Hush little baby don’t you cry ……

Last night Isabelle started crying – err screaming might be a more accurate description – at about 1am.

It wasn’t a “I’m-a-little-upset-and-will-just-roll-over-and-put-my-thumb-in-my-mouth” cry.  It was a real screaming-child-in-distress cry.  I opened my sticky very disorientated eyes and stumbled through to her – my ability to not knock my toe on the corner of our bed continues to amaze me.  My theory is if you do that once and break your baby toe, you sort of learn a foot-sonar-technique to keep you safe for time eternal.

By the time I picked Isabelle up, she was really crying like she had sustained a serious injury.  I usually sit in her room and rock her until she calms down and then put her back to bed, but it just felt different and she was much more distressed than under normal circustances.  I stood in her room and tried to sooth her, but she wasn’t even toning it down, she was screaming blue murder.

I thought – for my comfort –I will take her to bed and put her in the bed with me and rock her there.  I figured at least I could be warm, awake but warm.

As soon as I got to bed Kennith grumbled something about babies and vasectomies … when I answered “what!” he sort of mumbled through the folds of the duvet that I should walk her around as sitting bed will not settle her.

You know how you feel this overriding urge to pick up the lamp stand and beat your partner unconscious with it?  Well that pretty much summed up how I felt right then.

I thought “You turd, you carry on sleeping, leave me to care for my baby who is clearly dying!!”  A rational mom always settles on death as the only possible outcome at being awake at 1am.

I did stand up. I slammed my ice cold feet onto the floor when I got out of bed – just to make my point.  It might not have been heard through the comfort of the warm snuggly duvet and light snores of Kennith at just that time.

I walked Isabelle around the room a bit, showed her the lights of the sleeping city – we have a great view from our bedroom.  But she was not even vaguely calming down.  Her body was stiff and she appeared to be on the verge of a I-can’t-breath episode.

I took her to her room and sat on the rather hard, cold and squeaky rocking chair to try to rock her to calm her down – all the time wondering how I could maim Kennith as he quietly slept.

I pulled the blankets away from Isabelle’s cot and looked around her room, as I thought that she might have been bitten by a snake or something as she was hysterical and totally out of control.

As I sat there wondering how long I was going to let this go on for before I made a trip to the emergency room, Kennith came plodding through and picked Isabelle up and tried to rock and comfort her.  Okay, so I would not quite smack his brains out with the night light yet …

Kennith then passed her back to me and he went off to bed.  I sat and rocked her until she appeared to calm down a bit.  I was not sure if she was having difficulty breathing as she was crying so hysterically and could not seem to catch her breath.

I thought it might be croup, but there was none of that very recognizable Doberman-sounding cough that separates croup from all other sounds. I thought that maybe a hot bath with lots of steam would help, but it might have been that I was so flipp’n cold right then, it probably sounded good to me.

Eventually Isabelle calmed herself and I was able to lie her down in her cot.  She was not terribly happy, but did do me the favour of putting her thumb in her mouth and started sucking on that.  I left the room door open as I went to bed so we could hear her if her breathing became labored and went back to my bed.

It always amazes me how quickly exhausted parents can spring in to action and run around the house in a panic, and then as quickly fall back into bed and carry on snoring like nothing at all happened.

Going off the Deep End

I have long been aware that I suffer from depression.  Before I spent R350 – R700.00 an hour for someone to tell me that I suffered from chronic depression combined with anxiety disorder – I always felt there was just something off about me.

I would often describe myself as a sad person with happy moments – some times those happy moments would get shorter and further removed.

After I welcomed my first child into the world, and the dust settled – it is safe to say that things got a bit hairy and I sought professional help, because I really thought I was going mad.

I think the birth of your child really really brings things into sharper focus for you – even the mean and ugly things that you have been hiding from most of your adult life.

It was so difficult to explain what was going on in my head, but it got debilitating and I knew that though I was no friend to “normal” what I was experiencing was really far off the map of normal.

