Depression. Even the word sounds depressing.
It’s been tough admitting this to myself let alone share it with a bunch of people I’ve never met. Or even those of you who know me and are reading this. To be honest, that scares me more.
There is so much stigma that surrounds anything remotely attached to mental health and for those of you sitting there judging, I ask you kindly to leave this page now. Still want to read on? Well, take a good look at yourself. Remember the times you felt so low you didn’t want to leave the house, or even your bed. Think about when you’ve felt so ashamed of the person you have become because you don’t even recognise yourself anymore. Then I ask you to give me a break and realise I’m only human.
Reckon you have never felt like this? Ok, well think about the times you’ve helped a friend or family member through a tough time in their life. Where you had to comfort them and tell them everything would be ok because they couldn’t see the good in their life in that moment. Now maybe you may understand my situation a little more.
I didn’t ask to feel this way. In fact I wanted the complete opposite. I never wanted to feel this inadequate, this useless, this tired and this upset, ALL OF THE TIME. I never wanted to look in the mirror and not recognise the woman stood in front of me.
I wanted to feel amazing, loved, special and happy. I wanted to treasure every single moment from the second my son was born. I wanted to enjoy every time I get to see my son smile and laugh. Which of course I do, but at the same time I don’t too.
It’s a hard concept to grasp if you’ve never felt lost before. If you’ve never felt lonely or scared. But I’m sure you have at some point in your life.
I knew life as a mother wouldn’t be plain sailing all of the time. I anticipated the tough days but hoped the good times would pull me through the bad. I knew living far from my family and friends would be tough but I didn’t realise I would feel lonely when I’m technically never alone.
Don’t misunderstand. Some days aren’t as tough as others. The smile you see upon my face is genuine. So when it’s there, know that I’m OK. But when it’s not, I’m hurting. Something has made me paranoid or upset. Something is grinding me down and making me feel like I’m unworthy of happiness. But I know that feeling isn’t forever now. I know that the good days will come and they will make me realise that everything is OK.
It occurred to me that one day, in years to come, Archie may read this blog. He may want to look back on everything in his life that I documented for the world to see. He may want to re-live these precious moments once again and it crossed my mind that I want him to understand that even though life has been incredibly tough the past four months, I have never been happier.
Dear my beautiful little boy Archie,
As I write this you’re currently in bed snoozing away and I’m watching you sleep peacefully on your monitor. The little noises you make always put a smile on my face. Before you were even a line on a pregnancy test, a child was all I ever wanted. I knew that being a mam would make my life complete, make my life worth living.
Before I knew it, there you were, in my arms. I was overwhelmed with emotion that after two very long weeks in pre-labour you were finally here. But your birth was clouded by the fact labour had been a strain on my body. I’d lost too much blood and I was suffering from quite a horrific birth.
After what only felt like minutes with you in my arms, I had to leave you. My beautiful little boy. I was wheeled into theatre and all I could think about was how far away from you I was. Of course you were safe, you were with your daddy and I know he was taking good care of you but that didn’t stop me wanting you there in my arms. I’d waited nine very long months for that moment and it was cruelly taken away from me.
I remember staring into the bright lights above me as I laid on the operating table thinking please just take me back to my family. I was so scared that those few moments I had with you after you were born were going to be my only ones with you.
Thankfully I was brought back to where I belong, with you and your daddy, but I was so weak I could barely hold you. All I wanted was to kiss and cuddle you and let you know that your mammy was here to stay. I wanted you to know that from that moment I was never going to leave you.
But later that day you had to leave my side. You fell poorly from swallowing too much fluid during birth and they needed to check you were ok. You were taken to special care where they pumped your stomach, put tubes in you and monitored you closely. Meanwhile I was just laying there, unable to move, unable to see you and tell you that everything would be ok. I’ve never felt more helpless in all of my life.
I spent my first night after giving birth without you by my side. I’d pictured the post-birth pictures and the first night as a family a thousand times and none of this was part of my plan. Your daddy was by your side making sure you were ok but all I wanted was to be there too. And because I couldn’t be, well that will always break my heart.
You spent a couple of days in special care. And one of those nights I spent alone in my hospital bed crying. Your daddy needed to rest so I sent him home for the night. All I could hear were other mums talking to their babies and soothing them as they cried and I didn’t even know if you were crying. I feared you wouldn’t even recognise me because we’d spent so long apart.
Because you were such a chunk you were doing so well (that’s my boy). Everyone was pleased with your progress and you were finally allowed to be on the recovery ward with me. But unfortunately due to my blood loss I was incredibly tired and in a lot of pain so holding you was tough going. But I tried. I exhausted myself just so that I could look into your eyes and tell you how much I loved you, but I worried you didn’t even know who I was.
You instantly bonded with your daddy which of course made me super happy. But it also made me feel sad. I wanted to share that same bond with you and I wanted you to love me.
Reality hit when we were finally able to go home. I soon realised that even though I’d been so eager to get home because I wanted to get into a routine with you, that in fact I wasn’t ready to be out of hospital. Walking, sitting, standing, everything was a struggle. I was still so weak from my blood transfusion and the strain of being a new mum was starting to show.
Once your daddy went back to work, well, that’s when it really started to get tough. I suddenly had you all to myself but I also had to make sure you had everything you needed. Your cries were hard to decode at first. I felt like I didn’t know what you wanted. Was it food? Milk? A cuddle? I really was never entirely sure. Winging it was an understatement.
The thing is while you were crying, so was I. I was crying because I just wanted to give you what you wanted but I wasn’t even sure what that was. I was crying because I was tired, and that I was lonely and that I really just wanted to hear the words “I love you” to make it all ok. I was crying because I hated the body I was staring at every day, the body that although it gave me you, I felt like it had failed me in so many other ways.
They had fed you with formula while in hospital despite me wanting to try to feed you myself. You soon weaned yourself off me and bottle was all you wanted. I never thought this would bother me. But it did. It bothered me that I couldn’t give you the thing I was supposed to be able to do. All I could think was “that’s my job, I’m supposed to be able to give you food.”
The changes to my body have been hard to cope with. I want your daddy to still look at me the way he did when we met. For him to think that I’m still the woman of his dreams and that despite this new body of mine, I’m still the most beautiful girl in the world.
Right now, I’ve gone four days without crying. The longest I’ve gone since you were born. I think I’ve turned a corner, realising that no one is ever ‘ready’ to be a parent. You can’t be ‘ready’ for the unknown because you don’t know what to expect. But I’m ready to be happy now. Ready to accept my new body for what it is. To realise that I’ve achieved so much and that I have a beautiful little boy, a loving family and a wonderful life to show for it.
In all honesty, I haven’t fully recovered from your birth. Physically and emotionally. Walking still causes me pain and the thought of what we both went through still brings tears to my eyes.
But I want you to know that I’m sorry for the fact that I’ve not been my best. I’m sorry that you’ve had to watch me cry day after day. I’m sorry I’ve been grumpy. But please don’t think any of this is your fault. I just want you to understand that I found things tough and I’m likely to have a few more days like this as you grow older. When you’re a daddy yourself one day you might realise how tough being a parent is. I want you to know that all I have ever wanted is the best for you and I continue to do my very best to give you just that.
Being a mother away from the safety of my own mother is hard. I want her to tell me that I’m doing things right and that actually I am a good mam despite what my head has been telling me. I just want to feel ok, but I will in time. I know I will.
Thank you for being my beautiful little boy. My ray of sunshine, and for reminding me that even though some days are tough, at the end of it, I have the most precious gift of all… you.
Love always, mammy xx