In Sickness and in Health: Nine months since the night everything changed

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident.

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The Independent Online

I am writing this nine months to the day of Nick’s accident. I did just start trying to work out if at this time (early evening), on this date in February, Nick would still be walking around, or whether he’d already be unconscious, having bounced off the bonnet of the car and hit his head with such force that he’ll never, ever be the same. Then I remembered that, by spending the best part of the last year in avoiding those kinds of thoughts, I’ve just about hung on to my sanity. Seems a shame to lose it now.

A lot can happen in nine months, not least something that I try to skirt round when it pops into my mind: having a child. My standard line is: if I’d been that keen, we’d have done it already. Or: I might not have been able to have kids, anyway. And: I’m utterly blessed to have had a timeshare in my brilliant, funny, smart, sweet (I could go on) stepdaughter. It’s another thing  that it’s best not to dwell on too much. And yet.

Two good friends had a baby boy earlier this year. I remember speaking to the father, who was dazed but delighted after a tricksy birth (obviously it was far tricksier for the mother, what with her being at the sharp end).

I cried with happiness at the thought of this splendid couple becoming a trio, and took photographs of the way the summer sky looked to remember my, and their, joy at this new life.

A few months on and my visits were, naturally, dominated by conversation about the little chap. Having stepmothered, I’ve felt able to weigh in on a number of parenting topics, if not all, but I found myself empathising with my old friend the new mother rather unexpectedly.

It’s awful when someone you love is crying out and you don’t know what’s wrong, she said. I agreed, citing not a box-fresh scrap of human, but my forty-something husband and his unnamed terrors. We talked sleepless nights and how it feels to look after someone who is totally helpless. We discussed the fiddliness of nappies when you’re trying to apply them to a writhing body. Except that in hospital, for dignity’s sake, they’re called “pads”. She’s been getting her – and his – head around breastfeeding, I’ve fought every instinct, when feeding Nick, not to do the here-comes-the-aeroplane thing.

I’m sure that she must get bored with my muscling in on the early days of motherhood with my rather gloomy comparisons. But it makes me feel better that one of my pals, although in a different place, is at least speaking the same language.

But despite ironing on name labels to Nick’s clothes so they don’t get lost in the laundry at his new care home (I say iron, I used hair straighteners. Also great for Wundaweb), which is the most mum-ish task ever, I think of Nick only as my husband. And nine months of no wine and no work stress have left him svelte and more handsome than ever. Still, he obviously thinks I have maternal potential. “Where’s the baby?” he asked me last week. “We don’t have one.” “Why not?” he asked. “We  were too busy carousing,” I said, half laughing, half sighing.

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