As if being a full-time working mum wasn’t already emerging as the hardest (but most-rewarding I might add) job in the world, I decided I’d challenge myself further and do it one-handed with an 8-month old baby!
I use the word “decided” loosely as I didn’t make a conscious decision to have a head-on collision with another motorbike on the 26th May 2012. That should have been a very special day, as I had collected my motorbike from my mate’s where it had been fitted with a super fantastic sidecar. But nonetheless, a fabulous day of riding in gorgeous Buckinghamshire ended on a rather sour note with me being rushed to hospital with some rather nasty injuries. I sustained a complete avulsion brachial plexus injury which left my right arm (yip, I was right-handed previously) paralysed from the shoulder down. My arm had basically detached itself from my body, held on by only skin and tissue. What is left of it is now attached to my body with pins and plates.
Several surgeries and weeks later I’m released from incarceration and sent home to continue as normal, as a mum to a now 9-month old walking Minx! What could possibly go wrong?
Challenge number one arrived shortly after arriving home when I had a poonami (exploding baby poo) to deal with one-handed! That was no mean feat, especially with a walking holy terror. That was a day I’ll never forget – ever! Sat in the middle of the floor in my lounge, I’m covered in shit, baby is covered in shit, floor is covered in shit. In a shit situation. That was my fight or flight moment right there. When I got us both upstairs, to the safety of the bath and shower, we sat and laughed until tears ran down our faces.
We always knew my daughter was a strong-willed one, from the first few weeks of her life. This new situation forced upon us only emphasised every aspect of her already stubborn and determined nature – I have no idea where she gets it from! From a very early age she was helping me get her dressed. She instinctively knew what to do to help. The fly little bugger also knew what side of me to go to when trying to get away from me too – they’re smarter than we give them credit for these ankle-nippers.
When my daughter started talking she named my paralysed arm Floppy. She would help me get Floppy in and out of sleeves and bra straps on the days I’d sometimes get trapped (you are allowed to laugh at that because it’s a vision and a half).
People often ask how the hell I coped with one arm and a young baby – and bizarrely that’s a question I can’t really answer. It’s flown by and that resilient, empathetic, independent, little lady turned six last week. I did what I had to do – I do what I have to do – what alternative is there? It was only an arm after all and for that I was very grateful, as it transpired I was very nearly paralysed from the waist down due to some serious compression on the spinal cord. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure whether I would have adjusted to life so easily with one arm had I not had my daughter. Having her to focus on gave me the inspiration I needed to ensure I carried on as normally as I could.
I have had many challenges and some memorable moments along the way and I’m sure there’s plenty to come.
Social services would have had a great time had they witnessed me hanging my one-year old upside down by the legs wrapped in a baby-sling that didn’t want to fasten. It was a bit like acrobats at the circus when they do amazing things with those massive scarves. Only far less eloquently. We nailed it in the end though.
Then there’s the moment I realised I needed someone else to intervene and show my child how to actually clap with two hands – as opposed to slapping her hand on her knee the way I do. Very cute, but had it carried on, it might have raised a few eyebrows. But this is one of those silver lining moments because now, when we have a need to clap, my daughter meets my hand with hers. Heart melt moment right there.
Some of my biggest challenges were when my daughter was very young. Things like three-point buckles on prams, car seats and high chairs. Getting a fidgety toddler in and out of a car seat was bad enough with two hands, but with one – sweary Mary was never far. Pushing those trolleys with wonky wheels, stacked high with shopping, across the car park to the parent and child parking (because with one arm I’m not entitled to a blue badge, no, you have to have a two upper-limb disability to qualify). But I persevere and somehow, I always manage to find a way.
After around 50 hours of surgery I finally said enough is enough and had Floppy amputated in March of this year. It was liberating for me, but I was very aware there was a loss we had to acknowledge from my daughter’s perspective. She coped with it well though and Floppy was appropriately renamed Stumpy.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been anything but plain sailing, there’s been many laughs and tears along the way, often simultaneously, but I’ve never wanted to give up, because it wouldn’t be me I would be giving up on.
It could always have been worse. It can always be worse. Be grateful for what you do have, not what you don’t
About Fran – A gobby middle-aged Scottish biker-bird now settled in Yorkshire, Fran is a right arm amputee after a nasty motorbike accident in 2012. Mother to a wonderful fruitcake of a daughter (age 6) she lives with her very patient and laid-back partner who also has two daughters (age 8 & 9). Trying to break free from the Corporate rat race, Fran has started writing and some of her blogs can be found here:- 2 Arms Are Overrated and #RantyFran Fran loves a good night out on the lash every now and then, but don’t be like Fran who forgets she’s not 21 anymore and then spends a week suffering. Fran thinks dressing gown and slippers are more appropriate than high heels these days.