Two months in to feeding therapy, we had a little holiday. First night home and Mike was really sick, like he had a bug. I remember my anxiety rising quickly and before I knew it, I was saying out loud to Dad; “this is it, back to hospital, the tube will be going back in.”
Suddenly though, I was hit with this wave of clarity and I found myself sitting down and calming thoughts started to surround me… It’s not often kids end up so poorly with a bug, they go to hospital… He’s a long way off needing a tube now… He’s actually ok, it’s JUST a bug…
Clarissa, Mike’s psychologist had talked to me about trauma. About how my thoughts of Mike always ended up there. If I’m honest, I’d felt frustrated and insulted by these remarks. The previous psychologist from CAMHS had said the same, and I’d felt so upset and angered by it.
In that moment of clarity, there cradling Mike in my arms, I was getting it. Getting that any worry, however small about Mike escalated through the roof, before I could even blink. My mind my was so cruel to me when it came to parenting him.
Anxiety wasn’t the cause of Mike’s feeding problems. Not at all. But it wasn’t helping my parenting (or enjoyment) of him, because I was always frightened something terrible would happen to him.
Real fear, because once that fear really had been real with him. It wasn’t anymore however, and that’s what I had to learn to convince myself about.
My homework with Clarissa prior to my epiphany, was about grieving and celebrating in order to move on from this fear, that could consume me all the time.
Grieving for those awful times. Those beautiful things I’d missed with him (newborn snuggles, milestones hit on time, time in hospital away from home, his development… his health… I could go on and on and on).
I cried buckets in the time we set aside to grieve, but then I spent days feeling so happy for all the good things, and I started to get my life back.
I could look myself in the eye in the mirror again, without seeing that old lady I’d become, staring back at me. I stopped feeling so wise beyond my years and so sad about the person I saw in the mirror.
As time’s gone on I’ve got so good at grieving and celebrating. I cope with everything so much better.
There are moments with Mike, where my heart aches so much and I could cry a river in that instant, but if I’m parenting or doing my supermarket shop; then those feelings need to wait for my own time.
Feelings are no longer shelved to escalate in to that tremendous anxiety, but nowadays put to one side, to allow myself to feel them and move forwards from the desperate sadness and fear that so often hits my heart when it comes to my little man.
Equally those moments of joy, that I never thought possible; they need my attention just as much as the sad stuff.
So here we are, starting nursery school this week. The hurt in my heart hurts right now, for all the things we missed. It hurts as badly as the first time it hit me when he was 35 hours old. At times like this, it’s like the open wound is bulging under a thousand badly placed plasters.
Regular newborn days… baby days… toddler days we never caught up with… Suddenly he’s propelled in to a world of fitting in with other three and a half year olds and it is a really, really scary prospect as Mum.
It’s raw and the panic that used to hit me pulls me in, but I know school is happening and I can’t avoid it. So I will have to grieve and celebrate, because this is my trauma not his. This is his life and my fear isn’t useful to him. My confidence is.
I’m so glad I got to understand my fear. It acts these days like a cross check to being an over protective and panicked mum. Ironically Mike is a fearless thrill seeker. He has climbing skills to envy Spider-Man and strength to rival the Incredible Hulk. It’s this, that I most to enjoy to celebrate.