20 week ultrasound (halfway!?!)

It’s the eve of seeing our baby again. Tomorrow at 1.30pm my little family will walk into the ultrasound room in Southside Canberra to see baby. When I called to make the appointment on Friday (I must do it now, it is the time) I just asked for wherever there was an appointment available. The time is really not convenient for Mr 18 months’ nap, but I was determined to have it done before I fly interstate again later in the week.

I’m a little scared.

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12 week ultrasound ‘baby’

Most mums (and I am assuming here) would be excited to see their bub at 19 weeks. It is the scan where the technician can detect with a fair degree of certainty:

  1. the baby’s sex
  2. any abnormalities in the development of the musculoskeletal system
  3. brain development
  4. possible heart conditions.

With Master X we had no concept of the importance of this scan, instead we just thought it was another opportunity to see baby. We were taken by surprise when the technician at the time declared everything to be normal as we just assumed it to be that way through our ignorance.

This time is VERY different.

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18 week ‘baby bump’

The likelihood of our baby having a heart malformation is 7 times greater than for women who are not on lithium. The research on sertraline is not as scary, so I’m just going to ignore it for now (it will require careful attention in the third trimester though). The GP does not seem too concerned about zyrpexa because I’m (assumably) only on it short term while my lithium stabilises.

I am nervous about the heart. I am scared that something is wrong. We had the rate tested while I was manic and it was up the top of the normal range at 176 bpm. Thankfully this week it had reduced to 146 bmp. My doctor concluded that my body must go into overdrive and metabolically skyrocket, and this is then transferred to the baby.

Scary stuff.

(Shit, my medication, sorry. I have to take a break. I seem to habitually delay my meds when I’m feeling well. Not a good habit to get into – I will have to go back to setting an alarm twice daily. Be back soon…)

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A cute pic of Mr 18 months to keep you occupied


I was recently told that I am going to be on medication for the remainder of my life. This is something I am not comfortable with and my brain and heart are fighting the additional battle of not being allowed to breastfeed due to medications (I have written about this on my FB page so will not lament over it again here).

I have kept reading a few digifriends who have had similar experience like Dyane (my toes only I am too scared to be ‘with them’, and still hide behind a false hope of misdiagnosis), reading from the sidelines quietly, trying to fumble my way through this mess. The mess is my head and my heart; that voice that tells me that perhaps this is still hormone-triggered and that capacity to live without drugs is… reality?

I stopped blogging for quite a while and fell out of touch with my online support. I instead floundered through my days seemingly quite stable therefore the Presence was absent. I was normal therefore independent and requiring no alliances. And the more distance I could put between myself and my writing, the more I felt like I was doing okay.

Time to call bullshit. This is real. My fear of the ultrasound, the lump in my throat as my breasts continue to blossom, but I know deep down I will not experience release with my babe, and the reality of a life on medication.

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Breastfeeding Master X

If I knew now that I would experience suffer (this word just doesn’t have enough weight) postpartum psychosis and what it would mean for me and my family, would I have had a baby? Will having a second baby further cement my mental health to be a lawful disability? Do the hormones mean that this is as drug free as this pregnancy is going to get, thus putting more pressure on my body and family and most terrifyingly, will it put my baby in more danger?

Please do not think that I need pity or reassurance; this is mainly a stream of consciousness. It is how I process what is happening, and make sure that I am not doing what I did for the past k(damn my belly pressed a key) six months which was absenteeism from writing and therefore not allowing myself time and space to CONFRONT, process, challenge and consider what the hell is actually going on.

I hear the baby, I see the baby, I feel the baby but I can not fathom the baby. They are there, but I have had to distance myself (subconsciously I believe) so that IF something were to go wrong, then I might have some chance of surviving this.

BREAK

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Maybe I can ask Dyane and Jen a question – do you heal like the title of Dyane’s book and blog suggest? We will always have bipolar disorder so is it more about healing from the psychotic shit from the postpartum period? Will it happen again with this baby? It’s not fair to put you on the spot like this, but I need to know what this means? I felt somewhat healed after Master X, but when I go to work on my novel it is too hard to bear. It feels like I am writing about someone else. But the memories are so vivid. And I’ve just come out of a mania with terrifying nightmares that left me in cold sweats and sometimes standing next to the bed, shaking. Will trying to finish my book work against the healing process? Or if I ignore the EVENTS it may make me more susceptible to this being dragged up deep into my future…

Breathe.

Just focus on one word.

