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The Reality of Being a Spoonie You Can't See in This Photo

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What do you see?

A picture tells a thousand words, right?

That’s what I used to think. The reality is that a picture is just a snapshot of a person’s life, a mere flash of a memory. That happy, joyous family moment, with faces all beaming into the camera…

What you didn’t see was the minutes before the shot. Mum rallying them all up for this beautiful “family” moment. The husband complaining that he doesn’t “do” photos. The 4-year-old shoving her brother because he’s sitting too close. The seconds before when mum realizes that the 10-year-old has a finger rammed up a nostril!

Then there’s the aftermath of that perfect photograph: The whining and tears because one of them has fallen off a rock and scraped an ankle. The moaning from the other because it’s been hours since lunch and we are so obviously starving them!

The long walk back to the car, the rush once home to feed the little darlings before tucking them into bed…though not before a mild disagreement with the husband over who’s turn it is to walk the dog.

This could be an insight into the life of any pretty average mum and wife. Despite the normal trials and tribulations of family life, that photo depicts a wonderfully busy, happy and healthy life that woman leads… don’t you think?

All our family photos are of pretty much the same or similar scenes. Beach days, walks in the countryside, picnics in the park with friends, even a generous amount of Snapchat filters and selfies from each of us. And I’m definitely sure that most people’s social media is full of the same stuff.

But what if things were different? What if I gave you a photo album of the moments in between? Those moments we don’t share with friends and family, the truth and reality behind the smiles.

What you didn’t see was the first moments of that lady’s day. She laid in bed for 20 minutes upon waking trying to get her body to adjust to the fact that it was time to get up. Then she took another 10 minutes actually climbing out of the bed itself because every joint in her body has stiffened like rusty cogs overnight. She half-limped, half-shuffled down the stairs with her daughter trailing behind eagerly chattering about what cereal she would like today.

She then put on her wrist splints and shakily poured out the coffee, whilst hoping that the little amount of water she had in the kettle would at least half fill the cups today…not that she could lift a full cup very safely! After which she promptly took several painkillers, medication and anti-sickness tablets.

This day the children desperately wanted to go out with Mummy and Daddy. They’re on half term and the sun is shining — it really makes sense to any parent to make the most of it, doesn’t it? The beach is the outing of choice but they can’t go until mummy’s painkillers have started to take the edge off. Today they actually have some effect so she grabs this opportunity and disregards her husband’s concerned face about the long walk. She puts on her smile and off they trek. The pain relief lingers, they have a wonderful time collecting pebbles and sea glass, even pausing for a family photo in the sunshine…

Then it’s time to go. But the pain relief has drifted, and the fatigue suddenly switches on like a light. There’s a sudden realization that this is a really long beach, and they’ve got to walk back over pebbles and rocks before going back up the 90-odd steep concrete steps. The walk is slow and tough, the kids are still on a happy high so she keeps on smiling through. Then the 4-year-old slips off a small rock and hurts her ankle, it’s a tiny cut, but she’s decided it’s too debilitating to walk and is in floods of tears. Dad had taken his drone out with him that day so was carrying the heavy case up ahead… Mummy has no choice but to keep smiling and with a calming cuddle carries the 4-year-old up the steep steps. With every step all her joints are screaming at her and she can feel the tears pricking the back of her eyelids. But she won’t show her daughter, this little girl who told her only two days before that Mummy is her hero.

They finally make it back up and back to the car. Once home, the day continues with normal routine that is usual to parents on a Sunday before school. More painkillers are taken and she battles with herself internally because she really wants a bath but is too embarrassed to ask her husband to help her in and out of it. The fatigue and exhaustion is too much and she finally gives in to bed at 9 p.m. knowing that tomorrow she will pay for today’s activities. But she doesn’t sleep…she never does.

So now what do you see? Behind that smile is the real me…

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Originally published: November 12, 2017
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