Friday, December 05, 2014

Memories of a Christmas Past


My daughter Leyna, son Nathan, and grand daughter Lowri, were here the other day helping to decorate the house for Christmas and we all made Christmas cookies!  It's a tradition I've had going since they were young children.

Anyhow, Leyna pulled out a box of old cards she discovered in the attic that can't have seen the light of day for many a year, maybe even since we moved to this house about twenty years ago!  One photograph she found in a little cream card frame was the one above and embossed on the back of it in gold lettering was 'Seasons Greetings from Cwmbran Shopping Centre'.

The strange thing is I have absolutely no memory of that photograph being taken at all.  Though I remember well Leyna in that little green coat with the black velvet collar and the dolly she clutches in her arms.  I bought her the coat from Woolworths in Newport circa 1989 [when that photograph was taken] for the pricely sum of £12.50.  It was a bargain.  The original price had been £25.00.  Even that was a good price for such a lovely coat, she looked so smart in it when she wore it to Chapel on Christmas day that year.

Nathan in that pic I would say is around six or seven weeks old, Leyna about two years and nine months and I am almost twenty nine.

I think there maybe a couple of reasons I have no recollection of that photograph as usually I have a fantastic long term memory that amazes people of how much detail I remember.  The first reason is because if that photograph had not seen the light of day since that year it's understandable I would forget it.  The second reason is because I was suffering from a severe depression, though that might not appear to be the case!

When I was around six or seven months pregnant I began to get feelings of being 'under a cloud' I would say.  The symptoms began to steadily get worse, not helped by the fact I was put on bed rest as I began to bleed and I feared I'd lose the baby.  The bed rest was at home not hospital and all was well after a few days, thankfully.

I remember telling my assigned midwives at the time how I was feeling and although they were both lovely well experienced women, I don't think they took me seriously.  In fact, I don't know if anyone did.  I remember my husband going to play squash one day and me feeling, 'He's going to play squash and I feel like killing myself.'

Yes, I did get mild suicidal feelings but at the back of my mind was my thoughts for other family members and how it would affect them all if I did away with myself. 

I also remember the early morning waking.  I'd be wide awake at around 5 a.m and it would take a couple of hours to get back to sleep.  I cried a lot and I didn't know why.  All the joy seemed to disappear from my life, things that usually gave me pleasure, didn't any more.  I felt detached from life and people.  It felt almost as though I were in a glass bubble and couldn't reach out to anyone.  It was a really scary place to be and I felt like I'd be like it for the rest of my life.  I can also see looking at some photographs of that time that my eyes are dead.  Though I don't think they are in this photograph, so no doubt I was well onto the road of recovery there.

Eventually, my G.P. who was a great bloke and partially disabled, was so understanding and although they thought it unsafe for me to take anti depressants after diagnosing depression, he got in touch with a professor in London, who said a very low doze of Diazepam would be safe to take when I felt very anxious, to take the edge off.  I managed with it for a while but once Nathan was born I was prescribed anti depressants and got well very quickly.  I also believe my involvement with the local chapel and my faith in God got me through.  There was one day when all I could do was get on my knees and pray and it got me through the day.

Unusually perhaps, I was off the anti depressants within 3 to 4 months but a lot of that time I wasn't functioning as well as I wanted to, it's hard enough when people have depression any how but when you have a two and half year old child and a new baby to care for, it's even harder.  Initially, me, the strong coping carer that people turned to for advice, had to drag herself out of bed in the morning and it was an effort to even make a cup of tea for myself.

My days were rooted in fear.  The anxiety started in the pregnancy and I became afraid of things.  It all sounds crazy now but I feel it was because my first pregnancy had gone wrong and I'd discovered that this pregnancy I was carrying a boy like the first one.

I'm proud of what I did though to help myself.  I didn't stay in the house.  My mother came over to help me and stayed for a few weeks and I made sure I made lists so I had to do things by a certain time.  For example my day might have been something like this:

1.  Get out of bed, washed and dressed well before 10 am.

2.  Put washing in machine.

3.  Make breakfast etc

I ticked off everything I did and it gave me a feeling of satisfaction that I could cope.

My GP thought it best that I breast fed as I had done on my previous pregnancy to ensure I bonded with Nathan and my mother helped out as much as she could taking Leyna to play group etc and helping with some household chores.

As time went on the midwife thought it best that my mother returned home so I could cope alone.  I say cope alone as my husband worked long hours on shift work and often worked overtime at that period of our lives.

The first day or so was scary but eventually by keeping to a routine and keeping the list going on a daily basis I got through the days.  I even managed to take the children to Women's Chapel Meetings where children were welcomed.  I did that twice a week and eventually ended up helping to run the mother and toddler group at the chapel with another woman and later also worked in the play group there twice a week.

I was lucky that I had the support of my family and the Church and I got better very quickly, some aren't so fortunate.  My heart goes out to the family of the young mother and baby who lost their lives this week.  I think the medical profession needs to be aware that pregnant women are vulnerable during their pregnancy and afterwards and care needs to be taken of how they are feeling.  Maybe it would be a good idea if they were asked questions at various parts of the pregnancy to ensure they are coping.  Lessons need to be learned of how a young woman who was already vulnerable was able to walk out of a hospital with a newly born baby without questions being asked.

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