November 27, 2012 § 1 Comment
This week is Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. I have been surprised to realise that much of the grief I’ve experienced about Robin being ill has actually been unresolved grief from when Zara was a baby.
In November 2008 we were living in QLD, near the beach, enjoying a beachy kind of homeschooling, cruisy lifestyle. We got rid of all our baby stuff, feeling that three kids was enough for us. December rolled around and like a bolt of lightning from above, both Sol and I knew it was our immediate destiny to have another baby. A few days later: pregnant.
Nine months later, I was giving birth in the middle of the night, in a pool on the floor of my Mother’s lounge room in Sydney. The previous two years had seen us uproot and move to QLD, lose our house and income, live in a tent and travel around fruit picking, lose our tent to flooding, live in emergency housing and survive on an extremely small amount of money. On top of that our move back to Sydney whilst pregnant with Zara had not gone as planned. Needless to say living with my Mum and having a baby there was not part of the plan.
Most people anticipate the first second their baby is born, and the amazing connection and love that occurs, like a light being flicked on. I certainly experienced that, especially with my first and third babies. Zara’s birth was so peaceful, but the second I saw her, finally born and placidly gazing, I felt nothing.
I can only remember random moments from Zara’s first year. Talking to the midwife, being at the park after school one day, meeting with one friend… and really, that is about all I can remember of Zara.
I just tuned out from life for a while, but in a serious way. I went through the motions when I needed to, but my real self was standing in the background of my mind, in a fog. After dropping the kids at school I would sit with Zara on the lounge… and just sit. There could have been lunch prepared for me, sitting on the table, but for some reason there was no way I could make it to the table to eat.
I know I breastfed her, and that I took very good care of her. I always consoled myself with the fact that at least we still bonded, as mother and child should. But then, after spending time with Robin in hospital and knowing him inside out, being able to anticipate every cough or cry he made, feeling such a oneness with him, it was almost a physical blow to realise that the bond I thought I had with Zara was a fallacy. I just wasn’t there for her when she was a baby. And this year, while Robin was ill and she was still only two, I wasn’t there for her physically. These realisations bring me to my knees.
I did get help for PND, and came out of it soon after Zara turned one. Maybe I had an enhanced bond with Robin because we were together 24/7 and I was able to fully focus on him. I’m still working through these thoughts. All the while trying to let go of the ‘shoulds’, and of the ridiculously high standards I know I set for myself.
November 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
November 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
Rest is underrated, I think.
For the last six weeks I have had a lighter load in life, with little more to do than run a household for seven people. Of course that is a big job, but compared to my commitments and expectations over the last two years, it is a holiday. Almost.
Initially, I HAD to pull back. In July, a month out of hospital, I went back to my role leading a Playgroup, just once a week. But by August I was feeling burnt out and overwhelmed whenever I thought about being at Playgroup. Then I began to feel overwhelmed about any time deadline, even school pick up. And soon a certain level of panic set in, a constant presence in the background, but rearing its ugly head when I felt pressured in any way. Warning bells began ringing in my head at this point, especially when my mind began to lose the energy to counter the inner critic.
I’ve experienced post-natal depression before. This time around, we took extra care to ensure I had plenty of support (on many different levels) so there wouldn’t be a repeat. And after all the efforts we made in this area, after all the strength I found to be there with Robin, to be present with him every step of the way, I was NOT going to get depressed. I was not going to make the same mistakes that contributed to PND before. No way.
Deciding to take a break from my job became easy, especially when the perfect, experienced fill-in person serendipitously presented themselves at just the right time. By the beginning of October I was free from all commitments, except school and one child’s extra-curricular thing. I’ve started an etsy shop, and done lots of sewing. I’ve begun this blog. But most of all, I rest.
Initially I had to rest because I was too panicked and paralysed to do anything. I read lots of books. I watched lots of comfort TV. I couldn’t handle the huge rush of bleakness if I sat still with myself for too long. Like a kite flying high on a windy day with a taut string, I slowly, so slowly, began to pull myself down.
I went back to the afternoon nap, with Robin in my arms. I realised lack of sleep probably accounted for 50% of the stress. Sometimes I took a step backwards, and began doing too much. The panic level would let me know. So I got more sleep again, and stayed home as much as I could. I told people how I felt. I asked for help if I needed it ( a huge thing for me). When staying at home was making me feel bleak, I went out and had fun… the beach, the mountains. Normal family things that we could suddenly do again, that gave my mind a break.
And since the energetic healing I had last weekend and the mini-holiday, I feel pretty much myself again. Which was perfect timing because Robin has had a very grumpy week, refusing to be out of my arms much at all. So we rest, lie around, play. The deep grief and other feelings surface now and then; little bubbles of feelings that I can gently pop and release, not the raging tidal waves of even two weeks ago.
Today I feel good about things. So thankful for all the people who have supported me. So thankful I have been able to let go and be guided into healing.
November 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
Hubby and I had a rare chance for a weekend alone… well, almost alone. Robin is still fully breastfed so he came with us, but having just one kid out of five is definitely a holiday!
Reef Beach can only be accessed by bushwalking…. something Sol and I have done together from the beginning. Swimming in the ocean is a spiritual experience for me. I could have stayed in all day. Wildlife score: saw a stingray just two feet in front of me!
Storm clouds rolled over. We began walking, hoping to make the car before the rain began. About 150 huge steps between us and the car…. needless to say we didn’t make it. Somehow managed to keep Robin fairly dry but the rest of us was soaked and it felt great to just let go and get wet.
