Due to my foresight and Gracie’s father’s money I was covered for the mums and bubs unit in a private hospital. He and Mum drove me a couple of hours to get there with Gracie. However the psychiatrist assessed me as an involuntary patient and this hospital only accepted voluntary patients. So, instead, I was driven across the city to a public hospital that had a space. I spent three weeks there.
The staff was very kind. I was allowed to use a room all day in order for me to spend time bonding with my new baby. I was expressly told not to breastfeed for two reasons: because of my medication leaking into the breast milk; also, so as not to confuse my baby by swapping between breastfeeding and bottle. Initially I had a staff member with me as well as either Mum or Gracie’s father. Later it was decided the staff member was no longer required. Another patient with whom I had become friends resented that one of the scarce family rooms was occupied for so much of the day and she was relieved when I said I didn’t need the room all day.
Being in a tiny room with my ex was artificial, yet I missed Gracie when she didn’t come. I’d miss her every whole, long, weekend when she stayed at Mum’s and was looked after by family and friends. I remember calling my sister and hearing Gracie crying in the background and feeling physically sick that I couldn’t hold her.
I occupied myself on weekends harassing a recently rediscovered school friend who I believed shared terribly painful histories with me. Seriously, friends and family, if I lose it again, take my mobile off me before I can use it, before I can jot down numbers!! That person has not contacted me since this time – surprise, surprise – (My last final short message assured him I was well again, was being discharged from hospital, and would not call again).
Toward the end of my stay I was allowed to walk the grounds with an approved companion (Mum or Gracie’s father) and it was pleasant to walk in the spring sunshine, breaking the boredom of life confined to the locked ward.
While restoring breast feeding seemed as though it was nobody’s priority I was supplied with a breast pump machine. This provided the possibility that by maintaining milk supply I could at a later stage resume breastfeeding. It was a large metal box about the size of two shoe boxes. It was a dark metallic grey and had a tube and suction cap. Various nurses tried to put the cup on a nipple. With latex gloves they would lift one nipple or the other into the cup. While the sound of the machine’s energy reverberated around the small room the cap refused to stay on, and the nurse would invariably leave saying “You have a try. I’ll be back later.”
I was as successful as the nurses. For me its purpose was to point out what a useless mother I was day after day. Eventually I had to say it wasn’t working. The nurse said “No, it’s not, is it? We’ll stop it then.” I think the nurses and I heaved a collective sigh of relief. It had been a farce.
My heartfelt wish to breastfeed was dashed. I was still leaking in the shower. A sick joke that I barely breastfed my newborn and yet leaking contaminated fluid for years. Before leaving this hospital the psychiatrist formally finalised the decision that never had been mine. “The leaking you are experiencing is probably the result of your medication and you can’t breastfeed while you are taking it. But you decided before, yourself, not to breastfeed.’
Yes. Before. In emergency. When I said I didn’t love my baby.
Another new mother, living in the United States, was able to continue breastfeeding during her treatment. This is an interesting comparison to my experience. Read Blair Shackle’s account “Breastfeeding and postpartum psychosis, a highly unlikely love story” on The Boob Geek go to http://www.boobgeek.com/blog/breastfeeding-postpartum-psychosis.html