Hope

And as truthful as my heart is intertwined with my husbands, we can get through this pain and this fear. And maybe I will peek through the slits of my fingers as my hands cover my eyes tomorrow. Because it all leads back to love, and no matter what, we freaking love the shit out of this kid. (And I feel clearer now this is all out of my head. Bed Time).

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Getting through 

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be able spend money without thinking about the budget, the impact of my choice on kids working in factories and the contribution to the world’s waste and global warming problems.

I look at people who can afford to sit in business class and wonder if it is from their own volition or born privilege. I wonder if they think as much about their choices or position as much as I do.

I hope that my family appreciates what they have and the consequences of our privilege in bountiful food, ability to travel overseas, constant love and the warmth of a home.of course as well know from recent times, these are not guaranteed.

Everything seems on an edge at the moment. I am still not able to sleep, taking me hours of tossing and turning or writing before I succumb to taking more medication, either the Zapremel or Lorazepam or both if it’s particularly bad and I’m worried about a hangover the next day. I’m still writing, almost finished one ebook in less than a fortnight and many more drafted. The words flow so easily like I am the smooth moos-covered rocks with a bubbly, gurgling creek running over me, caressing my hard layer, sharp edges and reaching into the deepest crevices. 

But there is a dark part of me that is hiding, waiting, running his hands together because he knows what we all know. That what goes up must come crashing down, ten fold, and destroy my foundations, crack the mask that helps me blend into society, work and friends so that you look through me as we pass in the street. This facade of normally can break, it is currently precarious. Not just wobbly, but more like a plane flying with the pilot asleep and in its place, a large black and jaggard rock. Ready to smash, to cause havoc and yet let nothing touch it’s impervious surface.

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Today is today

I can’t say the last two days have been particularly fun. Trying to get the medication dosage correct takes time, space and patience. 

I still feel a little cloudy as my head becomes readjusted to the increased lithium and antipsychotic but I feel much better today than yesterday. Friday was a day of cloudiness, frustratingly so dull that even a phone call from a friend to check in (thank you so much) seems like it was an echo from my brain to mouth.

But yes, today is better. I am still in the cycle, I am aware of it when I am alone, and at night when I’m certain that if I don’t create that it will be lost, or someone else will get in first.

Breathe.

It takes time. And parameters. And love.

But damn that creativity is so addictive, and the power rush of believing I am the inventor, original thinker, the world is my oyster… Well why would someone want to stop that?

Because I know it it not forever, that it can lead to psychosis and it is not easy to live with me in that state.

So I’ll keep writing in the hope that even with the lid from medication on my free chemicals, that I can create in a safer way. And that I can be the mum, wife, colleague, friend and family member that is fair, considerate… And not in hospital.

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Hypo

Well this is a post that I was hoping I would never have to write again, but I guess that when you have an illness as moody as Bipolar Disorder (BPD) that it is bound to happen when your body is a bit out of whack. So as I have shared before, we are testing regularly for the lithium levels to make sure that it is within the therapeutic does for me, and that there are no risks of toxicity to my liver function or thyroid, as this would impact the baby.

Before pregnancy my levels were 0.7 and now they are 0.5. My GP assured me that this was still within the therapeutic range. What I learnt today though, is that the therapeutic level for each person is different and my level is 0.7.

Thanks perinatal team for that information.

There have been signs of a high mood for a few weeks

  1. Irritability
  2. Lack of sleep
  3. Missing medication
  4. Irrational behaviour (tried to run my partner over with the car)
  5. Starting a business and working on it all night and day
  6. Paranoia

Last night was the high of it though – at 12am still writing my new e-book, in my head, while trying to find a reason for me to invest my money into this obviously successful venture.

STOP.

I couldn’t stop. I was shaking, sweating, tossing and turning, laughing, talking to myself (out loud?). I finally go out of bed and took some Ativan and ate toast while trolling social media and texting another friend with BPD. It took about 2 hours until I felt dopy and my mind was only a dull flutter of thoughts and voices and I slept. I sent a text to Mr A to ask him to let me sleep as I had emailed my work to let them know that I was not able to come in today. At 2am I emailed them. Good look there, R.

And I did sleep and did not wake up for six hours. Bliss. The first time that has happened in weeks, or even months.

My episodes are largely triggered by a) medication and b) sleep deprivation. And I feel as though I have not slept, like really slept for a very long time.

On the plus side my creativity is through the roof (oh, how I have missed you!) and if I was a solo flyer with no family responsibilities I would be quite happy being an unmedicated BPD person despite the crippling and scary lows, just for this creativity. I love it. Honestly. It is me.

But it is not sustainable and what comes up must come down. It damages my work, relationships and takes weeks or even months to recover.

