F’s story

I’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to my last post, Looks like we made it, that I wanted to share F’s story. The full story. But I want to make one thing very clear before I get started, and that is this: I owe every breakthrough, every hour of extra sleep and every tiny ounce of peace of mind to the wonderful doctors and nurses who took care of F during his hospital stay last January. It’s true that F is my hero, but if he is mine then those medical bods are definitely his. Without them, we would not be where we are today.

In hindsight, I knew that there was something wrong with F from him being about two weeks old. He was a snacky, fidgety feeder and he would often throw up an entire feed just minutes after finishing it. The vomiting probably distressed me more than it did him, but he was clearly uncomfortable most of the time and I tried everything to persuade him to feed. I administered gallons of Infacol and gripe water, rocked him until he was almost asleep so he would take the bottle more willingly, tried every milk on the market once I’d realised that breastfeeding just wasn’t an option anymore… You name it, I tried it. But nothing worked. Alongside this, F did nothing but cry. He would cry and cry for hours and there was nothing I could do to comfort him. And he wouldn’t sleep. When he woke up in the night for a feed, there was often nothing I could do to get him to go back to sleep. Once, after trying for two hours to settle him in his Moses basket, I told N I couldn’t cope anymore, got in my car and drove up into the forestry where I slept in the passenger seat under a blanket for a couple of hours.

I took F to see a doctor, who said he probably had reflux and sent him home with a box of infant Gaviscon. That worked for less than 24 hours. Another doctor gave him a prescription for Ranitidine, but neglected to tell us that the dosage would change with his weight or follow up the appointment with his promised referral to a paediatric consultant, so that worked for a week or so, then we were back to square one. Nobody seemed to want to help us.

Things finally came to a head when I had spent a whole day failing to feed F or get him to sleep. N was at work and my mom came round to find me clinging to O and sobbing my heart out while F screamed in his cot upstairs. I said some awful things that day. Things like I wished somebody would just come and take him away, or that I wanted to leave him somewhere and drive away because I simply couldn’t cope with him anymore. I said I didn’t love him, didn’t want him, wished I’d never had him. I can forgive myself for these things now because I know that I was mentally ill at the time from all of the stress and the crippling lack of sleep. But saying them made me feel sick. Saying them made me hate myself.

My mom had no idea what to do, so she called 111 and they decided to send an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, they asked me some questions and I tried to explain that whatever was wrong with F was also, in another way entirely, what was wrong with me too. They decided to take both of us in, and as they left me in the A&E waiting room, I remember one of them saying to me “Because you’ve come in with us, they have to check you both out properly. It’s going to be alright.” We were quickly taken into an assessment room where a triage nurse took our details and checked F over, then we were left alone for a while until a doctor came to see us. When he asked me how we had ended up in A&E, I explained every tiny detail of F’s issues and symptoms right up to the uncontrollable crying that had finally led us here. I was honest about the fact that I no longer felt able to cope, which was when he asked me “have you ever thought about hurting your son?” I replied, “No, but I can empathise with a person who gets to the end of their rope and shakes their baby.” I knew it would be a red flag. I knew exactly what would happen next, but I’d reached a point where I had to be honest. A point where I knew we needed help, whatever the personal cost.

After that, I wasn’t allowed to be alone with F. Even when N arrived, the door to the room had to be left open. Then another nurse came and took him away to the children’s ward. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to stay with him, but that someone would come to see me when he’d been assessed and take me down to the ward so I could see him and say goodbye to him. I was in shock. I couldn’t even cry. I’d known what would happen, but I felt like a monster. Even though I knew that I would never do anything to hurt my child, in my mind I was already a criminal.

A crisis meeting was arranged for that night, so we hung around at the hospital once we’d seen F and been assured by the staff on the paediatric ward that they couldn’t feed him either and that they didn’t believe for one minute that I was a risk to my son.  The doctor on the ward told me that she felt it was very brave of me to admit to feeling so helpless and out of control, but all I could feel was shame and disgust. It was, and still is, the darkest night of my life.

