service finished Wayne headed out for a cigarette, leaving me holding the fort for ay stragglers. I ended up needing my phone for something, a recipe or some such thing.
When I picked up the phone from the office desk it began to ring...
I answered, to hear the calmest voice say words that still haunt me today.. "Now I don't want you to worry, but..."
Never the best start to any conversation, especially not one with your soon to be wife in a hospital.
"The doctor admitted me to the maternity ward and they are worried about me and the baby"
I think the world stopped turning.
"They are going to try injecting me to help save the baby"
I think then, I knew.
Next thing I remember I was flying down the Waverley Steps on my way to the station to make the journey back home again.
I got to Glasgow Queen Street station and set about the long painful walk to the Maternity hospital near the Cathedral...
It was cold, grey, dreich would be the best description of colours. There was an in-trepidation that came across my onwards march with my brain flying around all over the place.
Thoughts, emotions, noises, tears, snot, it just kept coming and turned a simple ten minute walk into the longest ten minute walk of my life.
Even now I struggle to process what was circulating in my head at the time.
I recall arriving at the hospital to be met by my father in law to be.
As soon as I saw his face I knew we had lost the baby.
I was crying uncontrollably.
In true chef style, I blocked it out, sucked it up and made my way upstairs...
The words that ring in my ear from Eddie were "You've got to be strong for her, she needs you!"
When I arrived, she was already in a private side ward.
The door opened and she just burst into tears in the bed.
The nurse left.
I'm not sure how long we cried together.
It lasted for an eternity.
Eventually the door opened and closed maybe twice.
Later, I found out the consultant was coming on his rounds to try and explain what happened.
After I was empty of tears, and aching from within the door opened and in popped the most unlikely of doctors.
When I couldn't figure out which way was up, a guy who wouldn't have been out of place at a biker rally pulled forward a plastic chair whilst we were sat crying holding each other on the bed.
At the most unlikely of times, he spoke more sense in the 5 or so minutes and explained so eloquently, clearly and compassionately that 1 in 3 does not go to term. Only afterwards I realise now that in a ward of 8 or 9 women there would be another 2 or more who would be in our position soon. It was so clinical, matter of fact, cold. Death is a terrible thing to experience. And whilst we were a lot earlier in the pregnancy than it happens to some I would not wish the loss of a child on anybody.
Coupled latterly with the remains of our little one being lost by Greater Glasgow & Inverclyde health board, it remains a mystery to this day what happened or why.
I cannot fault the NHS.
The care and courtesy we received from nurses, auxiliaries, consultants to porters was top notch. God bless our NHS for sure. We must keep it free at the point of use for those who need it. And respect it more. Much more. It is not a "free" service. We pay for it. As my father who worked his entire career in the NHS always said "The British NHS, much admired, never copied."
It's what makes our country great Britain.
We must protect the provision of services robustly, but accept that it will never be a perfect system.
Sometimes fate has a funny way of looking out for you.
Maybe it just wasn't meant to be.
In this case, I now know that we weren't meant to have our little daughter in our lives at that time for whatever reason(s).
Today, as a new uncle I cherish every moment with our little miracle, against all odds we have a happy, healthy wonderful little boy to love, share, care for and teach. As a new funcle, I will make it my priority to lead him where he wants to go and teach him whatever he needs.
Next time you see somebody who isn't loving the festivities and isn't throwing themselves into the festive frivolities, just take a step back.
Maybe it's not a great time for them, for whatever reason. Show them some compassion. Ask them if they are OK?
Sometimes a shoulder to lean against or cry upon is a welcome respite at a rather difficult time of year...
In memory of my little Angel, Jaye.
gone, but not forgotten.
Daddy misses you :-x
Daddy's little sweetheart