How do you cope with mental health issues when you have a new baby? What if you have three…?
Simon Wood has a history of serious mental health problems. He had recently recovered from alcoholism when he met his wife and became a stepfather. Then he had triplets. Here he describes a unique experience of fatherhood, and how meditation and three tiny ‘gifts’ brought strength and stability…
Learn more about Simon’s journey from his book and blog
“I was a full blown alcoholic by my mid twenties. Booze had been a solution to the mental conflicts I had suffered from since I was a kid. I had been sexually abused as a child. It created a massive amount of emotional trauma that I was afraid to talk about. That and the dysfunctional relationship with my dad filled me with a lot of anger and fear from the day I left home. Alcohol took all the pain away – instantly.
But it destroyed everything worthwhile in my life, and the destructive nature I cultivated out of fear affected everyone I met over the years. I eventually recovered, thanks to a unique meditation exercise I discovered that kept away the fear and resentment that had caused me to seek relief with alcohol in the first place. It brought me emotional stability. Two months after my obsession to drink left me I met Stacey, my wife. She’s only ever known me sober and free from mental illness, as have my daughters.
A total shock
The pregnancy was a total shock. We had tried for two years with the occasional false positive test. We discovered on our wedding anniversary that Stacey was pregnant. A week later we had the dating scan, and it was then we discovered three heartbeats. I burst into uncontrollable laughter, my wife was shaking with fear. It was a bizarre situation.
The early weeks and months of triplets was the toughest adjustment of my life. My wife fell straight into her role from the day she held our daughters. She breastfed so her attention was completely on the girls.
I began to sink into depression
Between sleep deprivation, full time work as a welder and dealing with home life I began to sink into depression. I became paranoid and my head began twisting into negative thinking and fear around my ability to cope. As a first time dad I had no idea how big a deal early parenting was going to be.
On thin ice
My mental health is contingent on my ability to stay conscious of rising fear and resentment. The meditation I practice is how I stay in that neutral place of protection. But with sleep deprivation I couldn’t meditate. I was on thin ice in the early days of the babies’ arrival home. I was in a constant battle with negative thoughts.
My saving grace was that I knew at some point I would be able to get back on my practice. It was literally a case of buckling up and doing my best until I could. Through it all I never once thought of drinking. Looking back that still amazes me. Something was looking out for me.
The meditation I practice is vital to my mental health. From the day I discovered it my path changed dramatically in the sense that I was no longer driven by fear and resentment.
Learning from mistakes
Much of my approach to parenting comes from the experience of the mistakes I made, in seeing how I had damaged others through an anger driven, self-centred existence. I could see how stress was central to my problems, and more importantly my inability to deal with it.
My relationship with my dad became a lesson. I experienced the emotional damage a child collects from a fractured relationship with a damaged father. He was a morphine addict with deep emotional problems from sexual abuse as a child. He had no idea how to have a loving relationship with me.
When I met Stacey and became a dad – firstly a step dad to her daughter Frankie and then to the triplets – my role was crystal clear. If I was to be of real use as a father and husband and give my family a chance to thrive in a loving environment I had to learn to grow from stress instead of run from it.
Love, patience, tolerance
I saw it as my job to bring love, patience and tolerance to my home. To be a stable and reliable man in their lives. And I have been able to do that for the most, simply by practicing conscious awareness each day. I’m not perfect by any means but I have an ideal to grow towards. And my patience reflects in my children’s wellbeing. They are healthy, happy and confident, growing in a home free from anger and friction. My family’s mental and spiritual health come before anything. If I can raise them with love I believe they will have a foundation for the rest of their lives.
I’m making the most of the opportunity to watch my girls grow and develop
After all of the challenges we have faced my family are doing well. The triplets have begun pre school, and Frankie, my eldest, has started secondary school.
For now I’m a stay at home parent with my wife. I have been diagnosed with central pain syndrome, a permanent condition in which I have haywire pain signals firing off from my central nervous system. I have been unable to work for four months and we have had to face some big adjustments as a family.
That has been challenging, but I’m making the most of the opportunity to watch my girls grow and develop. They amaze me every day, and tire me out beyond words, but I wouldn’t change a thing. To have the title of a triplet dad is an honor I don’t take lightly. I’m a blessed man to have been entrusted with such gifts.”
Simon’s book, A meditative parent; The making of a triplet dad, is available on Amazon