The social worker who came to assess me said he felt it was ridiculous to keep me at the hospital well into the night when it was clearly obvious that what I really needed was to sleep. I shrugged, told him we’d all seen the horror stories about shaken babies and children beaten to death by those who were supposed to protect them. I understood why I was there, why it was necessary. I answered his questions honestly and he told me that he thought I was probably depressed, but that he in no way believed I would harm either of my children. I was finally allowed to say goodbye to F, given a strong sleeping pill and sent home.

F was kept in the hospital for four nights. During that time, N and I had a meeting with the team who were looking after him. One of the nurses in that meeting asked me why I had struggled with him for so long, essentially on my own. Not really knowing what she expected me to say, I replied “I didn’t think I had a choice.” I explained that I had spent the last three months feeling like a complete failure, like I just wasn’t up to the job of being F’s mother, and an amazing thing happened; a whole roomful of medical professionals told me that they all thought the fact that I had somehow managed to feed F and do a pretty decent job of keeping his weight up in light of the severity of his reflux was nothing short of a miracle. They told me they thought I was remarkable.

Later that week I was also psychiatrically assessed and diagnosed as being borderline depressed, but it was suggested that that was largely due to the stress of F’s condition rather than anything that would require medication. Also, I was assured that there was no question of me being considered a danger to my children. Looking back, I don’t think anyone ever really believed that I was, but I know that it was necessary for them to check me out and I found that I was incredibly grateful to them for doing the best job they could to protect my son. For a while we got extra help with childcare so I could get some rest, and everyone in our families finally knew what we’d been going through. I’m not going to dress it up; it was a shitty time. Having Social Services involved was terrifying, but it was something we had to go through to get the help that we needed.

What I took away from the experience – aside from the fact that I am not, in fact, Wonder Woman – was that mothers don’t talk about this stuff enough. We all pretend that we can cope with anything. Who knows; maybe there are some women out there who can. But I’m not one of them, yet I pretended for months that I was fine even though I felt like I was drowning. And what I’ve realised, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, is that it’s actually really dangerous to internalise parenting problems. It might seem like every other mother you know is sailing through on a sea of endless patience, but I can almost guarantee you that that isn’t the case. If just one mother who feels like she isn’t coping reads this post and opens up to a relative, friend or health visitor – anyone – then my work is done. Being a parent is hard and being a mother can be very lonely. Don’t make it worse by pretending you’re okay if you’re really, really not. Believe it or not (and I certainly wouldn’t have a year ago) no one is going to think you’re a monster if you admit that you’re struggling.

And I want to say thank you to every single person who read my last post and left me a lovely comment. It’s because of you that I have felt brave enough to post this story today.

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Just look at you now, F!

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Cuddle Fairy
 themumproject
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37 comments

  1. A mum track mind · May 1, 2016

    I just love that picture of your son Davina (think I said this on IG the other day!). You are very brave for sharing your story so honestly and for having been so honest with the medical professionals in the first place, knowing what would happen. Sleep deprivation is enough to send the best of us insane nevermind when you combine it with the constant screaming and worry about feeding. You’ve done remarkably well – he is a lucky little boy to have such a brilliant mother like you 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story, I’m sure this is going to help other mothers going through a tough time x KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 1, 2016

      Thank you, Fi. I really appreciate that. I don’t think I would have been brave enough to share this if it wasn’t for the lovely people I’ve met through the blogging community, yourself included. X

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Educating Roversi · May 1, 2016

    Wow, I was captivated by this post. You’re unbelievably brave. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  3. occupation:(m)other · May 1, 2016

    Found it, thank you xx I’m sure your story will help others and I hope writing it all down helped you too x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Unsung Mum · May 1, 2016

    Brilliant post!!! My eldest had silent reflux and it almost killed me and my relationship with The Hub. He’d some in every night from work and i’d almost chuck her at him and walk off, not even saying a word as i was so scared to cry, because i knew i wouldn’t stop! We’d spend hours each night rocking her to sleep and then she wake and scream all over again. It wasn’t in till i broke down in front of a health visitor that she came with me to the GP (my fourth different GP, each one saying there was nothing wrong and that baby cry). I wish more people understood reflux. It horrid and i wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
    Thank you so much for sharing and raising awareness of this horrible condition. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 1, 2016

      Thank you for sharing your story here too. I remember once F was screaming and screaming and refusing completely to feed. N was upstairs and O was playing and I just put him down on the sofa, shouted to N and walked out of the house. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I just had to get out of the house and away from the screaming and the awful, pervading sense of failure I felt because of it.
      Reflux is not “just” anything – as I have been told so many times. Reflux is a grenade thrown into the middle of your life when you have a child who suffers from it and no one else will acknowledge that something is wrong.

