18 Apr That Time I Lost My Mind, And A Year
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 10.4.23
It is a marvellous trick of nature that, even as the years pass, you still feel like the same person inside your head.
That’s why it can be a shock to pass a shop window and see someone you only vaguely recognise – your mother? – reflected back at you. Ah, I see, so I am not actually the 32 year old I think I am? Cool, cool, cool. Must get around to updating that internal image, then.
It is the same phenomenon that means when I am hanging out with a bunch of new mothers I still feel like one of them, and that it was only yesterday that I was living the life they are living now. But then I check the date and realise it was – can this be true? – 30 years ago.
And so it was that I spent a delightful day recently in Taupō, MCing an event to raise money for a local charity, Village Aunties, which supports new mothers. Naturally, this took me back to my own experience of being a new mother and had me digging around in my memories for what that looked like.
What it looked like was possibly a bit mad. I describe 1993 as the time I lost my mind and lost a year – a melodramatic way of saying parenting was so all-consuming I became unrecognisable to myself while the world and its issues went by mostly unnoticed.
I have since googled 1993 and caught up on some of its goings-on – the Waco tragedy, World Trade Centre bombing, a genocide in Rwanda. Years later, I rented the movie “Hotel Rwanda” thinking it was possibly some Merchant Ivory production along the lines of “Howard’s End” (I don’t know why) and was entirely traumatised by it. How could I have missed this horrific event? Mind you, it seems like the United Nations missed it, too. Perhaps they were also breastfeeding.
Like so many, my baby was born prematurely – six weeks early, so not so far off ready, but still in intensive care and fed for the first week through a tube down her nose. I needed to wake her to feed – an odd arrangement, like demand feeding in reverse with the mother doing the demanding – and it took a long time till I believed in my bones she was going to survive.
It was my fabulous Plunket nurse, Marcia, who finally got that message through to me on one of her home visits. “You know she’s going to live?” she said, and I hadn’t known that until the moment she said it.
Marcia was one of the few responsible adults in my world back then. I’d moved to Auckland while pregnant and was without close family or even a social circle for that first intense year.
When my baby was bigger, I’d take her to Plunket for her health checks. It was winter, and I recall our debut expedition, dressing her in many layers till she looked like a Michelin Man, carefully tying on the woollen hat my mother had knitted using a small orange as an estimation of size, though even then it was loose.
Thank goodness she was rugged up, I thought, as I opened the front door and the wind whipped fiercely around me, even colder than I’d expected. At which point I looked down and realised that, though the baby was properly dressed, I was wearing nothing but a nightie and socks.
We were late for our appointment. Marcia was very understanding.