Having Jack home makes me feel complete. I wake up in the morning and he is in the cot next me. I don’t feel empty anymore. But I don’t think I was expecting the mass of emotions that would hit me gradually one by one once he got home. It could be a delayed reaction of what the nurses expected us to feel in the hospital. For Jack’s entire NICU stay, the nurses kept asking me did I need to speak to anyone such as a counsellor? I said no, I’m doing ok actually. Obviously there were rough times when something went badly and I would cry but this, to me, was normal. Its perfectly normal for a Mum to cry when the doctor delivers less than great news about her precious baby. I said no I don’t think I’m experiencing PND. It’s not Post-Natal Depression I said. Its just a normal reaction to this event.
I was not ready for what would hit me once I got home. It’s like PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by a traumatic birth and prolonged NICU stay. I have struggled to put everything behind me since Jack came home. His prematurity and the worries that come with it are at the front of my mind all the time. Everything I do or Jack does brings me back to what we went through. There were a couple of weeks where he didn’t gain enough weight or just maintained and my brain starts asking me questions like – What if this keeps happening and we end up back in hospital with his feeding tube back in? Can I go through that again? He’s crying a lot and I can’t soothe him – Is it because of the separation of NICU he got used to? Will he be off oxygen by the time I’m due to go back to work because if not, I can’t really go back yet?
These thoughts have been poisoning me. And on a personal note, sorry if this is too much information, I don’t even get undressed in front of my husband as I am ashamed of my body both in appearance and how it betrayed me and my boy. How can I resume a normal relationship with Andrew if I don’t even feel like this body is mine? Don’t get me wrong, Andrew has reassured me countless times that he still finds me attractive. It’s more that I cannot bear to acknowledge my body. I can’t forgive it for putting my son in danger. I can’t face my post-breast-milk-expressing boobs that look saggy even though they never even fed him directly. I can’t face the fat belly that should have kept my child safe and didn’t. The belly that went back to being flat after giving birth but has re-inflated full of comfort food since. I actually don’t mind my c-section scar though, believe it or not. I wouldn’t care if it was much bigger – I would wear it as a badge of honour.
I assumed that everything would be sunshine and daisies once Jack was discharged. I thought the most worrying bit was over. In fact what happens is the worries change. I stopped worrying about whether he would live and started worrying about his feeding habits and weight. These worries are now starting to fade as we have changed him to a different formula (one with a higher calorie content) and things are ok now for the minute. He doesn’t puke as often. He doesn’t cry as often. He does drink the entire serving of milk and it takes 10 minutes instead of two hours. He is now thriving.
Jack has been amazing throughout everything. Even when his weight wasn’t going up as much as we’d like, he was happy and smiley. When I was crying about his weight and the Health Visitor’s reaction, he was happy and smiling. His strength is incredible to me. I am beginning to realise that if he can have this outlook on life, laughing and playing and not really crying all that much, than I should be able to as well. He was dealt a tough hand at birth but it will not define him as a person. He is a Superhero.
I love waking up to that face in the mornings. That smile lifts me when things feel difficult. He loves it when we play with his toys and he is now laughing properly which is awesome. Everything is hilarious to Jack! He has been home for more time now than he was in hospital for and I think I can tentatively say that my anxiety and PTSD is starting to fade. I feel like maybe I should still talk to someone though and have been referred by Denise the NICU lady who visits every week or fortnight to check Jack (weight, plan for oxygen reduction etc).
I’ve been using a free app called Pacifica too which I can log my mood, set a daily goal, relax to meditation tracks and chat to other people online about my feelings. That’s helped a bit too.
I don’t think I am yet in the right mindset to start losing weight but I do know I will have to soon. I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen for years the other day which was lovely but oh god I did not want to be in any pictures. They are both beautifully slim and stylish. I look very much like a fat mum with clothes that are 7 years old. I can look alright when I put make up on, curl my hair and wear my corset under my clothes. On a day to day basis I am ashamed to say that I am still in my maternity jeans and only feel comfortable in baggier tops.
So there you go. I am a bit all over the place with my emotions and self-worth and I don’t really feel at home in my own body but as a Mum, I am ridiculously happy. I look at him and the world feels at peace.