Sue's poems: Method in my madness

Sue Mckendrick
Sue and baby Alex in 2000

Sue experienced PP after the birth of her son Alex in 2000. On the occasion of their 50th birthdays in 2016, Sue and husband Iain asked friends and family to donate to APP, instead of giving them gifts. They raised an incredible sum, over £700! We are so grateful to Sue and Iain and their generous donors.  When we got in touch to thank them, Sue sent us a copy of her book, “Method in my Madness” – the title of which came to her during her episode of PP 16 years ago. Here we share three of her wonderful poems.

Sue reflects, “In the year 2000,  my world was turned upside-down. I had Postpartum Psychosis, a severe episode of mental illness which begins suddenly in the days following childbirth. During my mania, I was mad about poetry and I promised to write a book called “Method in my Madness”.  Clearly, such an idea was ridiculous, because at the time, I could not focus to write a single coherent sentence!  It took me about 7 years before I could face writing a poem as it brought back such painful memories.

These poems are a personal reflection on this difficult period in my life.  This experience has changed my attitude towards mental illness.  As a result, I don’t take my own mental health for granted and try to find time to unwind.”

Out the Sun Roof

Natural birth cancelled and birth plan
abandoned; the baby didn’t come on cue.
Wired up, monitored more than
I wish; should the details be taboo?
Surgeon poised with his knife.
Is this the best day of my life?

They top up the epidural
I can feel poking and prodding.
Midwife and surgeon in conferral;
head stuck, pushing and pulling.
Implements and gowns all sterile.
Iain is watching and holding
my hand; overwhelmed, is it joy?
Huge relief: a baby boy!

One week later, I was in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.  Mental health provisions for mother and baby were inadequate and I was separated from my new baby. 

Just a New Mum

Just a new mum: all nervous and tense.
No strength to move about,
cut off from baby, no self–confidence.
Feeling I need to punch out
at doctors who irritate and annoy.
My abilities, I have come to doubt:
one moment sad, one moment happy
and no idea how to change a nappy!

Overwhelmed, I feel overcome.
The ward is abuzz.
Crying because I want my mum;
can’t sleep; my head’s a fuzz;
painkillers make me dazed and numb.
I write lists, joke and sing because
lost my judgement, lost my mind,
memories seem misaligned.

Is this a nervous breakdown?
Pyschosis is diagnosed, agreed;
all day in my dressing gown.
Eyesight distorted, can’t read.
I’m just a new mum – all slowed down.
Expressing milk but can’t feed.
How can I be in such a state,
scared of what will be my fate?

Method in my Madness

With glistening eyes oozing sadness,
he is stressed and tense.
“I think there’s method in my madness!”

He listens and gives me a look,
not wishing to cause offense,
his glistening eyes oozing sadness.

“That’ll be the title of my book.”
It will be full of common sense.
Good title: Method in my Madness!

“Do you like it?”  I burble.
He is sitting on the fence,
his glistening eyes oozing sadness.

Baby Alex gurgles.
If only I could write a single sentence.
There must be some method in my madness.

I start to tell a joke about Agnes
and Ayli next door, but lose my focus,
my glistening eyes oozing sadness.
Some day you’ll find method in my madness!