Step 1: See GP
Step 2: Book in for psych appointment
Step 3: Self-care

I think I have these covered for the day. But sitting at home alone, does not help. It heightens what is trying to break through the dull fuzz of the Ativan. So on that note, I’m off to the GP.

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a week of bliss

I have been pondering what to write in this post all week, and running two blogs feels like my thoughts are consistently talking in ‘blog-speak’ which is a mish-mash of narrative and reflective prose. I get these wonderful ideas and I think ‘I’ll write about that on Sunday’ but then by the time I sit to write only whispers of the once bright and solid post foundations drift into grey and fuzzy one or two sentence descriptors.

I have a good friend who gifted me a writing journal during my recovery from postpartum psychosis with the advice to ‘just write’. And I did for about a week. I stopped and wrote thoughts, stories, observations, regrets, yearnings… and then I no longer wrote. I made the mistake of reading my journal and expecting for there to be some kind of amazing publishable piece and when this was not the case, I felt cheated. All that time; all that sharing.

So perhaps just taking the pieces that I can recall and intertwining them into some semblance of a reflection, a story of our journey or mirror of our lives will suffice…?

And so without further stalling, I bring you: a week of bliss


We are doing it this week, like seasoned parents ready to take on the week. Mr. A and Master X are recently up from their naps and I am gearing down to prepare for a Sunday afternoon stretch and yawn in our caravan. Bliss awaits me.

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I was aware this week, acutely aware, perhaps because of the moving body inside me or maybe due to the increasing hormones channeling through my skin folds. Master X felt a part of me, like his skin was but a mere extension of mine; as if to burn myself was going to result in a red, hot scalding mark on his tender outer layer. Bliss drifted along my hairs.

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The cravings were hidden for the past 7 days, crouching in the background as if waiting for a cooler climate or a safer place in which to make themselves known. In spite of the healthier choices I managed to gain 500 grams. Which is fine. But when I did finally succumb and take that first bit of a Big Mac… Bliss tingled along my tastebuds and flowed into my brain releasing what felt like a ton of oxytocin.

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I started another project this week, and surprised myself by enjoying it. It started off as an idea from recognising a gap in the market, and then turned into this keen interest. I even wrote my own blog about topical news which will be published later this week. Bliss was feeling empowered by this project; bliss was feeling my passion for education rekindled.

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Toddler vs Trump

In the spirit of the recent events in the US (oh, you know that little thing called ‘a swearing in ceremony’) I am dedicating this post to idiocy, childishness, thoughtfulness and plain ol’ immaturity. You know, those people jumping up and down in anger about the President’s first acts amongst which to back date the abortion rights of women all over the world…

Apologies, I digress. Back to the people jumping up down who did not vote. I am sorry for offence but abstaining is silent agreement with whichever candidate wins.

So this week’s post details four things that I had not noticed until recently, and have since come to appreciate the simple wonderment of not knowing, the bliss of ignorance, the joy of passive voting and the general comparisons that can be made between everyday life with an 18 month old and the recent political events in the world’s most influential Western nation.

Because let’s face it- who has more bombs in the West than America, and who has more control in a household than a toddler?

 1. My favourite toy will go with me even if the situation does not call for it

Master X had two favourite toys this week. One evening as I closed the door so that we could enjoy a relaxing bath, Master X began screaming furiously and pounded in panic on the door. He was screaming out ‘Mum, mum, muuuuuuuum!’ (which I think in this situation meant dad, but one can never really be sure nowadays on who is mum/dad). When it became apparent that bath-time was not going to happen until he was released, I leant over his tall head and opened the door, holding his chest to try and break his inevitable fall because he was standing so damn close to the door jam! Master X bolted through the tiny gap that I created and then returned moments later holding the favourite toy in his hand, while wiping the tear stream with his other hand.

I don’t get it. You can spend so much time (we pick up most of our toys for free or second hand, so pretty cheap) selecting the perfect educational, engaging, enriching toy for a toddler and then they go and chose a metallic blue Christmas bauble. A broken Christmas bauble. It reminded me a bit of this photo from this week’s events…

A supporter of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stands in the foreground of the Washington Monument  on the National Mall before Trump is to be sworn in in Washington2. I don’t care about societal expectations – I’m wearing my princess shoes

We have always struggled with shoes for Master X, I think mainly because we delayed him wearing any until he was a stable walker. Why do babies need Nike’s? They look cute, but damn, Master X went up two shoe sizes in 3 weeks at one stage. That equates to our food budget for that period being spent on a child-labour product! Yeah, no.

