Our days, filled with all the craziness and beauty of toddling twinkles and of a 4 year old blossoming into her own world of imagination.
But its certainly not all beautiful, some days I feel like I cant keep up with the emotional ups and downs of such a strong little girl, who thinks she is independent.. but no she’s only 4.
And its dizzying to be swamped with love one second and then facing an emotional meltdown, because the rabbit nibbled her picture she was drawing, or the babies chewed on her teddy and gave it a soggy ear.
And breastfeeding twins and teething twins and leaping twins and biting fighting climbing twins
And it certainly isn’t easy. Tonight for example, after bath time as i had three little nudies running round, i trod in an accidental poo on the rug, I can still “feel” the squelch…ugh.
But its not all stress either.
My kids get to spend alot of their days observing the sky, the sea, really watching the changing light of the sunrise over the sea, watching the waters change colour, the cliffs of Eday darken in shadow as the sky bursts into colour.
There have been huge changes. Yes, there were only 7 children in the school until a couple of weeks ago, when our little island gained another lovely family and their little one joined the tiny school.
And Orla is the only 4 year old, and coming from a big city, and a large circle of friends, this has presented a huge challenge and change of my little 4 year old’s ways.
And some days I feel ever so guilty for taking her away from her friends, but aside from the fact that we escaped a mother and child starting to bully, back in Newcastle. It is wonderful to watch Orla learn to joyfully retreat to her own imaginative world and to see her learn to make and play her own games and to see her do this in joy.
As there is one person we spend our entire lives and it is important that we get along with them and enjoy their company.. and that is ourself.
And seeing Orla grow more comfortable and creative in her own skin, well it warms the cockles of my heart.
Afterall, every choice I’ve made since learning I was having my first child has been to give my one, and then three littles the best life I could give them.
We’ve spent days in pure stillness, collecting broken pottery on the beach, singing to the selkies and listening to their replies, their hauting voices stretching out across the bay.
We’ve whiled away hours and hours standing on the old pier, watching the seemingly infinite colours of blue the sky and sea can create together, around a low winter’s sun.
We sing to the cows as we pass them on the way to school, sing and look into their eyes and let them see that we really care.
We watch rainbows literally pouring from the sky, travelling under clouds as they pass over our tiny isle. Or towering above us in all their rainbowy glory, unhindered by buildings and other manmade junk cluttering the view: just rainbow, sky, field and pot of gold.
The storms descend with such force, the winds howl down our chimney pot, raising the air pressure of our living room, pushing out the walls and ceiling, stretching them at their seams, it feels like the house breathes: a deep purposeful inhale and a cleansing exhale as the air rushes back up the chimney.
And the deafening roar of the rain on the windows, its so loud it drowns out any voice you may be speaking with, or any music you are listening to, or takes away any xhance you had of sleeping between the usual twin awakenings.
Life is so simple here on the island, you pass your days and that’s it. Well that and you observe the passing, unlike in the city when days are fragmented and busy, filled with distraction.
And theirs so much more.
So much more beauty and space than I ever knew there could be.
but there have also been the hugest lessons, already, of just how frail life is, and just how remote our lives are.
The day my life nearly changed forever in the worst possible way.
My little boy, 18 months and 2 days old, started to choke on the first ever jelly sweet i had bought them, it was a little treat as they had seen their big sister nibble on such things.
then I heard the noise, I knew it wasn’t a gag, the usual sound of a reflex commonly heard in all wee ones learning to eat solids.
This was gurgling, strained, choking.
I ripped him from his pram seat and started patting, then slapping his back but it clearly wasnt working.
It was a hugely windy day, and as i fled towards the hostel, choking babe in hand, I left big sister standing in the garden and little sister asleep in the pram. Yelling with calm fear “Orla, I need to get help” she knew.
She knew something was wrong and it was serious.
I ran into the hostel shouting for the island’s other Jennifer.
She was there.
She took him and started trying the heimlich manouvre on him.
It wasnt working.
Various positions, various slapping, shifting, jelly ousting techniques were tried.
It wasnt working.
All the while in the back of my head, was a feeling of embarressment for overreacting, for being the centre of a drama, but as I watched it unfold, it kept becoming more serious.
He was upside down over her knee, hitting his back with good force.
It wasnt working.
His lips were turning blue.
He was foaming at the mouth.
He kept looking at me, eyes strangled with fear.
“Jen he’s turning blue”
We were alternately smacking his back.
It wasnt working.
He looked at me, so scared.
His eyes rolled back in his head, his body went limp.
“He’ll be OK” the shocked island visitor told me
“He’s f*cking dying”
“Does anyone else know any other first aid?” Jen asked in a strained voice
“F#ck, Jen he’s dying”
But still in the back of my mind was this feeeling of embarreasment, that I was overreacting, until Jen said “I know”
My baby was dying.
My life without him flashed before me. Alaina growing up without her twin. Orla having to live with the pain of loosing her little bro.
THIS IS NOT HAPPENING
Then I remembered the girls left in the windy garden. I asked the visitors if they would go and check on my girls.
I remembered the emergency number on the payphone along the corridor.
I asked someone to ring the emergency number.
The nurse!!!! The nurses office is just down the road. I went to flea out of the door and down the hill to get help and then I thought I’ll come back and my baby will be dead. I can’t leave him.
“The nurse. Can someone get the nurse?”
Jen was thinking the same but felt bad leaving.
She speedily passed Orin to me.
Soft and floppy, my babe was dying.
She had handed me his body, lifeless and ran for help.
I ripped off my coat, flinging it away. i remember hitting him so hard, holding him in different positions.
My baby was dying.
Nothing was working.
THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING.
Wack. Wack. Wack.
Hitting his back.
Hitting him upwards in his solar plexus.
My hand was swollen for 2 days from all of the force with which I tried to save my little babe.
“Come on Orin”
“Come on baby”
It seemed to go on forever.
Still no breathing.
All of a sudden his head rolled back
His eyes focussed.
Nothing had came up. There was foam in his mouth, i gently put my finger in to see if anything was there. Nothing.
“Baby are you breathing, Orin are you breathing???”
I couldn’t believe it. He was bacķ.
He just sat silent and soft in my arms. I was fearful he had brain damage he hadnt breathed for such a long time.
Jen returned with the nurse. I called to them “He’s OK, he’s breathing”.
Jen ran off without a word to help with my girls (See what I mean about being my own personal super hero).
Sugary tea was made, tears were shed, i sat shaking, with an exhausted, alive baby boy on my lap.
With no ill after effects for Orin, I was almost a broken woman that month, I felt like I’d choked my baby, I’d brought him to an island and he’d nearly died.
bursting in to tears at every meal cooked, every bath ran, every cuddle, every dish washed, at getting his tiny clothes from the wash basket. How could I have carried on if he died!
The next week was time to decorate the house for the winter solstice. Every decoration hung was tainted by the trauma of seeing my baby slip away from life.
the knowledge that this was all so close to turning to hell was so overwhelming.
but he breathed. It’s OK. He’s OK.
Surrounded by such beauty, in such an isolating place, shocked me to my core. Those brief moments before I got to Jen at the hostel, I have never felt so alone in my entie life.
But my little bright eyed boy, with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. He’s OK. Better than OK. He’s blossoming into a beautiful little Orcadian along with his sisters.
What have I learned from this.
On an island it is good to have your own emergency plan. And a back up plan.
Never let the kids eat sweets ever again.
And life, no matter how strong the individual, life hangs by a delicate thread, and we are all one haribo away from death. Chew properly.
Life goes on, all kids breathing, all kiddies happy, learning to adapt to island ways.
The next chapter awaits us.