      Like

  5. beautybabyandme · May 2, 2016

    I think you are amazing and inspirational thank you for sharing so openly and honestly xx #candidcuddles

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 2, 2016

      Thank you for being kind. I have been afraid that people would read this post and think I am an awful mother for what happened in this post. X

      Liked by 1 person

      • beautybabyandme · May 2, 2016

        If anyone thinks that then they are heartless idiot! You’re amazing and I’m so glad things have improved for you xx

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Our Cherry Tree · May 2, 2016

    Wow. You are incredible. This is such a brave post and it really got to me. My daughter suffered from reflux as a baby and the time it took for us to be taken seriously and get help was excruciatingly painful. It doesn’t sound half as bad as your son’s and yet I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. I’m so glad you now have the help and support you need. #CandidCuddles

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 2, 2016

      Thank you so much. You don’t know how much that means to me. I really hope that your daughter has recovered from her reflux now? It’s such a horrible condition, and so underplayed.

      Like

  7. Emma - meandbmaketea · May 4, 2016

    goodness, what a lot to go through. I read another post recently about this and didn’t realise how common it can be. love the photo – so happy! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Becky, Cuddle Fairy · May 4, 2016

    Wow, what a moving story. It’s brought tears to my eyes. You are an amazing mother. You did everything right. It’s amazing how clear things can seem in hindsight. I can’t imagine the worry you had for F & mix that with total sleep deprivation & you really were wonder mom to keep everything ticking over. I’m so glad you finally got the help F needed! Thank you for sharing your story with #candidcuddles x.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 4, 2016

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Becky. It was hard to share this story because I know I don’t come off particularly well in it, but what we went through with F is such an important lesson to anyone else struggling with a reflux baby and I hope that it might help someone out there who needs to feel a little less alone right now. X

      Like

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  10. crummymummy1 · May 4, 2016

    This is an amazing story and very brave of you to share. I don’t know what I’d have been like in this situation as a lack of sleep does crazy things, not to mention the stress of everything else on top. I’m sure this post will help a lot of peoplex #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 4, 2016

      Sleep deprivation is awful, and it certainly did crazy things to me. It turned me into a person I didn’t even recognise anymore. N and I almost got divorced, which is something else I’ve been considering writing about, but I’m not sure?

      Like

  11. sisterk1n · May 5, 2016

    Pow – this is such an honest story that I know I will be thinking about you all day. It strikes me as so sad that you had to reach breaking point before anyone would listen to you. A brave and powerful post indeed. #coolmumclub

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is such a brave post
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    When my son Harry was a baby he never slept either. I mean literally he slept just 20 minutes at a time and he fussed and screamed while feeding too. We thought he had silent reflux at the time but now I’m not sure wether it was reflux or part of his chromosomal disorder and possible autism (he didn’t like being held). It was not an enjoyable time to say the least and like you I struggled alone for a long long time. I came to resent both my son and my husband. In the end I went to see a Health visitor and GP for my own mental health and things improved eventually. It took a long long time though because I was too afraid to admit that I was struggling to cope. I just wanted you to know that you’re very brave, not at all alone in thinking the way you did and I’m glad things are finally looking up.

    #stayclassy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 5, 2016

      I felt a lot like that. We argued so much about him and there were days when I just didn’t like him at all. I struggled to bond with him until he was three months old and his condition was being treated. Up to that point, he was just this screaming, red-faced creature who constantly demanded some unknown thing from me that I couldn’t provide. Now he’s my little buddy. We adore each other and I could not live without him. But he needed help and I was losing my mind.
      Thank you for sharing your story too and for being so honest. I really hope that things are much better for you now. X

      Liked by 1 person

  13. squishedblueberries · May 5, 2016

    Wow, what a strong Mummy you are! I have no experience of reflux, but my 5 month old has a stinking cold and has been struggling to feed and just screaming at my boob instead if latching. This has only been going on for a week and I’m at my wits end, I feel bad now for complaining after reading what you went through. I totally understand how you got to the point where you needed to shout for help, and I’m so glad that you finally got it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 6, 2016

