Not going to lie, this post is the hardest post I have written.
Depression, post natal depression, anxiety, bipolar plus every other mental illness I haven’t mentioned, yes illness, because that is what they are, not just some ploy for attention seeking like some people seem to think, are all taboo subjects. In the UK alone 1 in 4 people will experience a form of mental illness, myself included. It’s so common yet no one likes to talk about it, especially when you become a parent. Well, that’s how I felt anyway.
I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety since my early teens, thinking it was just normal and something I had to deal with. I thought as I got older, met my soulmate, got a job, became a mother that it wouldn’t come back, I was wrong. I went a few years without it affecting me, thinking its cured, and for once I felt happy, this was when I met my partner and we moved in together and got engaged. Life was pretty perfect, sure we had the normal stresses of money, and struggling to pay our bills but we made it work. Seven years down the line, we decided we were ready to extend our family and have a baby. Eight months of trying for a baby, after me thinking that something was wrong, I got pregnant. Obviously we were both over the moon, literally couldn’t of been more happy.
All through the pregnancy I was excited and anxious, like really anxious about something going wrong, the pain etc. At the time I thought it was normal nerves and apprehension about the unknown as such. It was all new to me and I thought all first time mothers felt this way. The labour was horrific which didn’t help. It was 36 hours of stressful, agonising pain. A forceps delivery later, he had arrived and he was perfect. I had complications and got rushed to theatre for half an hour after Oscar was born, I never got the skin to skin bonding that I wanted. I think thats when it all came back.
Two days later I was home, all three of us. I really struggled with being a mother to a newborn baby. I had never been around babies before so I had no idea what to do and how I would bring him up. Dan had to go back to work pretty soon after Oscar arrived, as he is self employed and needed the money. I remember the day he went to work, I cried and had a panic attack. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it on my own. I knew something was wrong. Either way I had to let Dan go and I just had to do it, easier said than done. Every time Oscar cried I would panic and not know what to do, I looked at him but I didn’t want to hold him or comfort him like a new mother should be able to do, I mean I had wanted to be a mum for so long and now that I was one, I couldn’t cope and it felt like it wasn’t what I wanted after wanting to be a mother for so long, I was so confused. Why did I feel this way? I was too ashamed to talk to Dan about it at first as I thought he would think I was a bad mum, which was a huge fear of mine. I’m not good at much, all I ever wanted was to be a good mum and I was failing at it. Dan isn’t stupid. He noticed something was wrong. He never saw me pick up Oscar over choice, he would only see me hold Oscar when he gave him to me. It got to the point where he had to tell me to hold my son and bond. He just didn’t feel like mine. It was such a weird feeling. I had carried him inside me for just over nine months feeling every little movement and every hiccup and then he was here, happy and healthy and he still didn’t feel like mine. When Dan noticed something was wrong, I broke down and told him everything I had been keeping from him for weeks, and keeping it from everyone else, my other family, my friends and even the health visitors, no one had a clue how I was feeling. He was supportive, helped me and told me to book a doctors appointment.
I was terrified to even book an appointment because to me that was it, I had admitted defeat. I had definitely failed at being a mum and Oscar was only two months old. I somehow had to effectively tell a stranger that I didn’t want to bond with my son. A massive part of me was scared because I thought I would get him taken off of me, be deemed as an ‘unfit mother’ and he would get taken into care. Although I didn’t feel like I had much of a bond with him, of course I still loved him. I made him and he was a part of me. I told the doctor everything and explained my concern that I didn’t want him taken off me. The doctor reassured me that they do everything they can to keep the child with their mother, that was a huge relief. He thinks it was a mixture of my depression returning, postnatal depression and my anxiety, he gave me some pills and sent me on my way.
I had done it. I got help and I had been a responsible parent by sorting myself out and making me well enough to bring up my boy. The pills took a while to work, but when they did I noticed a huge improvement. I was proud that I went to get help because nearly three years down the line I’ve managed to raise an awesome little boy, OK, he can be a little sod sometimes but I am proud that I managed to do it, so proud that I had Luna too and had no problems with bonding with her because I am in a good place and was overly cautious of me going into that pit again. It helped that Luna’s labour was only thirty minutes and completely relaxed compared to Oscars whirlwind of a labour.
Mums and dads, because society forgets that men suffer with this too, and its even harder to diagnose in men, well, because they are stubborn and don’t like to admit when something is wrong, don’t ever feel like a failure for having depression or any other mental illness. It’s not attention seeking, its a chemical imbalance in the brain. Any other part of our body, the slightest ache or pain, lump etc we don’t ignore. Yet the most important organ, our brain, we just expect it to be OK and ignore the signs when its telling you something is wrong. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it or to get help. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world, of course we will have mental breakdowns, scream, swear, laugh, cry and we will want help so why deprive yourself of something you can have and get help with? We are only human, we aren’t invincible and we certainly can’t do everything alone.