It all comes flooding back. It’s the last Communion and memories of the first one, a short eight years ago, flash before me. The circle is closing. We’ve come a long way.
Eight years ago our fifth child was due to be born on our first child’s first Holy Communion day. When the date for said Communion was announced the mother guilt, only a scratch away at the best of times, burst through the skin and became inflamed. There aren’t nails long enough to get at it. I will not be able to attend my very own child’s Communion. Imagine what that will do to him.
But then a hand intervened. The baby arrived dutifully a full four days early. Which meant delightfully that I was in with a chance of getting along to the Communion after all. There was, how shall one put it, many a raised brow when I’d chirp my great news to the medical staff at the hospital.
‘Yes, isn’t he sweet, and guess what, now that he’s here a little early I’ll be able to go on Saturday to be there for my first child. Sooo excited’.
‘You’ll get out on Friday, afternoon most likely. Do you think you might be pushing yourself just a little too hard to make it along to the ceremony?’
Of course not. This is a gift. The baby’s a gift and he’s had the thoughtfulness to arrive on time to let me go to another gift’s Communion, and it’s wrong to look all these obvious synchronicities in the mouth. Or some such gabbling. Then I rang my Mum to make sure that Marque 1’s shoes would be ready. The rest of the garb was hanging up. She searched and searched and came across them, eventually, in the garden having been left out for days on end. It had been raining, naturally, and they no longer looked quite so black.
‘Nothing a bit of black shoe polish won’t sort’.
‘If we had black shoe polish’.
‘Ah sure, I’ll just use Mr Sheen furniture polish. It’s all the same in the end’.
Maybe the lovely nurses were right. My blood pressure was going dangerously high.
The birth had not been straight forward. He was in an occiput posterior position – his head was down but facing my front instead of my back. He wanted to come out looking up at us, so as not to miss a trick. Which is still how he is. But it’s harder for a baby to work through the pelvis in this position. Harder, longer, a little more dangerous. It upped the drama of the delivery and with it the interventions, which is not ideal. Although we were all singing from the same sheet. A baby to be delivered safely, please. Do whatever you need to. There was talk of an emergency section in the last few minutes. And then, as if he got wind of it, he flew out while nobody was looking. Beautiful and perfect. The manner of his sudden bursting through left a little devastation in its wake. More interventions. More meds for ongoing pain. Which is also why the medical staff could not quite join me on my high of being able to go to the Communion.
They were right and they were wrong. I was thrilled to be able to attend. Although I didn’t quite know what it would entail. He had a little job bringing something up to the alter, bless him. So we were in the prime position of the front pew. Fantastic. Then a bit of mother guilt began to fizz. All the other Communicants had white rosettes with medals expertly pinned bang in the centre of them. My child had an empty rosette with a medal strung around his neck. How could I have been so stupid? Why didn’t I know? There he was with his Mr Sheened garden shoes and his uncoordinated rosette and medal. What kind of damage are we doing to him? We’ve over done it, obviously, on the procreation front. But I didn’t expect to feel so, what was it, neglectful? My poor little sunny first born. I’ll make it up to you, I thought.
Then came the video camera man, positioned right in front of us courtesy of our prime position. In case it wasn’t already obvious that we weren’t acing this event, it would be there for all to see forever. Oh and I was wearing jeans. I know, I know. You see the point was about being there, not about the clothes. Which is all very well, until the ultra casual bloated mother in jeans ends up in the front row.
Then came the pain. It was already there at the beginning, but the adrenaline of making it along seemed to disguise it. Every time the priest said ‘kneel’ I did. Kneel, sit, stand. Kneel, sit, stand. Kneel. I wasn’t going to be the complacent casual bloated mother in the front row who couldn’t be bothered to follow the priest’s commands. With each one though, the pain increased. Pain, lightheadedness – no time for a cuppa beforehand, baby to be fed – engorged breasts and a queer colour about the jowls. A shade of greenish yellow.
When it was all over I tottered to the back of the church to a beautiful sight – the oasis of my mother-in-law, her arms outstretched to mine.
‘You made it darling’ she said and then really dangerously close to fainting I walked linked between her and my father-in-law and they whisked me off to the sanctuary of their home where I was fed and watered and minded and told how wonderful it was that I could do that for my first child. I’ll never forget it. It was like being a child again, being rescued from peril and utterly taken care of.
Later that day I was back in the hospital for some work around the pain issue. Then we were all at home together as people called in to wish him well. We whipped him off to Milano’s, just the three of us. It was a triumph.
So our last little Communion is a doddle. His four older brothers attend to support him. He has a medal pinned expertly in the centre of his white rosette. New shiny black shoes smile up at me. We party it out in a hotel in a picturesque small Wicklow village – a favourite of all. We don’t want it to end. Oh and nobody is wearing jeans.