      Oh, but it’s so hard when they have a cold! I don’t know if this will help you, but when F was feeding and he was a bit stuffed up (which is another side-effect of reflux), I used to put a few drops of Snuffle Babe on a muslin cloth and tie it to my top. It helped ease the congestion a little bit. And never feel bad for complaining; this whole motherhood thing is so hard sometimes and you shouldn’t feel like you have to internalise your frustrations. I hope your LO feels better soon, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. X

      Like

  14. The Mum Project · May 5, 2016

    YOU ARE AMAZING. I keep saying this about you, it’s not because I just throw it out there, it’s because you actually are. Thank you for sharing this story so honestly, you are right, parents ….well mothers in particular….we tend to hold everything inside and slap a smile on our face even when we are feeling like the world is crashing down on us. This story helps us all realise how important it is to talk about our feelings, even if they are feeling we aren’t “supposed” to have as a mother. I’ll be candid and say that I had similar thoughts to you in the beginning, I only told my partner, and even then I was scared he was going to judge me. Luckily, he didn’t and was there for me. This is inspirational, again thank you for sharing with #StayClassy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 5, 2016

      I just can’t ever get over how much your comments uplift me. Every time. It’s people like you – and all of the other wonderful people in the blogging community who have stopped by and read this post – who make me feel like it’s okay to be honest about the hard times and the shit days. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

      Like

  15. Well done for telling your story so honestly, spreading awareness of these kinds of problems can only help others in similar situations. I love your quote for this reason. It was moving to see the picture of F now, with such a lovely cheeky grin! Thanks for sharing with #CandidCuddles

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 6, 2016

      Thank you for that lovely comment. F is such a cheeky, joyful little boy these days. You would never know he had been through so much in the early months of his life. He is my little hero.

      Like

  16. bridiebythesea · May 6, 2016

    I’m sitting here so moved by your post – feeling sad that you had to go through it, and happy that it has ended so well – look at F now, so cute! You are amazing. I know lots of other people have said this in other comments, but you truly are and to write this post so honestly is beyond brave. Thank you for sharing,it’s important new mums read this to recognise that it’s okay to admit when you’re struggling, when it feels like it’s much more than ‘baby blues’. Brilliant post, I’m not sure my comment has done it justice but what an inspiration xx #brilliantblogposts

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 6, 2016

      Thank you for such a sweet comment. I’ve been moved myself by the incredibly supportive reaction to this post. I wasn’t expecting it and I’m so grateful to you and everyone else who has commented. Really, really thank you. X

      Liked by 1 person

  17. A Moment with Franca · May 6, 2016

    Wow this is such an honest, real and moving story. I can’t even imagine how hard must have been for you to go through all of this. I’m so happy to see that now this is part of the past and things are much better. Reflux is very nasty and I didn’t like it either when my daughter had it a little bit. Thanks God it didn’t last long for her but I can understand the frustration and the feeling of failure. It is just very difficult to cope when you are sleep deprived. Your mind can’t think properly. You are incredibly brave for letting yourself being helped at that time. That was the correct think to do. I’m sure this post will help other mums out there that are going through the same feelings. Thanks so much for sharing this moving story at #KCACOLS .I’m so happy to have you here. Thank you so much too for all the love spreading within this linky. I’m so grateful for all the commenting you do. I hope to see you again on Monday, 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 6, 2016

      Thanks sweetheart. Such a lovely comment. I love #KCACOLS and all the amazing blogs I get to read. I never comment out of obligation; only appreciation for the brilliant bloggers who link up and share their stories every week. Thank you so much for hosting. X

      Liked by 1 person

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  19. Sarah Aslett · May 10, 2016

    This was a really powerful read, brilliantly written. I hope that any women out there suffering and struggling in this way come across your post because I know it would help me to know other people have overcome similar circumstances. I will share your post, your a brilliant Mother – thank you for sharing #stayclassy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Motherhood IRL · May 10, 2016

      Thank you, sweetheart. What a lovely comment. I really hope it helps someone. This whole motherhood thing is a tough gig!

      Like

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