It’s been Mother’s Day for 31 minutes. I just went to look at my boy, my heart full of joy and love. He is in our bed, with a pair of Spider-Man pants on , his comfort monkey around his head and his finger up my sleeping other half’s nose. And he let out a fart that definitely indicated he should have made friends with the toilet before he decided to go to bed. At 10.45pm. We had had an intense conversation about when hair would start growing on his balls followed , obviously , about why Germany were the bad guys in the war.
10.45pm. And that took some coaxing . This probably indicates to you that John and I are definitely not the kind of parents who kiss their sleep through the night child goodnight, open up some rye bread and smear on the avocado. We have realised we are the ‘we don’t give a shit’ type of parents. In Casa Canavan, off goes the school uniform, on goes the Notts County footie kit (whom he truly believes are the greatest team in the world. I must start preparing him for the inevitable despair he will feel in the not too distant future) ,the football comes out,I put my bike helmet on my head so I don’t get knocked out by a wayward football careering towards my bubbling Spag Bol and we have a Cul De Sac mini World Cup taking place in the lounge of our one bedroom flat.
This is a very different picture to how things were five yrs ago. Five yrs ago he was in his Moses basket in the living room while I stood in the kitchen shaking ,vomiting into the sink in fear of his presence and walking round in circles chanting ‘what have I done what have I done , what have I done’ for hours on end. Literally hours on end. There was that epic day where John came home from work to find me standing in the kitchen with my arms full of frozen stewing steak , too scared to take the two steps into the lounge where my child was.
And that is why I feel it’s important for me to talk openly about what I went through when my little squidge was born. Instead of feeling on top of the world with my new bundle of joy, I developed postpartum psychosis and anxiety. I turned into a shadow of my former self ( I wasn’t thin, the whooper amount of meds I was on made sure of that) but I went from being a girl who had been described in the past as ‘someone with a zest for life like they had never seen before’ to a girl who was terrified of being alive. I feared life and I feared life as a mum. And I reached such a point , that I wanted to die. I was that close. I very very nearly wasn’t here to celebrate Mother’s Day but I am so so very thankful that I am as I know there are some others who aren’t.
People have asked me how they think Joe will feel when he is a little older and learns about how ill I was after I had him. Some have indicated that maybe my being so open about my ambivalent feelings towards him and motherhood after his birth may upset him in later life. They were more than ambivalent – I was truly rolled of my rock. If I had been left to my own wild devices, I would have been plaiting my pubes instead of my hair and attempting to iron the creases of of my brain rather than my trousers . I had no clue who I was, what I was or what I was becoming let alone what my child was or what my feelings were in the jigsaw of my mummy life that was muddled up in front of me. I think it’s important that Joe knows though as if has shaped the life we have today. What was the worst experience of my, our life, has become a series of wonderful experiences.
Joe knows that mummy had a poorly head when he was born. He knows that it got a bit jumbled up and that my brain went on a little journey to a very odd place that I won’t be buying a ticket to again anytime soon. To explain this to him in a way that only a girl with an analytical degree can, I cracked an egg into a bowl and said ‘this my child is what mummy’s brain looked like in the beginning’. He said ‘your brain is yellow? are you a chicken? ‘ ? I said ‘no Joe,I am your mother and at one point my brain was like this very whole egg’. I got the whisk out and told him to go wild with it and we chucked the eggs in a pan and scrambled them. When done ,he said ‘I’m not eating them, I bloody hate eggs’ and I had to tell him that we weren’t cooking them to consume but to see how mummy’s brain was curdled by forces out of my control. This highly specialised experiment was to show him how mummies brain went from a solid blob into a scrambled bit of mush that made no sense. It had a degree of success. He said ‘did you forget how to do a poo?did daddy have to help you?’
Joe has seen the psychiatric mother and baby unit we lived in for a while when I was ill and knows that we went there to stop mummy’s head feeling sore. He met my psychologist and my mental health nurse and he knows that even though mummy went bananas for a bit, it wasn’t her real feelings and that she is now back and all is ok.
What I do say to him is that even though when I was unwell, my head was telling me one thing, my heart was telling me another . There were times where I couldn’t look at him when I nursed him but I would hold him. But it wasn’t him or his face that sent me into a spin. It was the concept of being a mum forever. It was alien to me and terrified me. Throw in the fact I was hallucinating about floating around the room and hope for that time was lost. I had no clue what was happening to me .
Joe- I love you more than all the stars in the sky. The joy you bring me everyday is more than I could ever wish for. Yes, I’d like a bit more sleep and wonder if maybe by the time you are say, 17, this may happen and the intense negotiations I have to endure in costa about how many flakes you can have with your babycchino ‘ if my teeth fall out with all the sugar, I assume you can just buy me some more can’t you?’ are something I could without on a daily basis, but if I had to choose between not having an argument about 4 brownies or being your mummy, I’d choose to be your mummy all the way.
I look at you and I see a little John. And I love your daddy . When you emerged in the jet stream of wee from my stomach I heard all the student midwives exclaim “oh my god, he looks soooooo like you’ to daddy and I have endured the wrath of a woman at the ham counter in Waitrose come up to me and say ‘Is he yours? He looks nothingggggg like you’. You have daddy’s hairline ,his arms and his indecisiveness . You also appear to have inherited his extremely irritating ability to completely ignore me even if I’m standing in front of you waving a dead fish in your face shouting my head about what you want for dinner -‘mummy , if daddy ignores you , I can too’. This also warranted a visit from a therapist who wanted to have your ears tested as they assumed you had a serious issue with your hearing. Imagine their surprise when I said ‘ I may have shouted his name 57 times and he has ignored me but look what happens when I merely whisper the word chocolate’ and you came running over , usain bolt style and starting searching all the shopping bags for the fabled Dairy Milk bar.
