Q: My granddaughter has lived with my son and I since the day she was [...]
Ask Jackie: tricky relationship with bipolar daughterCreated by Jackie Highe in Ask Jackie
Q: Hi Jackie, I have a dilemma and hope you can advise. It’s quite complicated and I will try to explain as simply as I can.
I have a beautiful 23 month old granddaughter and a beautiful 27 year old daughter and they are my world. My daughter lives with her 21 year old partner and he works full time. He is a good father to my granddaughter and is very supportive of my daughter, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. They live approximately 5 minutes from my home. My daughter is expecting her 2nd baby in September.
I myself am 46 years of age and have a serious heart arrhythmia which was diagnosed 3 years ago. As you can imagine, my daughter giving birth to my granddaughter during this time has been a blessing and given me such hope for the future. I am very close to my daughter, probably because I gave her life at a very young age.. My daughter is my biggest achievement and I love her more than anyone or anything. She is a wonderful mother (as I always knew she would be) and I’m very proud of her. She came off her Bipolar medication as soon as she found out she was pregnant and has stayed off the medication due to exclusively breastfeeding. She has managed well considering but had intended on going back on her medication as soon as my granddaughter no longer wanted to breastfeed. She fell pregnant again and this has delayed her returning to her medication. During her first pregnancy she received lots of support from me and then once my granddaughter was born, I continued with the support. I visited them 2/3 times per week (night or day) depending on baby’s schedule (my daughter followed the Attachment Parenting routine, as my granddaughter was considered ‘high need’ and this worked wonders!) and if I didn’t see them (because my granddaughter’s sleep schedule was not typical day/night) I would talk to my daughter on the phone daily or via text. I have always told my daughter I am here for her – that’s my job.
My problem is that I haven’t seen my granddaughter for 4 months and I have absolutely no idea why.
As the contact became less, I began to worry. After 3 months of very little contact, I did something I know would upset my daughter – I called at her home without prior arrangement. It seemed like the only thing I could do at the time, as she was not returning my calls or texts and this was not like her. Suffice it to say, she was NOT pleased to see me! She flung open the door and asked me what I wanted! She said I had upset the baby (I would die before upsetting my granddaughter, believe me!) because I had knocked on the door and my daughter was getting her settled for bed (this was at 7pm). She was very rude to me, was very angry that I’d called and stated that she, the baby and her partner were ‘all fine’ and I’d no need to worry. I was very upset, as my intention was NOT to upset my daughter either but didn’t know what else to do. I had packages for her partner (they send their packages to my address because the door to their home is around the back of the property she lives in and not easy to find for deliveries), I had been to collect some curtains that she wanted 4 weeks earlier but not given to her as I couldn’t get hold of her, some colouring books for my granddaughter and some clothes we had bought for my granddaughter in April. I now have a collection of 7 packages that have come to my home addressed to my daughter but she won’t contact me to arrange for me to drop off!!At the time of this visit (that i wished I’d never made!), my daughter told me she was exhausted and that her thyroid condition was not under control and making her feel worse – I replied that surely then, due to her tiredness, was a better time than ever for me to help out and not to struggle on her own (her partner works 10 hour shifts some days and is not around to help). She didn’t answer me!
I have always been guided by my daughter where visits and calls are concerned – by this, I mean that because my Daughter’s parenting is based on my Granddaughters needs (sleep, meals, naps etc) I cannot call around or call the house phone without prior arrangement. We have a ‘missed call’ system, where I give her a ,missed call’ on her mobile and she calls me back when she is able. My granddaughter does not have a typical ‘schedule’ but sleeps when she is tired, eats when she is hungry… and my daughter basis her schedule around this and nothing or nobody must interfere with this. If anyone interrupts the ‘schedule’, then my daughter becomes stressed and agitated and gets very upset. I have always supported this for her sake, as I understand more than anyone that she is also trying to manage her Bipolar. Unfortunately, other family members have not been so understanding and think she does these things to prevent them from seeing my granddaughter and because they think my daughter is ‘jealous’ of the affection they receive from her! Yes, my family members are crazy but that’s a whole different story!!
