Sunday, November 11


When you have a baby, one thing you do not normally associate is starting counselling sessions soon afterwards that are in direct correlation to these events. Then again, for too many parents "normality" is thrown out the window. When you have a sick or premature baby or a traumatic birth, the rule book is ripped from your hands and it seems someone is laughing cruelly. You have all the same tools as everyone else but something is missing that you cannot quite grasp. I imagine even the healthiest baby, smoothest birth and both fleeting of baby blues produces a confused, knackered, upset and bewildered parent. But tweak some factors a little more and it can feel like you are walking between nightmares and the best thing in the world. You know you are blessed, are grateful beyond belief, can tangibly reach true love...but that is only one half of it. And that fact casts you even deeper down a path of gloom, grief or blame. Sometimes all three.

I was first referred for counselling whilst Wriggles was still on the NICU. We were beginning to be on the home straight which adversely became the patch I began to fall apart. I could not fathom being able to care for my baby at home in the way the hospital did. I got nervous. I got emotional. I cried.  lot. When I was trained in resuscitation and infant first aid, I broke down completely because it was too close to home to the CPR I'd had to try on my minutes-old daughter before the paramedics arrived. Then it was confirmed we would go home on oxygen. The sky fell in. Any notion of being able to turn our backs on prematurity, run for the hills or grasp in the dark for any kind of normal baby-magazine like existence was snatched and I was going to the dragged kicking and screaming into the acceptance.

Initially, I was not overjoyed about being counselled. It seemed like another thing to chalk up to failure. You can't even just have a baby? What sort of a mother are you? That first session I was very mechanical. I had got to the point of facts, just facts. Name. Age. Date of birth. Feelings? No, feelings are tied away. Locked away and thrown the key into the abyss. I don't recall a lot, but I do recall the kind lady saying with clarity at the end "you need to allow yourself to feel."

But I couldn't. I would have the odd breakthrough crying sessions, I would tell our story, I would go through the motions, but it was like there was a solid wall. I was talking but there was nothing behind the words. I would not let how I felt about what I was saying out. It was too dangerous. There was a torrent of emotion somewhere that could quite possibly destroy me. Then after we got home, my daughter got sick and then we came home again, I went downhill very fast. It was like a swift plummet, being winded in the gut. I did ask for help then because the only glimmer of rationality left told me that if I didn't things could get ugly and I was the sole person responsible for my daughter and owed it to her.

I was even less overjoyed about the idea of taking medication. To have to be medicated for being a mother? Despite gentle professionals saying but a mother who has been to hell and back, it just didn't sink in. But I took them, thinking what had I to loose. To my surprise, they helped to dent the cloak I had surrounded myself in. They let in tiny chinks of light and slowly rescued some energy, some drive, some routine... Alongside this I also saw a very well meaning counsellor who patted my knee, passed the tissues and said "Oh goodness me, I couldn't have done that" a lot, and also thankfully stepped up sessions with my original counsellor who had importantly been with me the whole time. She has seen Wriggles at the point of being critically ill, in NICU, at home, playing-she had seen the highs, lows and mundane of our lives. And that went a long way, not least is gaining my trust. She had also had her own premature baby twenty years ago and didn't need telling twice about what followed. She listened to me, said some very wise things and never once told me I was a bad person.

Did she fix everything? No. Did she make things more bearable? Very much so. She embarked on a long quest to try and stop me blaming myself and inflecting blame, guilt, remorse and turning these things into long strings of anxiety and fear. She didn't put a full stop to it all, but she did greatly stem the tide and genuinely seemed to care that I wasn't putting myself in torturous circles. The day before Wriggles' second birthday, she turned up at my flat with a birthday present and card despite not seeing her for months. I was so touched that she remembered and cared enough when essentially we are but a handful of her clients. It is little things like that which slowly help pick back up the pieces and restore your sanity bit by tiny bit. Couselling may not be a magic answer or quick fix but it is a service I believe that all parents or family members in difficult situations should be entitled to as just reaching out can remove some of the bricks of your burden. Without it, I fear I would have fallen very low and very badly. I don't know how things would be now if I hadn't have had that chance.

I wish I could say that presented with the tools of good counselling, the caring arms of supportive friends and family and a good overview of CBT that I am completely all done with the past. But this little blog is testament that I am not. Nothing is that simple. Things may be a lot better but there is always one foot still in the past, stuck in a puddle of murky memories. And sometimes I slip and fall straight back in and need a helping hand in climbing back out. All too quickly, the tendrils of anxiety, paranoia and remembrance can curl round your being until you are caught fast in a trap of fact and fiction and have to unravel what is reaction and what is irrational. These last weeks I have been struggling again, feeling the fight ebb out of me. I guess the difference is that I know this isn't forever because things have improved before and will again; not that it makes things feel any easier day to day until we have ridden this out. The mind is a powerful tool indeed.

My Happy Place


  1. Some of what youve written here really resonates with me.I was only saying to a friend the other day how easy it is to be able to speak openly about events but not be able to own them emotionally. In time i guess the emotions do pour out, and the context lurks behind like a broken down train way behind schedules! So glad that you know why you have these feelings and that they wont last forever.
    Knowing that you shouldn't blame yourself, that's a really good starting point, now you've just got to be in a place where you can believe it too. x

  2. How touching that your counsellor brought Wriggles a birthday gift - that's so lovely!

    Yes some of this post resonates with me also, even though I haven't had nearly as tough a time of it since we left NICU/SCBU as Premmy mum and yourself. I think it's a self preservation of sorts to mask your true emotions when you're going through hell. Unfortunately though they have a way of forcing themselves to the fore at the most inconvenient of times (not that there ever is a convenient one!) and hello PTSD.

    I hope that one day you will get to a place where you don't slip back - and that maybe the rest of us will join you there :)xx