But then I see you now and can see that your eyes are becoming in strikingly like mine. But what I see most , is how much you are turning into your mother. And that’s obviously a good thing …..isn’t it ? I mean I am über fabulous ….
We had a date at pizza express on Friday and sat at a table next to a mum who was going bonkers at her very small child who was being ,well a child. A very sweet child from what we could tell , seeing as she was sat right next to us,kept putting her elbow in Joe’s garlic butter and knocked her red wine into my plate of under 400 calorie salad. I was thanking her inside for this lapse as it spruced up my lentils no end. Her boy couldn’t have been anymore than two and he dropped his spoon on the floor and say oh dear, sorry mama and he received a smack around the back of the head from his mum my because of this. He cried,so she put him under the table for being ‘naughty’ for crying. He asked for a cuddle, she told him to shut up. I looked at Joe. His face was thunder-‘ mummy, you tell that unkind mummy to stop treating her child like that. He is only a child, she is making me sad. And if you don’t, I will’. I looked over to see this boy on the floor under the table, crying and then I looked at my boy – chocolate sauce in his hair , ice cream on his nose , singing a song about bum holes and felt an enormous burst of pride. Pride in me for instilling in him what john and I believe – that children deserve to be treated with respect and kindness and not as an inconvenience and double the pride in him for standing up for another child and what’s right and wrong.
Joe has to witness me on my feminist rants , my hysteria at shop assistants if toys are split into pink and blue , girl and boy sections. I wont forget the time he said to the woman in the early learning centre ‘if I play with the kitchen , it doesn’t mean me will grow a vangina or something does it mummy?’ and he stands up for the rights of the little person. He came with me to a breastfeeding in public protest , at four yrs old and stood loud and proud to still be nursing. And then went into school and told everyone about it.
Our start my boy, wasn’t fun. But you were always loved. Never ever think you weren’t. The wild feelings I had about not wanting to be near you weren’t what my heart wanted my head to feel. I wanted my feelings in my heart to travel up to my brain and give it a shake. I wanted the terror to go more than I can ever describe. I would lie awake begging for my brain turn off like a television and wake up feeling full of the joy I saw other mums experiencing.
You were and are so beautiful. You had the most amazing elastic band wrists and thighs I could sink my finger into as there was so much chub on them. You had the most impressive arms and your cheeks smelt of doughnuts. And that smell remains. When I roll into you in the night, I smell those cheeks and want to bottle that smell up forever more.
I remember, when discharged from the unit and I was in Nana Beep Beeps lounge, one night , you were lying on Grandad beep beeps chest. A few weeks before I would have happily plonked you on there and run away up the stairs to spend hours staring out of the window plotting my escape, but I wanted you back . I wanted your little tiny feet with your little tiny, as big as a pin head toenails to come and lay on me so I could play with them with my fingers.
I wanted it get better to enjoy my life with you. I wanted to spend my days with you , fear free and happy. Yes I knew being a mummy would be hard but I wanted to experience that kind of motherhood . I didn’t want the hallucinations , the fear of the next minute, hour , day , week, month , year or forever. I could cope with the lack of sleep (she says ……) the sore nipples, I had them and was dealing with them . But I couldn’t live with the breakdown of feelings I was experiencing.
Now, my heart panics and aches when I’m away from you. In five yrs, I have had two nights away and spent that time thinking of you, missing you and longing to be with you. And when I have come home, I see that you and daddy have lived of jam sandwiches and bran flakes even though I spent £200 at the supermarket the morning before I left.
I never knew that five yrs ago, that I’d be celebrating Mother’s Day 2015 with my breastfeeding, more often than not co-sleeping child. I mention these factors as this was the child who I couldn’t be near when he was born , and for the three months after. I couldn’t bear to be in the same room as him, to look at him and to consider the concept that here he was forever more. And now here we are . It took a stint in a psychiatric ward, a few naked jaunts by me into the street, a wads worth of meds and a dictionary’s worth of therapy , and around three years to recover, but we are here. We are in a place where I can’t imagine life without you. You trot around the house shouting about politics – ‘we is labour isn’t we mummy, not the conterbasives’ ,- you walk past the homeless man in the subway and give him your banana and make him cry with your kindness, you announced to your grandparents ‘do you know, boys can marry boys and that’s ok and if people don’t like it, I will fart on them’ and you run up to the grown up boys in the playground who are being unkind to the younger boys and declare ‘what in earth are you doing?’. I’m so proud of you my boy.
My wonderful therapist Gwyneth said to me as I was nearing the end of my EMDR therapy sessions which explored why I experienced feeling trapped in motherhood ‘ you have a choice Eve, you can choose to walk away whenever you want, you aren’t trapped and you have chosen to stay. You haven’t walked away and I don’t think you ever will’. That line will stay with me forever. I wanted to walk away, I wanted to get as far away as possible but my heart stopped me. It knew I couldn’t , it knew I needed him and he needed me. I found my boobs leaking when he cried longing to feed him, I found myself lost when I wasn’t with you. I found myself rubbing olive oil into your belly in baby massage and rejoicing in your wonderness and then when you said mama for the first time, I cried tears of beautiful joy.
Thank you to all the things that helped me remain in this world so I can experience motherhood – medication, being in the mother and baby unit, therapy, my beautiful John. But most of all thank you to my boy,my Joe. I was lucky I eventually got the help I needed to recover so I can celebrate Mother’s Day. We must work to ensure no more mothers don’t get to experience it xx