I began writing this post days ago and it quickly turned into my entire adult life story but do you know what?!
You don’t need to know all of that. I know all of it but I still don’t understand why I feel (or rather don’t feel) the way I do.
How can a mother love her children differently from each other?
If you know the answer I’d love to know because it breaks my heart to hug my daughter & feel empty.
I have kept this bottled up inside for too long and it eats away at me, I feel guilt for not melting when she hugs me, sorrow as I know she feels it too, she sees it in my eyes & she watches on as I cuddle her baby brother.
I want to love her the way I love my boys but something inside just doesn’t light up like it should 🙁
Both of my boys (10 years & 9 months) were unplanned pregnancies but my daughter (2 years) was the result of years of trying, 8.5 stone in weight lost between me & hubby to qualify for our 1 shot at IVF on the NHS (which we found out I was pregnant 1 week before starting!) & a lovely holiday in france.
In theory she should be the precious long fought for little miracle that lights up my life but in reality I hated that pregnancy as I found it exhausting after viral meningitis at 4 weeks pregnant i was left with post viral effects and severe migraines I needed medication to prevent as they were so debilitating. By 20 weeks I had been so low and emotional I saw my GP who diagnosed antenatal depression.
Then started a rollercoaster of guilt, self loathing, numbness, fear & darkness. Why wasn’t I happy to be pregnant with my miracle baby? Why was I not excited to be having a girl? Why did I feel this sense of impending doom?
I was so convinced I had all of these feelings because my body was preparing me for something dreadful to happen that I completely detached myself from everything.
When she was born I beat myself up for failing to achieve the VBAC birth I had longed for. Then she reacted badly to the combination of antidepressants & migraine medication in my breastmilk so I had to stop breastfeeding which I had so desperately wanted to succeed at this time round. I still believed that something terrible was going to happen.The first few weeks after we came home were a heat wave, it was too hot to cuddle up constantly she was grumpy and just wanted to be lay down in her vest suit in the cool.
She was very colicky and every evening was a drama with screaming and pacing the house jiggling her to calm her. I couldn’t put her down and I felt smothered. I hated not being able to cuddle up with my oldest son on the sofa in the evening anymore so my mood darkened quickly and I shut myself away. I stopped going out and about, made excuses not to see my friends & lost touch with work colleagues. My mum was the one who noticed it first as she is a trained counsellor. She encouraged me to speak to my GP and offered to look after baby whilst I went.
I increased my meds and about 8 weeks later I began to feel an improvement in my mood. During this time I found a stretchy wrap my friend had given me as a gift and remembered another friend posting things about a sling meet on facebook so I asked her for help to use it as I’d heard it could help soothe colicky babies and at this point I’d give anything a try.
We loved it! She settled quickly, evenings were much less stressful, I could cuddle up with her brother again.
I had my hands free to help with homework & hold his hand (whilst he would still let me) but most of all I began to feel like we were bonding.
She had just started smiling and I loved looking down at her little face snuggled up close to me smiling. I stroked her hair, held her hand and talked to her as we walked and I began to get my confidence back to go out a bit more so we went to playgroup & slingmeets and had walks in the park.
I found a whole new circle of friends and after opening up about my depression on facebook many of my friends opened up about theirs too. I wasn’t the only one! I had found my support network. We all helped each other & shared our highs and lows. the darkness was lifting at last & I was bonding with my daughter but it was nearly the end of my maternity leave and my thoughts turned to this.
How could I go back to work now when I was just starting to enjoy my baby? I was just about coping with the daily routine now so how would I cope with 3 days of work in there too? I was scared I would fall apart again.
I finally admitted how I felt to my husband and we discussed the situation. eventually we decided we could afford for me to be a stay at home mum for a year or so to give me time with our daughter but I would have to return to work to work my notice period as we couldn’t afford to have to pay back my maternity pay. Those few weeks were awful I didn’t sleep, couldn’t focus, felt like I was drowning. I had to start taking an anti anxiety medication to help me face working. It was just too much to plaster a fake smile on my face all day & force myself to chat to my colleagues when all I really wanted to do was hide under a table & pretend it wasn’t happening.
2nd day back at work I had felt really sick all day. I put it down to the anxiety at first but then it struck me!
I was 2 weeks late!!! I was pregnant again………..
everything fell apart. How could I cope? Would I love this baby? How would my newly forming bond with my daughter be affected? I hit rock bottom quickly.
The black cloud hovered over me long after I finished my notice period at work. I spent as much of everyday having slingy cuddles with my daughter and doing activities to try & strengthen our bond before baby arrived but nature had other plans. From 16 weeks I was in & out of hospital in agony. I had SPD (hormonal changes cause the ligaments holding the pelvis together to loosen causing pain & the pelvis to twist).
From 20 weeks I was on crutches, I couldn’t carry my daughter anymore and she was only 14 months old. she didn’t understand why mummy couldn’t pick her up anymore. I spent as much time as I could cuddled up on the sofa with her but she wanted to be off exploring & playing like every child her age. I couldn’t get to playgroup most weeks or slingmeet on my crutches it was just too much and so I withdrew again. My dad took her to parks and play centres to wear her out for me and they developed a fantastic bond.
I loved seeing my baby girl happy & glowing, she loves her granddad so much but at the same time it hurt that she didn’t feel that way about her mummy. By the time her baby brother arrived in November I could barely walk around the house. I had been in and out of hospital for months and had to leave her at home with daddy.
She stopped wanting to give me cuddles & wanted daddy all the time which drove a wedge firmly between us again.
I had chosen to do things differently this time round. I had an elective c-section as I could not face the guilt & upset caused by yet another failed vbac plus I had been told the risks were so high for various medical reasons. I chose to formula feed from the start. I felt I couldn’t risk my baby boy reacting badly and the fear and guilt that brought again. I felt in control & positive for the first time in ages.
I was off my crutches, in minimal pain & allowed home 36 hours after his birth. He was happy and healthy. My older son adored him and so did I right from the first second I saw him I never wanted to put him down.
But why? Why him but not her? what was wrong with me? and the guilt starts all over again……………
I am still battling my PND but I have rebuilt some of my bond with my daughter and continue to work at it.
I am now actively trying to raise awareness of both PND and the positive effects babywearing can have for mother & baby in coping with and eventually overcoming depression through my involvement with Sling It Babywearing and helping with @PNDandme hope pack appeal to collect 125 preloved stretchy wraps to help mums on mother & baby mental health units to bond with their babies.
To find out more about babywearing and its benefits visit: www.slingitnw.com
If you would like to write a guest post around your experience with PND please get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The more people talk about PND the less of a taboo subject it becomes