I’m going to jump right in. I’m a first time mother with a beautiful, funny, intriguing, animated, cheeky, smart, incredible nine month old daughter. And I have post-natal depression. It’s almost a relief to write that here; I’ve spent the past nine months avidly trying to avoid saying it out loud for fear of – what? Fear of appearing too dramatic? Fear of people questioning my ability to raise her? Fear of what people will think of me? Fear of what it really means? All of the above. And perhaps one more – fear of failure. Admitting to this…condition…feels like admitting that I have failed at the one thing I thought would come naturally. I don’t fail at things. At anything. Ever. Even when things aren’t going exactly to plan I still succeed at whatever I put my mind to. And it never occurred to me that motherhood would be anything different. But here I am.
I’m not naïve; of course I expected the sleepless nights, the seemingly endless crying fits, the nappies that would make me want to simultaneously lose my lunch and run out the door screaming (tally 1: two so far today), the frantic trip to the docs for every little bump and spot. I expected the sleep-deprived arguments, the puke-stained clothes and hair, the baby’s uncanny ability to sense when I was about to eat something and take that as her cue to cry for food/nappy change/cuddles.
What I didn’t expect was that I would look at her for the very first time with anything less than adoration and overwhelming love. I didn’t expect to spend the first few months of her life ‘on the outside’ struggling to feel any connection to her. I didn’t expect to find it so easy to leave her with her father/grandparent/auntie so I could have some ‘me’ time. I didn’t expect to feel so un-mumsy (yes, I like to make up words).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting there. My connection to my glorious little chunk (9lb at birth!!) grows stronger every day, I don’t have to pretend I’ve fallen in love with her anymore. Because that’s all it was in the beginning – pretence. And it’s awful to say it out loud, and in fact I think this is the only time I’ve admitted it. Who wants to hear that a mother doesn’t feel love for her child? I’m not saying I bore any ill feelings towards her, not at all. I suppose I felt the way you do when you see a friend’s baby. “Awww she’s cute….OK now take her back”. Except I couldn’t return her to anyone after a cuddle.
When asked, I acknowledged the miracle of birth, of creating such a tiny human; I agreed that she was adorable in her tiny babygrows and hats; I outwardly agreed that she was worth the discomfort of pregnancy, the pains of labour. But inwardly – inwardly I felt nothing. Every day I prayed the love would come, and every day I felt worse when it didn’t. I did everything I was supposed to; I fed her, changed her, bathed her, cuddled her, sang to her…but that rush of love just didn’t happen.
Fast forward nine months and we’re there. Her personality is so beautiful I would defy anyone not to have fallen in love with her. I still have work to do, there are days when I question absolutely everything about my abilities as a mother – and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. There are days when I wonder if she wouldn’t be better off raised by someone else. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that either. Because that’s the thing about post-natal depression, it’s so very much more common that I ever realised. And even though everyone’s experience will be different, sometimes it’s just a relief to know that you’re not the only one who’s struggling. Not everyone has that movie-quality instant rush of unwavering love; sometimes it takes time to get there.
So that’s it for my first entry. A random jumble of thoughts about my journey through this crazy jungle of motherhood. I have no intended direction for this page, no grand plan or schedule. For me, it’s simply a space to say what’s in my head without the pressure of seeing someone else react to my words. Sometimes I might go back, regale you with delightful tales from the pregnancy/birth (haha, I love how I can say that with so little sarcasm), sometimes it might just be offloading my thoughts in the present. While I am blessed with an incredibly supportive network of family and friends, I’m not ready for them to hear how I really feel. Not yet. Not because I worry that they won’t love me. But I know there’s nothing they can say to make this little voice in my mind go away. It’s all on me. And maybe because I want to prove myself wrong; I want to look back at this chapter of my life and say…I didn’t fail. Yes, I went through some shit. Yes, things went off kilter for a bit. But I didn’t give up. I came through the storm.
I found the rainbow.