I felt isolated and that something just was not right.  I initially started with a psychologist and it was such a huge relief to be “diagnosed with something.”  That alone was really great and such a relief.

With my initial psychologist possibly I was not committed to the treatment or possibly she really was not any good.  (I would go with the latter as since then I have met several who are really good). Either way, it really did not go anywhere and I really just felt I was writing out cheques and that was all I was getting out of it, so I stopped and then languished in this state of hopelessness for a further year or two.

In 2004 I finally was referred to a psychiatrist by my GP as I really was not coping well.  Going through therapy should never be underestimated in terms of how difficult and soul wrenching it is.

One of the problems with therapy (I found), is that you walk in with one issue that you wish to start unpacking and once the Pandora’s box is opened, all the monsters come crawling out and it is very difficult to control them when they all start lurching and leering out of the box.

For me it was quite a traumatic year and the jury is out as to whether it did more damage than good.  I ended the year with my medication being increased and increased after what felt like each visit.

Eventually I could not function in what society would call “normal” parameters, avoided all social contact and really just wanted to lie in bed and hide under the duvet.

It got to the point where I felt I was standing in one corner and always observing myself from a distance – really out of check, really emotionally removed from anything and everything.

My behavior to my son got very erratic and I though I did not think I was going to hurt him, I really do not think I was doing him any good, because at best my reactions were probably quite traumatic for him.  He is also such a soft-hearted lamb-chop that he would easily feel my reactions to things and he in turn would then react.

When the end came with a dark thump,  I checked myself into a psychiatric facility for a two or three week stay. I really needed to run away from reality and everything that I felt was just adding weight to this drowning sensation I was feeling.

I do understand the labeling that comes along when you admit to being a little “psycho” but for me it feels more like a badge of honour (I might be going out on a limb here).  I encountered the dragon of all dragons and had the fight of my life.

Some days the dragon won – actually to be honest, most days the dragon won, who am I kidding – he is still winning.

I walked away from it with scorched eye-brows and sulphur smelling clothing.  I learnt more about myself in that year than I ever thought possible.  I know some of my triggers and know the signs of when things are going South for the winter.

I readily admit that I do not have the mechanisms to stop it occurring, but at least I can observe when it is happening and know when to put up my white flag for “help – rescue me.”

Various things occurred after the year plus of therapy and I decided to break from my therapist and not seek further therapy, I also went off all the medication, which to put it subtly was a bit a mind-stump if ever there was one.

Many many moons have passed since then, and I returned to a psychologist after my second child was born and also remained with her for about a year – it was great, and she did wonders to build my self esteem and sense of who I was in the world.

History is repeating itself and right now I feel like I am drowning in a sea of cold dark water and need help.   I can recognize the downward spiral as it has started to happen, and have made an appointment with a psychiatrist to go and have a little visit and maybe a cup of tea if it is offered.

This time around I will probably seek the medication route.  I can feel the extreme state that things are at right now, and have started waving my white flag hell-bent-for-leather.

I think if you have learnt anything from this rather depressing yet honest read, it is that there should be no shame to seek help.  Our bodies and minds take such a hammering during pregnancy and birth.

That period after birth with you and your baby at home, are hellishly hard.  I really do not think people realize how hard and area always up-selling how special it is, but not really always appreciating what it does to your mind and sense of self.  Throw a little sleep deprivation and relationship stresses into it and you have a Malakoff Cocktail.

I think we all have childhood issues that we drag into adulthood.  Some of us are better at letting them go than others, but I think when you bring your own child into the world, it is suddenly as if all your issues from childhood are immediately brought to the fore in brilliant techni-colour!!

So I am skipping along to see my new psychiatrist, I hope that you also take good care of yourself, and if it means making an appointment for therapy or just being honest with your friends, you will be surprised at how people respond to you when you are in your hour of need.

Everyone needs a white flag!