We are new to hotel staying…. so every time feels like winning the lottery of luxury. This hotel was the best yet… we walked to the Quay for a sunset backdropped dinner and watched a huge cruise liner reverse out of Sydney Harbour. We passed people in bars, drinking and eating oysters after work. I had a momentary twinge… knowing it had been so long since I did anything as carefree with my time or money.
The bath, perched just next to the window on the 26th floor, provided the perfect end to the evening. I turned off the lights and let the glow of the city provide the ambience.
Next day, Sol had to work so I strapped the baby on and visited the MindBodySpirit Festival. It was so much fun and I met an old friend who gave me a much needed energetic healing treatment. On the way home, walking through the city I suddenly thought: no one who knows me knows where I am right now.
It was the most delicious feeling of independence and freedom, a rare moment for me these days.
November 14, 2012 § 1 Comment
My husband has seemingly dusted himself off and moved on in life, embracing Robin’s health and the return of regular family rhythms with joy. I wish so deeply I was the same. For me, going to the beach or on any spontaneous family adventures now feel like huge, hard-won freedoms.
As Robin’s health improves, I find myself thinking over the past six months, pondering the many ways in which his illness changed our lives. Once we returned home from hospital many people assumed it was over, that he was recovered. I found myself explaining over and over again the nature of his illness and that leaving hospital was just the beginning of his healing.
In some ways hospital was the easy part. Nurses and Doctors were around all the time. I found his coughing episodes very distressing and preferred to have someone in the room with me, even though I quickly learnt how to support Robin on my own. I was there with Robin almost all the time, and had nothing else to focus on except him.
But once we were home…. like a stone dropped into still water the shock of how things would need to change became apparent straight away, with ripples of adjustment continuing on. Deeper issues, dredged from the depths, kept surfacing for weeks and months afterward. Now we were home it was down to us, well, mostly, to me. Just me. This tiny, struggling life was now in my hands. I felt I was now solely responsible for keeping Robin alive; a heavy, heavy feeling. During our second stay in hospital I learnt that the Doctors had really pushed for Robin to go home the first time – pushed him physically to prompt his body to manage the coughing. In light of this revelation, I don’t think my heavy sense of responsibility was misplaced.
The biggest change was that Robin could never be left alone. Ever. Not even for a quick visit to the toilet. If he began to cough, someone needed to be there within a few seconds. It meant no playing outside with the other kids if he was asleep, or even hanging out the washing, or going to the letterbox. But more than this, it meant no going for walks, or to the park, or even to the shops if Robin was tired. He needed to stay at home and sleep 95% of the time. We put a cot in the living area for him to sleep in during the day. The bedroom proved too far away: by the time I heard him coughing and got to him he was turning a little blue.
I found in hospital that I always knew about two seconds in advance when he was going to begin coughing, and this connection continued at home. The kids caught on quickly and would call out – “Mum the baby’s having a cough!”. The boys, being 9 and 13, learnt to sit him up and support him until Sol or I got there. The ‘coughing baby’ made its way into the imaginative play of the girls (5 and 2).
I suppose this was their way of processing events, but it triggered sadness within me. So sad that the joyous, uncomplicated babyhood we began with suddenly changed into a life-threatening, adrenaline and anxiety charged existence.
November 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
Original design felt crowns with jewels.
I work in batches – a batch of this, then a batch of that. I need variety, but I like to have my fingers in many pies at once.
I am working on 8 of these crowns at the moment….two for my twin nieces for Christmas, and the rest for a market, then Etsy (if there are any left after the market!).
November 2, 2012 § 2 Comments
The reason for this blog arises from the story of this year.
In March we welcomed little Robin into our family. When he was six weeks old he contracted whooping cough, and spent a month in hospital followed by another ten days a few weeks after that.
He was extremely ill for quite a long time, and I give thanks every day that he is expected to make a full recovery. The time of his illness was shocking and very distressing. In the corner of our hospital room there was a window, through which I could see a tree. I remember watching as the leaves on the tree slowly went orange, then began to disappear as they fell to the ground out of sight. The tree came to represent all of life and the world that kept on being, and evolving, while I sat in a hospital room holding my ill baby, counting time by the number of minutes or hours between coughing episodes that almost stopped his little heart.
When we finally came home to convalesce, everything had changed. The way Robin needed to be mothered was different to all four children before him. He could never be left alone, not even for a quick trip to the loo.
I had changed, deeply. Initially I felt invincible, more assertive and less scared of other people. But as Robin began to get stronger, I began to feel as though I was falling apart. My body began to come down from the stress of multiple adrenaline rushes per day, per hour. I don’t know how I had found the resources within me to be strong for Robin, for the other four kids that I saw for two hours every second day, and for myself. But like a balloon that is blown up, and up to its limit, I suddenly popped and deflated.
I tried to resume my ‘normal life’. I went back to work, took the other children back to their usual activities. But Robin’s coughs would return. That ‘normal life was like a bus as it took off from the kerb, gathering speed and accelerating off without me. I knew I would never catch it.
I released all commitiments for the rest of this year – an easy decision in the end. The children are back at school for their final term, and all I have to do now is look after myself and Robin, and be ‘Mum’ to my five children. The only time pressure I face is the 3pm school pick up.
Sewing and creating has always been healing for me. So too with writing. So in the spirit of healing this blog serves as a vessel for my memories of this difficult year. A little box where I can acknowledge my experiences, then close the lid and walk away to live the rest of the day, feeling free.