It’s such a cliche, but it really is true. Time has flown since my last blog post, and time has flown since my baby boy was born – I’m finding it hard to believe that he will be a year old next week!
So there’s something I need to get off my chest, because I don’t feel I can move forward with this blog until I say this. I’ve gone round in circles in my mind whether to post this, but I figure if it helps just one person feel normal when they read it, it’s worth sharing. So here goes…
Firstly, I love my boy to bits. He’s my absolute world, and I don’t say that lightly. But the past year has been hard. Really hard. Not just ‘I’ve not slept properly for the last year’ hard (although Christ, that alone is tough enough), but ‘sobbing myself to sleep on numerous occasions’ hard.
See when my baby was 4 weeks old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. My husband went back to work when Stanny was 3 days old. The baby blues were in full swing, I hadn’t slept properly in days (or rather months, because let’s face it pregnant sleep isn’t the best!) and I was still physically and mentally recovering from giving birth. I wasn’t enjoying motherhood. I felt alone. So alone. I hadn’t got that rush of amazing you’re supposed to get when they placed my boy on me and I struggled to bond with him. All I got after giving birth was a huge sense of relief that after two lost babies and 9 months of terror, I finally had my boy in my arms. I had spent so long focusing on actually getting him here safely, that I never really prepared myself for actually having him here.
So what happened next was hugely overwhelming, and I felt so incredibly guilty for not loving every moment, when he had been so wished for and for so long. Didn’t I know that I was one of the lucky ones? There were women out there who would kill to be in my position…I had been one of them just a few months previous. What an ungrateful bitch. And all anyone told me was to “enjoy every minute” because “it goes so fast”.
Yes I cared for my boy, and yes I was doing everything to keep him safe and happy, and I also had plenty of moments spent just gazing and drinking him in but I didn’t feel a connection and it broke my heart.
I broke down to my husband one night. I was having panic attacks walking to the local shop. I was shutting myself in the bathroom and sobbing, hoping that someone would read my mind and stick all the pieces back together. I’d look at my baby and feel no sense of recognition. The pressure of these words everyone kept saying was just too huge for me to bear anymore. I wasn’t enjoying every minute, and I felt like I should have been. Then he said the most incredible thing to me. “What’s to enjoy right now? It’s hard, really hard. The only reason everyone tells you to enjoy it all is because they didn’t and they wish they had.” It was a definite light bulb moment, one which has stuck with me and one which I would repeat to any new mum.
Luckily I had a wonderful health visitor who I spoke to a lot. She was a great support, and she arranged a private baby massage course for me to help with bonding and encouraged me to seek further help, as did my husband. And I did. My GP was fantastic, in fact his first question to me after the pleasantries was “and how are you coping?”. I didn’t have to explain myself to him or justify myself. I just said “I’m not” and he instantly got it. And almost a year down the line he is still fantastic. A few weeks ago he did a phone consultation about some medication for Stanley. After we had sorted that, his next question was “and how are you doing?”. And for the first time I said “I’m doing ok” and I meant it.
Now my baby is about to turn one, I have mixed feelings. In my low moments, I feel like PND has stolen the first year from me but I know that’s not quite true. The journey has been a hard one, but I’d do it ten times over for him. I didn’t get that instant rush, but I got to fall head over heels in love with my incredible boy. We’ve had some wonderful days, some wonderful moments. I may not have a tiny baby in my arms any more, but I have a chatty, funny, incredibly loving little character who is so interested in the world. Yes he’s a challenge, but he lights up my life in ways I’d never thought possible. I don’t ever want to imagine a life without him. I could talk for hours about all the feelings I had back then, all the things I wish had been different, but I can’t change any of it. I’m just tired of hiding it. I had post-natal depression. I still have post-natal depression. Some days I can take on the world, other days I want to shut the world out, but most days now are just ‘normal days’. And honestly? I think that’s ok.
So a message to anyone reading this who thinks “that’s how I feel”. Please talk about it. Please seek help. And please please know that it won’t last forever.