The following blog is a very personal account of a mother's experience of post-natal depression. It may never have happened to you, or on the contrary this may read as very familiar, either way the account shows that we are all fallible.
Read on - maybe this will touch something in you.....
So it's pretty much the same thing for me this time of year. The night's draw in, the heating comes on and I can feel myself start to cocoon. This is a familiar feeling and one that brings me a sense of comfort and safety...that is until the guilt kicks in and I'm back to 7 years ago when the darkness felt very different.
My gorgeous, wonderful first-born son arrived in the crisp, dark cold of November in 2009. He was overdue and very stubborn and so we waited and waited until on the day of my induction day when he promptly made his presence known. Following a relatively smooth labour, he arrived early hours of the following morning and thus followed our first few hours together.....
I'd like to say I cried when he was born.
I'd like to say I had a rush of love for him when I first held him.
I'd like to say I didn't panic when he started crying in the night and I was all alone wondering what the hell I was meant to be doing.
I'd like to tell you all those things because even now as I remember, I can't ignore the stab of guilt and shame that envelops me. What kind of a mother was I?! Well I'll tell you. I was the type of mother who felt a complete panic and fear every time he cried. I was someone who watched other people cuddle him and would wonder if my own 'instinct' would ever kick in. I was a mother who would dread feeding my baby. I was absolutely and completely lost.
This continued for the first few months and despite my inner turmoil and detachment from my baby, I somehow managed to keep up the appearance of 'aren't I lucky to have such a gorgeous baby boy?'. I told myself this every day and even the health visitors were convinced! Therein lies the problem actually - my sole idea of post-natal depression was of a mother crying and rocking in a corner, unable to hold or care for her baby. That's not to say that doesn't happen but the point is that I had created a very small box for PND and I simply couldn't recognise myself within it.
It wasn't until my husband challenged me one day that something changed. As I chatted away about how I was 'simply a cow. A milking cow', I saw the confusion on his face. With zero emotion and utter conviction I stated that the only reason my son wanted me was for milk and that he didn't love or need me for anything else. It was obvious to me at least that I was there for food and everyone else was there for love. And so he gently questioned me. I don't know why his challenge shifted things for me that day, I just know that hearing those words reflected back to me made me appreciate just how detached I had become. It wasn't a magic wand of course and my feelings didn't change overnight, however the realisation that I was normal and not some kind of unfeeling monster was just the balm I'd been unknowingly searching for. It took time and support but I gradually got to know my little man and he finally got to know me.
Seven years have gone by and I have heard many stories of PND since. Some are similar to mine and some are entirely different, yet the consistent thread of familiarity I share with others is the guilt. I haven't completely forgiven myself for delaying our connection together and I will wonder forever if it caused him invisible damage or pain. And yet, in knowing I am not alone in this is a small, soothing comfort. I am not a monster, I am a human being and I am learning to forgive myself when I 'get things wrong'. Maybe writing this is part of that.
If you are reading this then I was brave enough to make it public. And if it rings a bell for you then just try and remember: you're not alone either.