On top of all this, my daughter informed me in April (while on the phone) that her obstetrician wanted her to go for a Glucose Tolerance Test. My daughter said that this was a routine test that all pregnant women have now. I am not stupid and know that these tests are not routine in pregnancy! She said the test was in July and could I go with her, as it was at a hospital out of town. She didn’t want to take my granddaughter, as she would have to wait at the hospital for 4 hours and my granddaughter doesn’t travel well. I said ‘of course I will come with you, what date?’, she replied she couldn’t remember at that moment but would let me know. She never got back to me! This is just not like her.
There is so much more but feel I have rambled for too long. I am so confused. I want her to be able to manage on her own but worry that she might not be. If she isn’t, then I really don’t know what to do. Maybe she is managing but just doesn’t want my help/support. This really doesn’t make sense to me, as I still should be able to see/speak to my daughter and visit my granddaughter, whether I’m helping or not! Unfortunately, I am all too aware that time is precious… I am at high risk of a sudden cardiac arrest and feel that I am missing out on my family growing. Nothing fills me with more happiness than seeing my daughter and granddaughter interact together – it’s a beautiful thing and when we are all together, as 3, they are the most precious moments… this loss of contact is breaking my heart.
Another thing to mention is that during my granddaughter’s 23 months, there have been periods of 2/3 weeks where I don’t get to see her because of her sleep schedule. As she has got older, I found that she was becoming very distressed when it came time for me to leave/say goodbye after a visit. She did not do this with anyone else. I determined that this was because I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks and she was now realising ‘separation’. This was also very upsetting for me, as I want to make her happy not sad! My daughter and I decided that when it was time for me to leave, I would creep out, not say ‘goodbye’ and not make a fuss. My daughter said this system worked and she didn’t notice… thank goodness!! We had a particularly ‘upsetting’ incident at the beginning of April, when my daughter had a baby scan appointment at hospital. It was arranged that I would take the 3 of them and would take my granddaughter to the pond within the hospital grounds to feed the ducks while they were in the scanning room. Unfortunately, my granddaughter had not seen me for 3 weeks due to her wonky ‘sleep schedule’ so when they got into the car, her face lit up but she couldn’t come to me as she had to go in her car seat. She was devastated!! Then, at the hospital, she wouldn’t settle due to her devastation and the fact that they took her in with them and really she wanted to stay with me! My daughter wasn’t pleased and got completely stressed. I felt totally to blame. I did get to take her to the pond, as my daughter had to go back in for a second scan and my granddaughter was overjoyed! I know this annoyed my daughter, as she commented on it and told me I couldn’t take her to her next appointment ‘as she didn’t want her daughter upset again’… As you can imagine, this remark devastated me! I really do hope that my daughter hasn’t stopped me from seeing my granddaughter because she gets upset when I have to go or when she can’t come to me! I believe the reason for this is because I don’t see her regularly enough and that’s only because of the parenting path my Daughter has chosen and that I have supported. Little ones need consistency and if I am ‘coming and going’ (not through her fault or mine) then this may become an issue with her but the answer is not to stop me seeing her surely? There is an old african saying – it takes a village to raise a child and I am the only ‘village’ that my granddaughter (and daughter) has. I have never said any of this to my daughter, mainly because of her Bipolar.
You can understand my confusion and my need to get this resolved somehow. My daughter’s birthday is on 17th August, my granddaughter’s on the 24th August, my 2nd grandchild is due on September 15th and I have a big MRI Scan for my heart in Leicester (250 mile round trip) in about 6 – 8 weeks… I feel like I’m running out of time and that if things are not resolved by then.. then they never will be.
Please accept my apologies for this being so long but needed to ‘get it out’. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
A: I can see why you’re worried. It’s possible that your daughter is struggling to cope with her illness without medication, and the change in her attitude could be due to that and to the emotional and hormonal imbalance that happens to every woman during pregnancy.
You can only try to see her on her own terms, and when you do, be as calm as possible. Don’t rise to the things she says and the way she acts. She loves you – she needs you to be strong and loving and above all there. She knows you love her and your grandchild. She knows her daughter loves you in return.
Don’t over think this. For you own health’s sake you need to step back a little. Stay on good terms and don’t push.