Friday, 11 August 2017

Turbulence Part 2: The Falling

To Fall: “A sudden uncontrollable descent”…

On the 6th of May 2012, when I was approximately 24 weeks pregnant, I fell off a 1.5 metre high stage and landed onto marble flooring, while I was on a short three date tour in Italy.

It was nobody’s fault, just an accident and life changing as it has been, I often remind myself that it could have been much worse. There have been ongoing physical issues that I have learned to live with and I lost full mobility for a season, but I am fortunate that the mobility loss has not been permanent. Most of all to put everything into perspective, I did not lose my child.

Pregnancy had been harsh up to that point (like it is for so many women). Morning sickness had started pretty much from the moment I realised I was pregnant while on tour in Sardinia in December 2011. I remember one night somebody commented that I was “ lost in thought, in a world of my own.” At that specific moment I’d been musing over the fact that I suspected I was most likely ‘with child’ (and feeling slightly guilty about all the wine I’d consumed during those days.) At 14 weeks, I performed a Radio Wales live session that had previously been booked in. I had to inform the host Alan Thompson that due to being pregnant I might need to throw up in between songs. The kind producer Llinos brought me in a bucket just in case I needed it. (I did throw up- but fortunately made it to the loos and not the bucket!) The sickness carried on for a full 20 weeks.

One night during that time, I had a very instructive dream. I dreamt that I was trying to park our transporter van, but it suddenly had a mind of its own and was driving in reverse every time I tried to move forward. I became very annoyed with it and began shouting “Just drive forward, why won’t you drive?!” Suddenly as I was still dreaming, my dream explained itself to me (something that has never happened before). I heard myself telling me “ You’re having a dream, the van in this dream is your body and now that you are pregnant you have become a passenger to your body. You’re just going to have to let go and let it do what it needs to do.”  Probably the best advice I’ve ever given myself! From then on in, I endeavoured to let myself be a passenger to my body as it got on with the job of growing a baby! I tried to brace myself as much as I could for the long haul.

In my minds eye now I see air pockets swelling as the first blow of turbulence is poised ready to strike.

24 weeks. It was the last day of my brief set of gig dates in Italy. I climbed the steps up onto the high stage at the venue in Centallo to get ready to sound check. My bump was huge (I’d been massive from very early on and people were already thinking I must have been due imminently) Earlier that afternoon I had looked down at the stage area with an ariel view from the high balcony seats above and remember thinking  “You really don’t want to fall off that stage, it’s so high.” (Uh huh, yep that’s right, I thought those exact words.) I toyed with the idea of getting someone to help me up the stairs and onto the stage as the position of the stairs meant that I would have to climb over a bit of equipment but I decided that if I was careful and took my time, I’d be fine. In the days that followed I made a pact with myself to always listen to my instincts in the future.

The venue was an old cinema, converted into a multi purpose arts centre. There was a huge screen and beautiful visuals being projected as we set up for sound check.

I took each step with care and reached the top feeling momentarily smug that danger had been averted. Somebody from the floor asked me a question and I turned to answer, at that moment the lights that were being checked, changed stetting and flashed in my eyes. I turned back to walk to my spot for sound check, stepping confidently onto what I thought was floor. It was nothing but shadow. Probably it was the light still in my eyes, or my bump being too big to see my footing, or both but I stepped down onto nothing. The drop was sudden but long enough for me to let out “oh Shit” and I twisted round quickly so as not to land on my bump. I heard a Mexican style wave of voices “shit, shit, shit, fuck” from the folks around me. My musical travelling companion Dylan told me that he’ll not forget the sound my body made as it smacked the ground. There was no give. I landed on my hip and lower back. Pins and needles emanated from my spine into my legs and followed by a temporary numbness. My first thought as I lay there on the ground, “ this is bad” my first words “ bambino” in Italian (technically should have been bambina). I struggled to sit up, just to prove to myself that I could still move, the pain was beginning to burn. The ambulance arrived and I was stretchered out. They couldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat. One of the ambulance crew held my hand and they searched again and again, time blurred and faltered as I waited and hoped and finally after what seemed like several lifetimes they found her heartbeat.

Indescribable relief.
I had not killed my baby.
No matter what kind reasoning anyone had said or offered me in those moments that was all that I could think.

The season of turbulence had well and truly begun… my injuries and severely limited mobility that lasted throughout pregnancy and beyond, was the first shake up. Two weeks later Bill nearly lost his life during his major hand reconstruction surgery...


Sarah McQuaid said...

Ooof, ooof and ooof. Thank you for sharing this. Your dream-metaphor about the van is perfect. ❤️

Bethan Nia said...

Oh gosh Rachel. Thanks for sharing your story. So dramatic and horrific. Such great writting. x