I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but thank goodness my son had jaundice. Ordinarily that may sound like a slightly cruel thing to say about your week old offspring, but the fact that he was in hospital meant that I was, which consequently meant professionals could see that something was wrong. Very wrong indeed.
As much as possible, my husband and I took Albert's admission in our stride, reminded ourselves that there was no way our lives "should" look, and that we could just embrace what was happening, be strong for each other and for our son and keep positive. Albert continued to be calm, resilient and patient; all qualities that would characterise him throughout the whole experience. He was sporting a new orange perspex visor to shield his eyes from the UV lamps that he ended being under for 3 or 4 days and was very good natured as me and his father proceeded to sing Kylie Minogue's "I Just Can't Get You Out of My Head" track at him repeatedly.
I knew two things: I loved my husband, I loved my son, and I would do anything to make sure they were safe, well, fed, and rested. Unfortunately for me the third thing that I didn't know was that while I was feeding my son on one side, psychosis was latching on to the other and was going to drain me of everything I had and held dear.
The journey from our house to the hospital one was a crazy one. I had had to focus all my energy to set foot outside the front door and into the taxi. The poor taxi driver didn't know what he'd let himself in for, nor did my best friend who had just arrived and was promptly thrust in the taxi with us for our big yellow adventure. She already knew from what I'd told her that I was going through something very very intense, but we're both actors and thought that maybe this was just what it was like after you'd given birth when you were experiencing it fully. I remember saying to her "WE. ARE. WOMEN. WOMEN. Do you know how POWERFUL we are?!" Again, it's hard to tell sometimes with me what "normal" looks like. Anyway, there we were in the taxi with me insisting that the taxi driver "breathed with me" before we set off.
I couldn't stop writing, tweeting and texting on the journey. I was in overdrive. I was becoming manic. The pressure of the changing environments was panicking me, I was getting increasingly unstable. I was snapping and I didn't know how to stop myself.
After the initial assessments we were told Albert would need to be under the lamps for six hours, then overnight, then one night became two, then 3. All of this time I hardly slept, keeping vigil over my boys. I took lots of photos of Matt and Albert sleeping at this time, at a time when I should have been sleeping too.
"I see you what you are. We're all just babies really. You. Me. Everyone" I clasped my friend's head in my hands and gazed into the heart of her being. I saw, I understood. I had insight into the soul of humanity. Wow. This is incredible. I've never felt more in my power, more alive, more insightful. I must tweet it. I've got to tweet it now. I'll forget it. I'll save it in drafts. These insights felt electrifying, all-consuming, inspiring, but they came at the cost of another meal going cold and uneaten, and another sleep being avoided.
Days and nights took on a strangely uncanny feeling; a bewildering sense of being misplaced, out of time, out of sync, euphoric and rattled. The nights were painted in the surreal light of the blue UV rays and the days were whitewashed with the strange filter of exhaustion and relief. I was on a strict feeding schedule with my son meaning only 10 minutes feeding at a time, followed by a maximum of 5 minutes burping and back under the lamps. I was desperate to hold him, to comfort him, for him to comfort me, but every minute that I kept him from under those healing rays the worse things would be for him.
As the psychosis began to develop I started to feel less and less capable and confident as a mother. I knew I was being pulled under by a very strong force and I was desperate to cling to anything to keep me connected with my reality. The me I was sure I was. The me I believed in. I asked the nurses to write down how they saw me looking after my son, how they saw me love and care for him, how they saw that I loved my husband and that he loved me. I knew that my perceptions were becoming unreliable and I knew I would need breadcrumbs to lead me out of this foreboding forest. I begged them to leave these notes for me at the end of their shifts, just in case I lost myself entirely.
Love & hospital grub,
Mutha Courage X