Accepting help

My husband and I have this in common – actually we have a few things in common, but this is one of them – we don’t ask for help much. I’d go one step further to say I naturally actively decline most offers of help. This is in part a British ‘How are you?/Fine thanks!’ To ‘Can I help you?/No thanks!’

But behind my not accepting help there are two main motivations – the noble, and the decidedly ignoble.

Nobly, I find myself in a situation – usually of my own making – and feel that I ought to be able to cope with this by myself. That is, we decided to have four children, very close together – I should be able to get the shopping done and children fed and house clean! I can make my own bed, lie in it and be happy about it!

(The less noble bit is that I think I can do whatever the chore is, better than the person offering to help, or that I have such a limited and specific way in which I want something done, that I cannot bring myself to surrender even the smallest bit of control by allowing someone to take over peeling the avocado for fear that they peel it the WRONG WAY).

Let’s brush over the ignoble part and skip on to the part where I realise the error of my ways! Namely, this year I had a slightly enforced epiphany, with the realisation that Help is Good and Help Helps! And if you, like me, find it hard to accept support, I urge you to rethink!

At the end of 2015, when I was pregnant and feeling pretty ropey and looking after three children, my husband started to have numb feet. Fast forward a couple of months and these numb feet had progressed into lost sensation all the way up his legs, weakness, difficulty walking. No more leaping up the stairs carrying two children over his shoulder as he went, or running after the children through the park to exhaust them, or teaching our youngest to ride a balance bike.

I got more and more pregnant, and our lives were slightly on hold whilst we pestered doctors and neurologists for an answer that, when forthcoming, was not what we had hoped – namely, that this was neurological, degenerative and would not likely improve.

Two months later, in May 2016, he had an MRI which showed something quite different. He had a herniated thoracic disc! We celebrated! It wasn’t degenerative after all. They booked us in to see a neurosurgeon the following day.

So speedy! And for reason – they thought he was about to lose any use of his legs, potentially permanently. Less celebration. They booked him in for surgery, which happened 10 days after our fourth baby was born. This whole phase of our lives may require its own post at some point, but for now, the outcome – was that 11 hours of thoracic surgery was successful.

So, to the main thread of this post – the accepting help part. Clearly, this was a pretty difficult time for us, with terrible timing to boot. We really needed an extra pair of hands to help while we shuttled from hospital appointments, neurology appointments, midwife appointments, obstetric appointments – the list was long. We needed help getting the children out and about – to parties, to friends.

We needed help to get to the hospital when I was in labour, we needed help while my husband had his surgery and during his recovery. We were so lucky to have people in our lives that were there for us during all these moments. And something strange happened, as I started to feel more comfortable saying ‘actually, yes please’ to offers of lifts and entertainment for children and to family coming over to just be around with us.

Look it’s not like all of a sudden I became a better person, more relaxed and surrendering control in my household, but I definitely benefitted from feeling so supported, I grew closer to friends and family, the children had a chance to spend extra time with relatives and grow closer to them.

And while we are through that horrible phase and feeling elated and relieved and thankful, it has had lasting impact in so many ways. Today, after a huge food shop with all 3 smallest children in tow, the checkout woman asked if I wanted the car assistance. No thanks! I drilled back! But stopped myself. Yes please! And before I knew it the most helpful man came and packed all my shopping into the car, and held the cart still while I got the children into the car. All this to say, nothing wrong with letting people help you sometimes. Quite the opposite.

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