The Thawed Mother

Jack’s 9 months old tomorrow. I had a scroll through some of those early days photos to reminisce. But they’re hard to look at.

I don’t look miserable – but I was. I don’t look anything. My face was frozen by medication side effects. I was on a high dose of aripiprozole, diazepam, propranolol. The aripiprozole caused two horrible side effects I could barely bear to live with – akathisia, where I couldn’t keep still, and Parkinsonism, which stole my face and gave me a mask, and where my feet felt like dead weights to drag, aimlessly, from room to room to undertake a futile task to try and kill some of the restless, maddening movement I couldn’t control. And in my brain was a horrific, gnawing, sawing and scissoring anxiety, black tendrils of death and dying, and regret, doom and darkness.

I blamed the furniture at first for why I was so uncomfortable. I replaced it all with cosy recliners I could stretch my twitching legs out on, secondhand from Facebook. Still it persisted.

I was back and forth, back and forth to A&E with rigors, shaking, bleeding, a fermenting infection they missed the cause of three times. Three times, I paced up and down the waiting room, hours and hours on end, blood filling up and up to be emptied over and over again into a filthy toilet. Taking my facemask off to look into a greasy mirror at the mask underneath.

The crisis team visited every day. As I started to physically recover from the infection and section, I was encouraged to go on walks and get out of the house.

He was miserable too. He screamed pretty solidly for 8 weeks. Women would pause by the pram and peer in at his red, furious face. “Oh, he’s cross isn’t he!” they’d say, to my impassive one.

All this was in the dead of winter, during lockdown, not even a café to wheel to sip a cup of tea, and my anxiety wouldn’t allow anyone to help even if they could come to my house and do so. It was hard enough every day masked people coming in and out. Rolling up their diseased plastic to dump at my front door. When Robert took the baby out so I could sleep I would be hysterical with panic, he, Jack and Oisín, all mangled under a car, he’s not answering his phone, pulling my shoes on and climbing into the front seat, hands shaking on the wheel, ready to go out searching for their bodies.

And a six year old whose life had turned upside down. This little screaming intruder. Trying to homeschool. It was hell.

I was totally against Seroquel again. It had taken me a decade to get off it. I’m 5 stone overweight thanks to it. But I couldn’t go on with aripiprozole. The side effects were too much. I came off and was ok, for a while. But even though Jack was on reflux medication and no longer screaming, my brain collapsed again into blackness and howling in the CPN’s office in terror, premonition. I started the hated Seroquel again along with Sertraline and forcing myself to sleep very occasionally in the spare room, with the monitor even though Robert was with the baby.

There grew an obscenely joyful child who gasps in wonder at trees shivering in the wind. Turns the page. Stuffs foliage in his mouth. Whoops with joy at a balloon and will listen to his brother read a phone book, whatever they are now. Joy and love.

It’s been a warm summer. Some glorious days. Sort of split sometimes. A six year age gap feels like having two only children. One wants to play with their feet and the other one a tablet. Like being two different parents. Not quite how I imagined really. But none of this was. That’s alright.

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