• by Katy Deacon

How MS + 6 ½ months pregnant+ a bit of gardening = a hole lot of bother

by Katy Deacon

I don’t know about other MSers reading this, but 4 years of having MS have done little to curb my natural inclination to get stuck in when the occasion demands. But with my unwelcome MS “limiters”, “can do” doesn’t always translate into “did do”.

So there I was, six and a half months pregnant with our second child and feeling pretty great, buoyed up by me gradually getting back some sort of feeling in my legs. We were about to move house, a super charged and stressful time, even for the hale and heartiest. However well planned, the law of house moves means it always ends up as a race against the unbeatable, the clock; simply too many things to do and far too little time to do them in.

By this stage of my life, one of my MS limiters was decidedly wobbly legs. When I say wobbly I mean, legs which seemed to have no real interaction with messages from my brain and when there was connection, my legs behaved like the sulkiest of teenagers, mega reluctant and mega pouty.

So I couldn’t exactly be an equal partner to husband Scott in the maniacal amount of stuff to be done for the move. As he bustled here, there and everywhere I had to think how I could be a help, rather than hindrance, with anything but paperwork. The weekend before the move, “ping” an idea - something really dear to my heart – dig up the Camellia bush that my best friend had given me six years before so we could take it to our new house.

The idea was hatched on THE most beautiful early spring morning. ‘Piece of cake’ I thought to myself as I breathed in the almost intoxicatingly energizing air. ‘I’ll have this done in a jiffy’. What tools do I need I pondered as I lurched down to the garage? Duly armed with a garden fork and container to put the bush in, I made my way to the patio.

If you can picture it, the Camellia bush was beside our patio, in a slightly raised but very narrow flower bed. The bed was only one brick high, so no MS mountaineering required. But the fact that to the left the bed dropped away six or seven steps down into the main part of the garden did give me pause for thought. ‘Must keep clear of that side’ I told myself - wouldn't be clever to fall down there!

So I steadied my jelly legs, raised my arms above my head, to get maximum down force with such vim and vigour I all but tumbled backwards. The first lunge downward was made with all the strength I could summon, but rather than simply disappearing into the ground as I had imagined, the fork bounced back up, off the still frozen earth, succeeding only in causing me to vibrate like a well struck tuning fork.

Hmm, it’s going to be a bit more of a job than I thought. Maybe it’s time to use a bit of my engineer- trained nous. So, anything but undeterred and forever up for a challenge, I steadied myself for an altogether less gung-ho second shot. I took very careful aim and managed to penetrate the top of the soil and using the fork as a lever, prised up a gratifyingly large lump of soil. ‘Game on’ I thought with a mild pulse of satisfaction.

I spent the next 10 minutes carefully prising, digging and wiggling my fork around the three accessible sides of the Camellia bush. Once I’d got below the frozen top layer it was a lot easier. Just as well as I wanted to make a goodly sized hole, so as to preserve the root-ball for transplanting. No mean feat as I had to repeatedly guide, what feels like a foot “appended” to a decidedly recalcitrant and wobbly leg, onto the side of the garden fork, in order to dig ever deeper. I’m sure you can imagine my glow of pride when I’d finally exposed the entire root system. I allowed myself a short hands-on-hips breather. Or leastways I would have done, if my MS challenged balance had permitted me to do so without falling flat on my face, or worse still, in the hole.

Anyway, I was now on the home straight. Only a question of getting the Camellia out of the hole. I paused to take stock of the situation. Do I step down onto the patio for a firmer footing, or stay up high in order to try pull out the camellia with greater purchase? ‘Maintain the high ground’ I thought, even though it was a lot less even and would mean being above the slope. I settled myself down, for all the world like a golfer about to take the final putt on the 18th at St Andrews at an Open. Gingerly stooping forward, I steadied myself, not on the flat of green, but on our neighbour’s conservatory. I seized the bush by the scruff of its neck, ready to pull it out. After feeling my way a bit, I gave an almighty tug and ....... nothing. I took a breath, readjusted myself and with all the strength I could muster, another heave. And again sweet nothing.

By this time my three year old son had ambled out to see what I was doing. So, the next time I tried, I had my young cheerleader. Determined to not fail now the adoring eyes of my son were on me, I steadied myself once more and gave a monster heave, this time with sound effects and all.

“Yey Mummy!” he cheered as out came the Camellia, roots and all - no match for my huge, but totally uncontrolled, jerk. The cheer rapidly morphed into a shriek as, in what felt like a slow motion car crash, I felt myself falling unstoppably backwards, arms flailing madly like a windmill on steroids. And the only thing I could think of as I was falling backwards was “mustn't squish the baby!”

The slow motion feeling gave me time work out how I was going cushion my six and a half month’s worth of priceless cargo from a fall. Obvious - backside first on to the soil. The right call and it wouldn’t have been problem in any other part of the garden. But remember the slope? I hadn’t!

I hit the ground with a jarring thud. It was an almighty shock but surprisingly I wasn’t hurt. After a catching my breath, it having been cruelly expelled out of my body as if out of a cannon, I took stock. Above me was Lucas, tears in his eyes looking in horror at mummy on the floor. Also above me were my feet. Hmm, that was going to be a trouble. Lucas rushed over for a cuddle to make sure I was OK. As I comforted him, I looked around. My feet were above my head; my body and legs were in an odd V shape, distorted by my large bump and there was slope, menacing me below.

Any physically challenged MSer knows getting up off the floor is a “to be avoided at any cost” difficulty. For me, at that moment, it was a thousand times worse. Not only was I on my back, but I had a big, gravity challenging bump sticking out in front, PLUS I was sprawled out down the slope, with feet at the top and head at the bottom. Just picture it, there I was I a six and a half month pregnant woman, without my stick, as I'd used the fork for stability from the garage, legs in the air, stuck in what was by now mud.

Even gung-ho, “I can still do practically anything” me, realised the hopelessness of my situation and I started to laugh and the more I took in the situation, the more I laughed. Fortunately, Lucas having witnessed my singularly unstylish, out of control backward flip, recovered himself and set about solving the problem. He rushed in to the house shouting: “Daddy, daddy, help. Mummy’s stuck in the soil”.

Scott was in the attic, clearing out the mass of stuff which had accumulated over the years (why is it that attics seem to be a breeding ground for useless possessions. Is it the mushroom phenomenon - the moment that trap door is shut the darkness precipitates spore like breeding?).

Scott heard Lucas and bounded down first the ladder, then the stairs and through the house and out into the garden. The sight that greeted him was his massively rotund wife, spread-eagled, hooting uncontrollably with laughter and firmly stuck to what was by now a distinctly damp patch of earth. I had been unable to move as I couldn't bend upwards, or roll sideways, because of my precious bump and there was absolutely nothing to grab hold of.

So, in true Scott style, he grinned, shook his head with incredulity at having yet again to be the Huddersfield branch of Thunderbirds International Rescue. With a deft, well practised flick, he hauled me up from the soil, seamlessly picked up the camellia plonked it in its pot and ushered me inside for a cup of tea saying: “Next time leave the gardening to me”!

by Katy Deacon (Secondary Progressive MSer)

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