As if life wasn’t complex enough, L has to attend the dental hospital as a day patient to have six teeth removed under general anaesthetic. None of this is related to anorexia, apart from acid damage to the enamel, caused by vomiting, L has good teeth. However, she still has a number of baby teeth and adult teeth which are missing or misdirected. This is the first stage in fairly involved orthodontist work over the next two years.
I take the day off and go with her. She is put to sleep as I hold her hand. There is something incredibly emotional about seeing your child going to sleep in this involuntary way. I feel tearful – does every parent feel tearful like this or is it just me? I wait for an hour and am called back in – L is semi conscious and crying that her mouth hurts. Her mouth is full of blood and there is a smell of blood and soggy gums on her breath. I stroke her head and she sleeps a little more, then must sit up for a drink. Even in her delirious state (which is remarkably similar to her NYE drunkenness,) she resists this unknown drink of blackcurrant squash, but I insist and she drinks it. We help her home and she lies on the sofa. I watch her sleep and think how similar to Kristen Stewart she looks – my head is full of K-Stew/RPattz gossip after flicking through endless magazines in the waiting room… I wake her up for a milkshake that I have made as a meal. It is delicious, banana, ice cream and milk. L tries to ask what is in it, but I hush her. Perhaps this break from what she eats normally will dent some of her rigidity.
She drinks the milkshake is small gulps and I hear the liquid gurgle through her body. I have this sudden, strong, almost physical memory of breast feeding her as a baby, and that feeling of holding a tiny, helpless person, who is so, so loved and feeling them fill up with milk and the visceral sense of attachment and love. Today, L is gulping banana milkshake from her campervan mug and our only physical contact is my hand on her forehead. Despite my worries about her health, looking after her brings us so close. And I am struck with the fear that perhaps when she is better and stronger and strides out into the world, casting not a backward glance, I will feel lost and abandoned. Her therapy team talk about what she feels she will lose from leaving anorexia behind and I wonder what I will lose too. I will be no longer needed. Except for money, late night unpaid taxi services, laundry duties, loans of clothes and make up, possibly handbags and shoes too. Even advice about boyfriends, or as a general receptacle into which pour those huge worries which beset young people before they have real worries and perspective. And of course, no matter how old, when normal illnesses, colds and flu, noroviruses and weekend hangovers hit, everyone still wants someone to look after them.
Hmm, perhaps we’ll be fine…Must go, I have a brow to mop.