Monday, August 22, 2011

Cape Leveque reflections

Our trip to Cape Leveque was planned a long time go. Before Kim was born we were trying to work out when we thought we’d be ready to “go away” on holiday with him and decided that when he was seven weeks old should be a good time. At the time of booking the accommodation, we thought we would have been in the comfort of a house for a couple of months and not still have been living in a caravan. So it was to be our foray back into the world of travel after a nice calm and stable welcome to the world for him. How would we all go in the van together? How would travelling to remote places be with a baby? As it turned out we never really fully moved out of the van and we have been back living in a caravan park for the last two weeks. So the initial aim now seems somewhat superfluous. Having already reestablished ourselves fully into caravan mode, we are all feeling ready to get back on the road. So the trip to Cape Leveque is now essentially a holiday for all of us. The kids are out of school and I’m off work. And we’re away from Broome where we have become entrenched in everyday life for the last two and a half months. I know that in our Utopian lifestyle choice the impression of one long holiday endures for some, creating wonderment of how you can possibly take a holiday from a holiday. I’ll just leave that with others to ponder as they try to distinguish the difference between a nomadic lifestyle choice that includes school, work and all other things of home life, and a holiday where you drop all those obligations for a while and lie on beaches reading books.

Cape Leveque is a beautiful place. Even among the many beautiful places that we have been, this ranks high. Our accommodation consists of a large African style safari tent containing a queen size bed and two singles, fixed permanently on to a large wooden base built up on stilts. Out from the side of the tent is a sizeable balcony equipped with barbecue, table and chairs and a glorious view over the native greenery and red cliffs to the white sand and incredibly blue ocean beyond. We also have a tiny kitchen with huge fridge, and a small shower/toilet room on the other side of the tent. So compared to living in a caravan, our accommodation with private bathroom is luxurious. At night the green tree frogs move in to take care of insect control in the kitchen. The other night when I wandered in for a glass of water I found four of the little fellas in the sink. A path from outside our tent meanders down a couple of hundred metres to the swimming beach. A slightly longer walk or short drive the other way leads to the western beach with its glorious sunsets and red rocky structures jutting up from the wind patterned white and red sand. And while Cape Leveque is heavily marketed as a tourist spot down in Broome, it is far from overcrowded.  It is possible to walk along the beach on occasions and be the only person there. All of us have relaxed right into it. 

A couple of weeks back Tori seemed to be heading down the slippery path towards postnatal depression. It was very concerning; especially as I knew that she had suffered it quite badly following the birth of Finn. We were seeing midwives and doctors and they shared my concern to the extent that they said that all appointments to see them would be free and that they would slot Tori in any time, even if they were otherwise fully booked. Tori had done the PND questionnaire and scored in the high-risk category. She had become prone to crying over seemingly trivial matters. On bringing home the “wrong” milk to Bridget and Marty’s she was in tears for not having the whole milk variety that Bridget normally bought. And she was crying often. Everything with her and Kim was always fine, although the doctor did ask the question of whether she had at any stage wanted to hurt the baby. She responded that she hadn’t and I knew it to be true. In the middle of the night when I’d lie awake with Kim crying and Tori up and trying to soothe him, her calmness and the reassuring way that she spoke to him amazed me. Especially when I knew that she was struggling within herself. I was doing all I could at these times to quell my own internal voice of “SHUT THE FUCK UP BABY SO I CAN GET SOME SLEEP!!!” so her calmness in these situations really hit me. The doctor had also asked her if she’d considered hurting herself and her reaction of further tears seemed to indicate that it had certainly passed her mind. It is a common trait of PND for a suffering mother to believe that her family would be better off without her, contrary to all of the obvious evidence that it is clearly not true. The doctor prescribed a three-month course of antidepressants and then a reassessment. I think the realisation that you are suffering from postnatal depression and have been prescribed drugs to help you cope adds further to the feeling of depression. The thought of not coping is particularly depressing in itself. I read everything I could find on the net on natural remedies for addressing Tori’s condition. After Finn, Tori was eventually prescribed Zoloft and it was not a path she really wanted to go down again. To me and my amateur eye, her depression was being brought on by three very tangible situations. Firstly, the whole breast-feeding situation hadn’t unfolded as planned. Kim had munched through Tori’s nipples very early on making latching on an agony of its own. The milk “coming in” was causing a pain that she described as needles through her breasts. And the supply of milk just didn’t seem enough for a hungry Kim. This all came as a huge shock as there had been no such issues when feeding Jaz and Finn. Secondly, the stress in our living situation at Bridget and Marty’s had become palpable. Not just the perceptible negative feelings towards us being there, but their own family tensions hugely impacted on the whole atmosphere of the house. 
And thirdly, with a newborn baby, Tori was operating on major sleep deprivation, sometimes getting only two hours sleep for a night. I just felt if these factors could somehow be mitigated, then she would probably be ok. Throw in some yoga meditation and use of ylang ylang and lavender oils and we would be almost there. But on one particularly bad day, when tears had once more flowed over something not very important, Tori decided that she needed to go with the antidepression drugs and dropped the first pill in the packet. I decided that I would cancel my planned work trip back to Melbourne and Sydney as it was clear that I was needed more here than at a conference. But that evening, it was Marty who actually gave us the prescription she really needed. Our forced removal from the house and into the caravan park turned out to be a complete blessing in disguise. I could almost see the tension leave Tori’s body and a huge weight lift as we pulled out of their front drive. A day or two later the pains in her breasts were disappearing as the antibiotics took to work on what turned out to be the early stages of mastitis. It was quite remarkable. I felt that I’d watched somebody who was falling uncontrollably into the abyss and just at the last minute found her wings and began to fly. And what glorious flight. It is with great relief that I know that the risk has passed. Tori has started swimming laps of the caravan park pool, doing yoga on the beach and having fun with the kids. We’ve also passed the dreaded initial six week period of the newborn’s life where everything seems so difficult. Kim and we have settled into routine now that makes life in general a bit easier. He seems a healthy baby with plenty going in one end and reliably coming out the other. 
He is starting to “play” and can even crack it for the occasional smile. While still extremely demanding, he is at least now becoming cute. Though it still amazes me how babies can scream when they want something and want it now. There’s no “just a minute, I’ll get it for you when I’m free baby”.  They aren’t born with a whole lot of patience. Clearly patience is a learned skill. Though now that I think about it, not one that has been learned very well by anybody in our family. When we get back to Broome from our nice restful time at Cape Leveque, it will be time to pack everything up and prepare to move on. I think now we are truly ready.


Gregg said...

Poor Tori - sounds like she's in good shape now though thank heavens.

Meteor said...

LOL STFU Baby!! Memories....

DougS said...

Yo. Thank Heavens. The importance of the family.