SEND NO FLOWERS
He is a caricature of himself: self conscious and pedestrian, a deadpan voice, unremarkable features. His questions, slick and predictable, come rolling off his tongue like textbook reflexes. He is not listening to me. I crouch on the bed. My baby needs changing. I perform this operation with aggressive competence, resisting the urge to put the moulded cardboard “bedpan” into which I soak cotton wool balls with exaggerated efficiency on my head (it looks uncannily like a stetson). I feel unfairly scrutinised. Suddenly my nerves are tingling with such intense vibrancy, like shards of glass glinting, a mad dancing of sun and moon, dazzling as a noonday summer skittering off a choppy sea. Defiance. I am sickened by the charade. The impenetrability of his thinking. The epitome of professionalism: giving nothing away regarding the ridiculous situation which we find ourselves in. Inner demons have got me, and I cannot comprehend what is going on. This hijacking is surreptitious and deadly. Exasperation and frustration well up in me with savage force. Here goes; I hurl a cheese sandwich with all my might at the psychiatrist’s head. Does he buck? Does he try to catch it? Does the nurse shout? I can’t remember. But the memory of this ferocious instinct, defensive and feral, to backup to my pleas and reasoning, I wear like a scar on my heart.
May we solemnly request that no flowers are sent on the birth of our child. It has been a difficult decision to try for a second baby. We have been warned that I have a 50:50 chance of becoming ill again. We have tolerated the intrusion of various mental health professionals, arranged for me to be monitored closely after the birth and reluctantly signed a care plan, which we pray will never be needed.
I admit that I am sad, knowing that I will be deprived of the unrestrained, unfettered rejoicing that should accompany the birth. But over the months I have got used to subduing my feelings, tamping down emotion. My palette of feeling has become fairly monochrome. It has taken years for spontaneous laughter at something quite obviously humorous not to provoke worry in those I love, fearful that I am raising the spectre of recurring mania.
I exercise gently, and have chosen suitably bland books to read once the baby is born: nothing that will excite me or stimulate my imagination. I am not to have visitors for the critical fortnight after the actual birth. No post or bouquets, and I am not to answer the phone. Some cards of congratulation can be drip fed to me, but the majority are to be saved for the day that I am declared “out of danger”.
It is etched on the midwife’s face as I tell her I’m feeding my mushrooms in the bathroom cupboard at 4am. The shock of betrayal as I peer out of the police van, anxiously straining to see the rest of the convoy (the car in which my husband promised to follow me with our precious son) and realise I am on my own. Shock of the night air smacking my face as I am hauled rudely from the van, roughly frogmarched and bounced through some back entrance to the local psychiatric unit where I will be incarcerated. Shock as I learn by turns that I am locked out of my sensible self and locked away from all that I hold dear. Shocking: a new self at this time of life – motherhood, but horrifically skewed.