When I first thought of this topic, I thought the day that changed your life would have to be something huge.
Like meeting my husband, and knowing that I would never feel alone again.
Or maybe the day I graduated high school and finally entered the ‘real world’.
Or even the day I found out I was pregnant, after years of being told it would never happen.
But as life changing as those days were, they were sort of expected to be life changing. I think the days that really change your life sort of sneak up on you. Like the Butterfly Effect, something small happens but it snowballs and just changes everything forever. Once I started thinking about it, there was really only one day that felt right, so in honour of Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Week, I’d like to share that story with you today.
The first time I held my son I fell in love. I loved his hair and his little gray eyes. I loved the sleepy way he yawned. We happily recovered in the hospital and managed to get into a bit of a routine. I did think it was strange that he would only sleep with the crib propped up and they assured me that was fine and it would sort itself out once we got home.
Yup. You guessed it, it didn’t sort itself out.
I loved him. Oh god did I love him. But that kid could not sleep. He could not lie flat or he would scream, vomit and gulp in the most horrifying way. Putting him down or in a car or a pram was out of the question. We fell into a constant feeding routine – he’d feed, vomit and then be starving again 5 minutes later. When I wasn’t holding him, I was sobbing quietly so no-one would hear, too tired and too worried to sleep.
We begged for help from doctors, nurses, hospital staff and lactation consultants. I honestly would have spoken to a voodoo witch doctor if I thought they would listen. No-one would give me a referral to a paediatrician or help us get into a sleep clinic. Every one assured me that the constant feeding and vomiting and screaming and jaundice were completely normal in a 4 week old. That the lack of sleep was a given, and I should have known that before I had children. That the fact that he hadn’t grown much was fine, just keep feeding him and it will all be okay.
And then I walked into my own GP’s office for a checkup. While she’s not an expert in newborns or children at all for that matter, she is observant as hell. She looked at me and then at my Simpson-coloured son and said, ‘is everything okay?’. Well, I dropped to a chair and sobbed until I felt sick. I talked and cried until I was out of breath because I was so grateful that someone was finally listening and not shrugging me off as ‘just a first time parent’. I was so thankful that someone finally saw what I saw, that someone else could see that clearly my baby was hurting. She was the first one to actually look at his Red Book and figure out that while he was average for his age, his growth had slowed dramatically, which wasn’t obvious because he was very tall at birth.
With a whirl of her rolodex, she mobilised the troops – scheduling a paediatrician appointment that day, calling pharmacies to organise medication pickups and began the process for me to check into the hospital if things didn’t get easier. Together we worked out a plan for dealing with my son’s reflux involving swings and slings and help from parents and I walked out of that office a very different person to how I walked in. I felt like I could actually do this mum thing. That I wasn’t a complete failure because my baby was miserable. I had faith in my abilities and for the very first night since I took my son home, I didn’t cry myself to sleep.
This story has a happy ending. We started Bear on his treatment and the next day he smiled at me for the first time. Not gas, not a pain grimace. A real genuine smile with a giggle to go with it. Another day on, we watched the yellow drain out of his eyes and face. And then a couple of nights after that, we all slept for 5 hours straight and my life felt bearable again.
While he wasn’t cured overnight – we had another 8 weeks of the two steps forward three steps back dosage adjustment dance ahead, but we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Asking someone if they are okay is something we do every day, but so often we don’t listen to the answer. So next time you ask, really listen. You just might change someone’s life.
What was the day that changed your life? Was it something small or something huge?