It’s difficult to admit this but there was a time when I thought I would never see my son start school. I was convinced I would be either dead, in a psychiatric ward or Caterpillar would have been taken away from me since I was unfit.
When he was a tiny baby I was so unwell, and the future seemed so immense, I simply couldn’t see how I could survive the next few years, or the next few minutes. The responsibility of having a child crushed me and made me feel breathless and panicked. Even an hour felt like a week so the idea of looking three or four years ahead was unbareable.
This is the nature of postnatal anxiety. In reality, I was taking care of him just fine. He was clean, fed, healthy and smiley. He had no idea about the thoughts wreaking havoc in my tired mind. Almost all thoughts triggered by clinical depression & anxiety are false, or exaggerated. Our normal thinking patterns and coping mechanisms are skewed because the part of our brain that creates the feeling of fear, a natural and essential human response, has become unbalanced. When you think of it in these terms; simply as an excess of adrenaline and intrusive thoughts that aren’t real, anxiety seems really quite benign. But when it has you in it’s needy grasp you cannot hold this logic inside you, you only believe the fear you feel.
I got help and began to learn how to manage the anxiety. But even then, during that painfully long recovery period, I began to long for the time when Caterpillar would go to school and be off my hands for several hours a day. When I would have time to breathe, when I wouldn’t have to question how much I was enjoying motherhood constantly. Realising you’re wishing your son’s babyhood away is a painful and guilt-ridden experience. Walking past the school he would one day attend and dreaming of when I could drop him there made me feel utterly terrible. But I still wasn’t quite well, I hadn’t completed my journey.
In three weeks time my son will begin preschool. Despite my fears, time has passed and he is now ready to spend three hours a day in a teacher’s care instead of mine. Sometimes that time seems to have rushed by but often I feel every single moment. Although I’m not one of those mums who wants to keep her child at home with her forever (I am definitely ready for this transition and so is he) I am certainly a different mum from the one who walked passed that school pushing a nine week old baby in his pram and wishing the years away. I have balance now. Yes, sometimes he pushes my buttons to such a degree I look joyfully towards September but other times we have so much fun and share so much love I want to snuggle him in my arms and keep him just this size.
He grows more independent every day and as the beginning of school looms this fact becomes clearer and clearer. Experiencing the miscarriage, and therefore no longer having the cushion of the knowledge that another small baby is on it’s way, only exasperates this feeling of Caterpillar growing away from me. Will I cry at the gate? Maybe. Will I get home and sob for the end of this stage of his life and his early months that I lost? Probably.
But mostly I feel jubilant. Not to have some time back (okay, maybe a little) but because we have reached a day I never thought I’d see. Despite my worries about being a terrible mother, my son is funny, clever and ready to start this new stage of his life. I did that. With an amazing husband and supportive family, I made this awesome boy from scratch. I survived, in the literal sense, I didn’t give into those dark thoughts and he is the proof. And if that doesn’t deserve some celebrating I don’t know what does.
Never give up hope. If the days seem so very long and you can’t fathom how you are going to raise this tiny baby into a functioning child. If your head is full of anxiety’s lies, just hold on. Take life day by day, or minute by minute, and soon those minutes will add up and you’ll realise that you are well, and happy and your child is strong and absolutely fine.
The school gate beckons and we’re both ready, in the best way.