So we took Master X to Target to try on some shoes, and I picked a couple of bright ones for him to look at thinking that if he chose the shoes, then he would wear them. I picked the Frozen princess crocs, plain fluro yellow crocs, and Finding Dory crocs. Master X took all of a second to make his selection. It was clear as soon as I brought the shoes over that he was taken with the Frozen princess crocs. We are pretty conscious about gendered clothing, book, TV, toys etc. so we did not care that he chose the pink shoes. He does not care that he chose the pink shoes. Much like the population who either voted for Trump, or abstained from voting at all. Ignorance and the wonderment of not knowing.

Mr A and I occasionally correct people when they mistake Master X for a girl, based on his shoes alone. But really, we just nod and say ‘yup, he chose them’. Ignorance is bliss.

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3. All the toys are MY toys

Anyone who has tried to shop for clothes for themselves with a toddler in tow knows the impossible nature of the task. I had to go to Target (yes, okay Target is our go-to shop because it is mid-range in price and quality and we can get most of the stuff we need in this one shop) to shop for maternity clothes. I swiftly grabbed anything off the rack that looked remotely wearable because most maternity clothes look like you’re wearing a bag. I started to make my way to the fitting rooms to try on my selection when Master X, who was sitting in the child seat in the trolley, completely lost it and started to throw items out of my purse while yelling ‘done, done done!’.

Utterly flustered, I stuffed the not-so-bag-looking clothes back into the trolley and sped towards the toy section to placate his rising anger. The bright colours and seemingly endless rows of plastic bliss distracted him, and I pulled him out to enjoy some short respite as I sprawled on the floor in the middle of an aisle. At least I tried to keep some decency by pulling my long skirt up to sit between my gaping legs. I was stuffed. People kept trying to enter the aisle but would take one look at me and scurry away. Either that or the sound of Master X screaming as he smashed at the buttons on the electronic devices provided repulsion.

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I enjoyed my time on the cool floor, relieving some of the pressure in my back until it was evident that Master X had enough and it was time to make a hasty departure. Unfortunately however he had made quite an attachment to a Tellytubbie Tubby Custard pull-along and was adamant that it was coming with us. Screaming, kicking, arching back… I caved and threw the toy into the trolley at which point he happily obliged allowed me to place him back in the trolley. His eyes never drifted from the damn toy though.

When we arrived at the counter I rummaged in my purse and found some snack bars. And distracted him with food so I could remove the offending over-priced item from the trolley and continue through the checkout.

I wonder if we can use this logic to distract Trump and steal the Presidency…

4. If you can wear it, then so can I

Mr A and I both ride motorbikes and whenever one of us leaves for work on our 300z the other parent will hold Master X’s hand and wave goodbye. This routine has created a habit in our son where he will stop and wave to all passing motorbikes, even if we are in the middle of crossing the road. Recently Master X has become obsessed with our riding gear, so much so that every time we leave the house he runs up to the storage area for our helmets and gloves, and tries to pick them up. We allow him to try on the helmet briefly, but he is super connected to our gloves and it is now rare for us to leave the house without him wearing either one or both gloves on his hands. This provides amusement rather than bother, and also a welcome distraction in the car (which he hates) as we alternate amongst ourselves in putting on and taking off the gloves.

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I saved the best for last.

This situation of flattery through replication was eagerly displayed by Melania Trump and Michelle Obama this week. You have probably already seen the photos, but who can resist one more giggle at this awkward attempt to ‘hand over’ the First Lady?

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Day Six – when motherhood and madness collide

I have just started to read this journey in the hope of facing my birth and psychosis story of Master X to cleanse for the upcoming birth. So far the book is brutally honest, heartfelt and beautifully crafted. Thank you to Jen S Wight for sharing her experience in the book, and I recommend for all mothers, expectant parents, caregivers and anyone who has a family, to read this story.

Jen S Wight

Day Six is the story of one of the roughest introductions to motherhood you can imagine. Jen Wight breaks the taboo around mental ill health to honestly recount her experience of developing postpartum psychosis and then severe postnatal depression. She tells the tales of being convinced that she was Cameron Diaz; that she and Obama were going to use FaceBook to save the world; and that she was going to cure cerebral palsy with dental floss.

One scary night she experiences regressing back through her ‘past lives’ to become a sixties housewife, an aboriginal woman living when Cook first sailed through The Heads into Sydney Harbour, and finally the first chimpanzee to communicate with words. And it all started on Day Six of her son’s life.

She uses her experiences to explore her relationship with her sister who has schizophrenia and to illustrate that while mental illness can be devastating…

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