Mental Illness

Caregiving: Ten Fingers And Ten Toes

Where to begin? The beginning seems so long ago now, so I’ll start with now. And right now, I have six-week-old Little Juniper asleep on my chest, bundled up in blanket. I can’t seem to stop myself from rocking gently even though he’s been sound asleep for some time now. With both our boys, I’ve often found my moments of peace when they’ve been cradled in my arms. And over the past six weeks, I’ve been treasuring those moments of peace.

The past six weeks. The past nine months. It’s felt like an epic journey. So much has happened.

The weekend we found out was the weekend Juniper Junior had finished nursery. The summer holidays beckoned us, with the prospect of primary school just weeks ahead. It felt as though we had just said farewell to the baby years and yet there were the two pink lines. Honey, we’re having another baby! Sitting at the kitchen table, sunshine pouring in the window, Juniper Junior playing in the next room. Mr. Juniper and I not saying very much to each other. Weak smiles and moments of our heads in our hands. We had been gently talking about a second child, we hadn’t been planning one. We hadn’t planned our first, for that matter. Might as well stick to tradition.

Who to tell? The Mental Health Team, of course. A little happiness during a psychiatrist appointment. But they needed to know. If something were to go awry, distress and difficulty wouldn’t benefit from having to explain everything from the beginning. It’s a strange feeling, telling them. They weren’t providing my care, they weren’t our friends or family. And we were still so early, but they needed to know. If they were to be able to support Mr. Juniper properly, they needed to know. But I still felt as though I were letting something precious go. We still had so far to go. There would be so few people we would tell at all. And telling them meant acknowledging all the fears that this could still all go so wrong.

A small blessing in the peace to deal with morning sickness through the summer holidays and be able to work to our own schedule instead of that of school. Still the little struggles to overcome. First time, second time, third time round managing to do the grocery shopping online when the nausea had eased for a time. Thank the heavens for the Internet. Not wanting to be anywhere near the kitchen, but doing what was necessary to help Mr. Juniper put things away. Having to juggle my new limits with what needed done. Having to come to terms with the medication from the midwives and the orders to take it easy. Like some cosmic joke that other than medication, the next best thing I could do was try not get stressed.

The news of Mr. Juniper’s assault tests the limits of deep breathing. Making it through somehow. Sharing the news of the assault with the Mental Health Team, having to share our news with a detective by means of explanation. Having to drag up the points I try not to think of by way of having to get Mr. Juniper special legal allowances. Not the time to be thinking of all his struggles, not the time to be having to say the words, “If he’s forced to go to court in [city], there’s a good chance he’ll end up in psychiatric hospital.” Having the pain of everyone agreeing. Mental Health Team, police, him. Everyone acknowledging the worst of his illness.

In the same days, having to deal with difficult obstetrician appointments. No amount of reassurance from the midwives helping. It’s him I need. My one and only. When I break down, it’s him I want. And he’s there. I think I cry a little harder knowing what’s going on inside his head as he’s faced with me breaking down. Knowing he’s scared, too. Terrified is the word he uses. Books, internet, midwives, doctors. Getting as much information as possible.

Supporting him helps me to find a calm. Having to explain everything so that he can understand drums the information into my head. His need to know helps me to understand. At times it fades from every week, we’re a week closer, to every day, we’re a day closer. Past a certain point, we tell Juniper Junior. His excitement eases some of the stress. Slowly, I let myself begin to think about getting past the birth. Letting myself begin to think about little one and I being okay. A sleepsuit with bunny rabbits hangs in our bedroom. I try to focus on our little one being here.

As the time approaches, the stress begins to rise again. Constant thinking of strategy. Of little one and I, but also Mr. Juniper. Knowing that he can cope with the hospital. That they can accommodate his needs. That at no point would he have to travel on his own. Having to say, “I don’t mind if I’m on my own, I need to know you’re okay.” Both of us knowing that we want to be together. That we need to be together. But pregnancy is at best unpredictable. Preparations. Lists. Endless hours of talking.

The weeks creep by, Christmas passes. I take up the midwife unit’s offer of relaxation and self-hypnosis. A little relief and the tools to cope with little one’s impending arrival. Mr. Juniper smiles each time I say, “I can handle the newborn part, it’s this part I can’t do.” It’s become a mantra as the time passes. Pregnancy has taken away and limited so much. I’m craving my freedom, as much as food. A little more relief comes when my midwife says, “Juniper, you can countdown in days now!” She’s right. The last month is possibly the least stressful. The end is in sight. I just want to be holding our newborn. To know we’ve made it. To know we’re okay.

We make it to my c-section date. No early labour. No emergency. No crisis. Waiting in Labour & Delivery, snow outside, sunshine pouring in. I’m in a state of almost complete calm. Major surgery? No worries. Mr. Juniper’s by my side and despite all the hurdles, we’ve survived my pregnancy. We’ve made it. The staff have an idea of Mr. Juniper’s struggles – there’s no disguising his scars once he’s in scrubs – and they show us nothing but kindness. Spinal done, drips in, we’re ready to go and Mr. Juniper still looks so scared. A week early, but still 8lb, 12oz, Little Juniper takes a moment coming into the world. I promptly bawl. I finally see Mr. Juniper relax for the first time in nine months. He knows this is all that I’ve been waiting for. Little Juniper is okay. He’s bundled up. Given to Daddy. Mr. Juniper lets my hand go for the first time, too. And it’s okay, we’ve made it. Ten tiny fingers. Ten tiny toes. Perfect.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

10 replies on “Caregiving: Ten Fingers And Ten Toes”

Oh my god, Juniper! Wow!!!! I was wondering why you hadn’t been around so much recently and I was hoping you were ok, this is lovely news :)

I hope you’re recovering well and the little one is settling in to life on the outside well.
(did he, by any chance, have anything to do with this post? )

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