In the great scheme of things I’ve not really been a parent for very long – but in the eight months that Pippin has been in my life I’ve changed a lot I think. I’m a lot more tired for one thing, but I’ve made more changes in these last eight months, for her, than I have in the twenty five years previously.
That’s from little things; like making sure I eat lunch every day, so she can see me eating it and she gets something nutritious (even though most of it ends up on the floor!), and not having a lie in, ever. To bigger things like making big changes to our house to make it safe for a baby, getting a family-friendly car and even coming up with a ‘life plan’.
One of the things that I knew would challenge me most as a parent was dealing with my mental health problems, and their effect on my parenting. If you know me in real life, I am pretty open about the fact that I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) about six years ago. If you looked hard enough you could find plenty of things I’ve written about it on the internet. Having OCD nearly destroyed me, and it took me a long time to get to the point where I can function on a day to day basis.
When I got pregnant I was terrified. I didn’t know how the pregnancy would affect my OCD, and I didn’t know how my OCD would affect my ability to parent. Which caused a lot of issues with the medical professionals who looked after me during pregnancy: which is another story entirely.
I have some things that I really struggle with. I wash my hands more than most people, I have to wash my hands after touching shoes, I can’t use public toilets, in fact, I have to wash my own toilet seat before using it. I don’t touch taps, or bathroom door handles, and I have real problems with towels too – I can’t dry my hands on them. It’s not all about germs, each of my compulsions has their own little story that I won’t bore you with, but these are behaviours that I really struggle with. As you can imagine these things do impact on my daily life.
When Pip was first born, I spent a lot of time in bed with her. I have breastfed her and I was recovering from a c-section, so in some respects hiding out in my room was convenient. What it also meant was I had more control over my environment. I was struggling with all the things that come with being a new mum, and I couldn’t cope with my OCD on top of that: so I minimised the amount of triggers within my environment.
As she got older it wasn’t feasible for me to hide out in my bedroom, so I ventured downstairs, but I was still struggling to do things that triggered my OCD. Gradually the house began to suffer for it, and I started having panic attacks again. I have started to get things under control again, but now Pippin is crawling it is hard for me.
I don’t believe the floor is clean, so every time she crawls off the rug in our living room (that I try and keep meticulously clean) I feel a little bit sick inside. If she is on the floor at someone else’s house it goes through me, but I am trying not to show it. I want her to not have to grow up with the same fears as me, I know in the upcoming years I am going to have to take her to public toilets, tie her shoes for her and do countless other things that scare the hell out of me. I don’t know where I am going to find the strength to do it, but I will have to.
I suffered massively at the hands of my OCD and I hope she never has to. I don’t even know if I can make a difference, whether it will happen anyway, whether she just has a higher chance of having OCD because she is my daughter. Nature vs nurture and all that. I guess we will just have to wait and see.