My mum. When I was starting this project I was inspired by the people around me just like my mum who have so much to teach us in their everyday attitude towards life. Which made me realise, we all have lessons we can share and help those around us grow. I am inspired by the way that my mum chooses love every time in her life even when it’s difficult. Even though she has faced troubles throughout her life she shows in her story that she remains positive regardless.
*This story contains sensitive issues around loss and sexual assult.
I’ve always considered myself lucky, I’m not really sure why, I’ve just always believed I’ve had someone watching out for me. I’m definitely a half-full kind of girl rather than half empty!
I was born in London in the swinging ’60s. My mum was 25 an artists rep and my biological dad a few years older worked for Adwell and had a private pilot’s license. It was his hobby and passion. He would’ve loved to be a commercial pilot, sadly that never happened. He was killed due to a faulty engine, along with 3 others in a plane that he was flying in Ireland when I was only 13 months old and a day before his 32nd birthday. Mum and I were meant to be with him, maybe that’s why I believe I’m lucky and why someone is looking out for me-who knows?
Mum was obviously devastated and pretty alone. She had a small network nearby in her grandmother and fantastic Swedish friends and further afield in Kent with her aunt, uncle, and my paternal grandmother and uncle to help get her through the difficult times ahead. I thankfully was pretty oblivious!
My mum is an amazing woman and one of the main reasons why I have chosen LOVE as my word. She is of mixed ethnicity, the product of a love affair that to this day is still much of a mystery to me and her! People didn’t talk in those days and she certainly didn’t ask questions, she would not have liked the answers. After a chance conversation at a dinner party with friends and me digging around, I finally found a photo of my biological Grandfather in a book about Paul Robeson, who had been his PA and was from Grenada. My mum was 73 when she saw what he looked like for the first time!
So my gran was a single parent, my mum was a single parent! Whilst my gran was working at The Regent Palace Hotel in Piccadilly (where she met her future G.I husband), my mum was being raised by her grandmother a formidable woman and avid theatre-goer. My gran and new husband eventually returned to America, mum ( now 10 ) was meant to follow and settle over there too, but being ‘too black’ for white schools and not allowed on certain buses, etc. her grandmother thought it best to return to the UK (even though it meant leaving her mum and new baby sister ) where she didn’t experience the same problems.
So cut back to, my mum in London, trying to keep a roof over our heads, cope with grief and raise a child on her own. She would do freelance artwork from home at night while I slept and took in lodgers to pay the bills. My mum and dad had not been married so all of those worries didn’t just disappear after he passed away. My first brother was born when I was 4 my mum started driving lessons so she could take him to the nursery, drop me off at school and then take herself on to Teacher Training College because it was much easier than taking us on the bus! She passed 1st time and needed a car! Fast forward to McKenzie Motors and the meeting of my ‘real’ Dad. He sold my Mum her 1st car and asked her on a date, they were married 6 months later at the very fashionable Caxton Hall.
True love, no questions, just acceptance my real hero and who I have measured all men and relationships upon since, and with the addition of my little brother 3yrs after that, our perfect if a little unconventional family was eventually complete.
After a rocky start, my childhood was pretty nigh on perfect as far as I’m concerned a house full of love and not too many arguments, the usual and idyllic summers and holidays in Kent for me to stay connected with family. I enjoyed school was fairly academic but definitely more artistic. I never really suffered racial abuse but the old question of “ Where do you come from” was an inevitable question in any conversation and one I couldn’t answer honestly until fairly recently.
I had a great time growing up in London, music, fashion, art, film, galleries, theatre the works, and no real worries or anxiety. The first spanner was being sexually assaulted on my doorstep at the age of 18 whilst my family was away for a week’s holiday. I was at LCF studying to be a Make-up Artist and had a Saturday job so couldn’t go with them. I was lucky, it wasn’t awful it could’ve been so much worse if my assailant had known the house was empty and that my door keys were in my hand, but as I’ve said before I’ve always believed there has been someone looking out for me. This time it was my next-door neighbor who on hearing the scuffle knocked on his window, startled my attacker who then ran away. It certainly made me more cautious and warier about being out at night, I still hate hearing footsteps behind me and I think it might’ve been one of the deciding reasons why I jumped at the chance of changing the city for a while and going to Glasgow for my dream job to join the BBC and be a Make-up Artist. The only downside was leaving home and my then-boyfriend, but it was only for 2 years whilst I did my training then I would return to London, right?
