It was around 4 days after being discharged from hospital, without my new-born baby, that I decided that running up and down the stairs might help make things better. It’s funny how my mind desperately found a way to cope and the many different things I tried to control, when in reality I had no control what so ever over the events that would unfold. This lack of control is what manifested itself as a series of coping mechanisms. Some of them hilarious and some of them utterly embarrassing to look back on. At the time, I really did not care what I looked like, I knew what I was doing was strange but if there was even a tiny chance that it meant Arabella would be safe, I would do it.
The following is a list of things I did in the firm belief that it would improve Arabella’s health and bring her home to me sooner. Once she came home these actions, I believed, would help her remain healthy – If I didn’t manage to complete one of them, then something bad would happen. I never knew what the bad thing would be exactly, but it was definitely bad and I definitely couldn’t let it happen.
Let’s start with the most common:
- Stair Running – The stair running basically consisted of me running up and down stairs as many times as my mind would see fit (usually sets of 10/20) in a specific amount of time. This wasn’t specific to stairs either, it also included public steps which often left to awkward excuses like “I’m just trying to get my step count up so I’m going to do a couple more runs” whilst in the middle of town. My dog was absolutely sick of being marched up and down the park steps every time we went for a walk and my excuses of having left something upstairs 5 times in a row was really pathetic, looking back.
- Downing a pint of water – Whenever I drank water it had to be downed in one. If you’re not a frequent water drinker then this becomes quite a chore. Thankfully the breastfeeding thirst helped with this one but the bloating was on another level.
- Donating to Charity – If you had a Gofundme page set up in May/June 2016 that related to the health of a child you will almost certainly see my name on the list of funders. Anything related to children’s health I donated to. I was convinced that any charity I didn’t donate to would somehow project the disease on to Arabella. One of the hardest steps I had to take during my counselling sessions was to allow someone to talk to me about cancer research for children. I felt like I was going to faint, vomit and shit my pants all at the same time. The conversation ended with the volunteer saying “It could happen to your little one” to which I burst into tears and walked off crying. It was the guys first day doing that job and I haven’t seen him since.
- Refusal to read news articles – I refused to read any form of news article on Facebook that related to health. Obviously I was Googling a lot of baby health related things at this time and my algorithm picked up on it. My Facebook feed was populated almost entirely with children’s health horror stories from clickbait sites. This would almost always bring on a panic attack so instead of exposing myself to them to overcome the fear, I instead decided to unfollow almost everyone and everything on my feed until it was basically just me and a couple of cat pictures floating about on Facebook
- Boot Jumping – This is my favourite one because it was the one that mattered the most and also the most ridiculous and hilarious to think about. Boot jumping was a situation where my dog HAD to jump into the boot of my car completely unassisted, otherwise Arabella would come to harm. My dog is a 5 stone English Bulldog. He very rarely jumps into a puddle never mind jumps into a car, which is why this one had such meaning. If he would jump into the car without my help, that was a sign that everything would be ok. Now I look back, I don’t know whether it was a sign or if it was just that my dog was so utterly sick of standing on the side of the road for 15 minutes after every walk whilst I shouted “C’mon” and slapped the floor of the boot, but some days he bloody well jumped and with this, he confirmed to me that someone was looking out for me, for Arabella. So the cycle continued.
When I write this down and read it back I would forgive anyone reading it for thinking that I was/am completely deranged. The point I’m trying to make however, is that in those moments of despair, this all made absolute sense. Fear of everything I couldn’t control had consumed me and my body and mind were determined to reclaim any form of authority possible.
As Arabella grew and I built up more and more resilience to my anxious thoughts, these coping mechanisms slowly began to fade and these days they are all but gone. There are however, still some days, usually after a bad nights sleep, where you will find me racing up the stairs, downing a pint of water whilst my dog makes his third attempt to reach the boot of my car in one clean unassisted jump.