I certainly didn’t expect to be here 37yrs later, but that’s what happens when you meet your now-husband on your first job after only 3wks!!!!!! Now that’s another reason to use my word LOVE. It took us a lot longer to tie the knot though, 8yrs in fact!
Things are going great we’re both freelancers now ( after 10yrs at the Beeb) and we’re expecting our first daughter. The pregnancy went without a hitch but the delivery was a little trickier and long, mid cavity forceps never too much fun but just as well it took a long time otherwise her dad might’ve missed it as he was working away in London and staying with my parents. Mum made it up to Scotland before he did and was in the delivery room with me as it was too traumatic for him. Our daughter eventually arrived safely and healthy thank heavens, just a few wee scratches, now I truly knew what the word LOVE meant.
How can you have that much love for another child was my biggest fear when we found out we were pregnant with our 2nd daughter and in the words of my wise old mum and one of the most profound things she has ever said to me “ Your love doesn’t half, it doubles ” and it’s true. The 2nd pregnancy wasn’t quite as smooth as the first, but I managed to work through it with the help of our own wee ‘Angel’ ( the girl’s Nanny) and our amazing support system of special neighbors and friends and with only one trip to the hospital prior to her arrival. With a suspected breech position. She turned beforehand and this time labour was smooth and fast ( she’s still fastidious about being early) so fast in fact that I almost didn’t make it inside the hospital to the delivery suite at all. Thankfully the passing nurse managed to get a wheelchair and get me inside. In total 2.5hrs from me waking up at home to her being born!
My poor mum decided to drive up from London and unfortunately missed the birth, but at least my husband made this one and held my hand throughout. Whilst she was being born in Scotland sadly my granny in America passed away practically within the same hour. I had never been more aware of the “one in, one out” scenario. It was an emotional day for all of us on so many levels.
I was only in the hospital a few days as all had gone well and mum was on hand to help out not only with our newborn but the 2yr old too. I was tired and emotional but put that down to just having given birth and my mum having to leave for America to attend her mums funeral. I certainly wasn’t banking on the first day of my husband being back at work that he would have to rush home because I was suffering from a postpartum hemorrhage and needed to be ambulanced , blue light flashing all the way to the hospital.
Our NHS is amazing and I really wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. I started off my treatment back on the delivery ward, my husband had followed the ambulance along with our newborn as I was feeding her myself and he didn’t know how long I was going to be there for. I certainly wasn’t ready for an emergency D&C and them trying to take my daughter away from me, thankfully friends stepped in, there was no way she was going into care over my dead body!!!!! I don’t think I ever quite believed how close I was until I was told afterward. I was taken by The Shock Team over to ICU where I spent the next week, literally fighting to get home. I had a newborn and a 2yr old that needed their mum, and I was going to do anything I could to be there. Unfortunately, Sepsis was setting in and taking over, my organs were starting to fail, they were monitoring my heart, and my poor hubby was sleeping at my side and expressing my milk as often as he could just to throw it all away because it was so full of drugs, but that’s what was keeping me going, the thought of being able to feed and nurture my baby. Our eldest was oblivious to all of the drama going on thankfully staying with friends and being looked after.
It was a bit touch and go for a while, my mum and brother were advised to get emergency flights home, my dad came up from London to support my husband, but I was getting there slowly but surely and with intravenous drips and a blood transfusion, I got out of I.C.U back onto the maternity ward and eventually back home to my babies and all of my family was reunited. When they were small I would sneak in to kiss them goodnight and savour what I might have missed if I hadn’t been so lucky.
This was over 20yrs ago now but definitely not forgotten. We as a family have our ups and downs like all families, but we are a unit, and our daughters are the two most precious things in our lives. I very nearly missed them growing up into the amazingly talented young women they are if it hadn’t been for LOVE. I am so proud of them both and can’t wait to see what the future holds for them and I still believe someone is looking out for me!
The Charity I would like to donate the proceeds from this painting too is:- Sepsis Research ( FEAT )
Hopefully, this can help other women in the future and avoid it happening to them
~ Jax ~
~I am Love ~
More information can be found about Jax’s charity at www.sepsisresearch.org.uk
Charity number: SC049399