There was a moment a few months ago, that has probably been repeated since, that has stuck in my mind. I was in the shower, and Tim came in holding Ava. She grinned that gorgeous gummy grin, and pressed herself against the shower door, trying to get to me. What struck me was that this was a physical reality of what was going on in my head.
After my Wednesday post, I felt like there was more to say. I didn’t feel like I had explained myself properly, or told the whole story. I told you how I got PND, but not what it did to me.
I spoke of the relief of Ava’s birth. Maybe that seems normal and fine to you. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘what’s the big deal? I’m sure after twenty five hours of labour most women would feel relieved.’ But the emotions of her delivery were in such stark contrast to the emotions of the other three, that it has plagued me with guilt.
When my eldest, Taylah, was born, I fell instantly in love. I know a lot of women don’t, but I did. I was smitten. I completely forgot the last thirty three (and a half) hours, and gazed at tiny perfection. She stole my heart then, and she has owned it since.
When Bridie was born, I so desperately wanted another girl. To lift that little leg, and then gaze at all of her, was such a joyous moment. Unlike Taylah, she was planned, and so very wanted.
Bailey was my boy. I had been terrified at the idea of a boy, but when he was born, something changed inside of me.
It was almost a spiritual moment. I was so absorbed by him, it didn’t even register till later that the midwife told him off for weeing on her.
So to meet Ava and just have relief? Well it was devastating. To look at this little person and know she was beautiful, know she was a miracle, and know that she had beaten the odds, but not feel it? I can’t describe what that has done to me.
Now I am a good mother, and I love my kids. I loved Ava. I fed her, changed her and bathed her. I did my best to get her on a flexible routine. I sang songs, and told stories, did ‘this little piggy.’ I tended to her when she cried, I took her to the doctors when she was sick. But I never connected. It felt like there was a pane of glass between us; I just couldn’t get close.
It was different for Tim. For him it was instant. In fact she was the first one that he bonded with so quickly. In delivery, I had to pry her off him, and she, only minutes old, gazed at him and cooed. In one way it was good. I was glad one of us clicked with her. But it also made it worse. I am her mother. I should have bonded.
As the months passed, it wasn’t just Ava. Being on bed rest had changed the way a lot of things at home had worked. The kids had less supervision now; they played more together. Which is a good thing, but it also meant that at times I could lie on the couch and not do anything, and they didn’t think anything of it. A sedate mum was a normal mum. I am not naturally a sedate person, so for them to think the ‘not me’ was me, was hard. Or it would have been if I could care enough to feel that.
There were anxiety attacks. My heart would race, and I would feel rushed and stressed. And they would come on at the most random times. I would realise that it was five o clock, and I should cook dinner, and I would panic. Or I needed to pack the baby bag, and suddenly I couldn’t cope.
It got to the point, before I got help, that I was drinking a bottle of Gin a week. Two or three glasses every night, to calm my frazzled nerves. The alcohol eased the anxiety, but it added to the guilt. I was concerned I was becoming an alcoholic. When you want to drink at ten in the morning, every morning, it starts becoming a problem.
But the gin made me a fun mum. It made me dance. I could put the iPod on, pour a drink, and dance while I cooked the dinner. My kids liked me; I liked me. Even my husband saw me smile, but he knew my secret.
There were times when the not feeling got to the point that I was desperate to do something. I couldn’t lie on the couch, with my kids playing doctor on me, and cope with the nothingness. I thought, more than once, what it would feel like to cut myself. I haven’t admitted this before. It might make my mother cry. I would never have hurt the kids, and I was never suicidal. But I thought that maybe, just maybe if I hurt myself it would feel better, because it would be something. Anything is better than nothing.
It was at that point that I got help. With Tim by my side, we went to the doctors, and I admitted the impossible. I didn’t want to say it. I was scared that if I did it would somehow be true. Or that people would think less of me, or perhaps try too hard, hover when all I wanted was space. It would make me less of a mother. After all, what mother wants to admit that they just don’t feel that close to their baby?
Thankfully, for me, the drugs worked quickly, and with no side effects. Within a week I started to feel better, and within a month I felt great. The doctor and I explored the possibility of counselling, but she said in my case it probably wasn’t necessary. Because Tim has had the snip, and we are not planning any more kids, I probably didn’t need to talk about it. It would be different if it was the first baby and we wanted more. Also visiting a psych would just be another thing for me to do, and I already felt too stretched. For me it would be another pressure. She suggested waiting until I felt the need to, (if I felt the need to.)
I wish I could say the story ends there. I wish I could say I’m out of the woods, and all healed and whole and ready to party. I am better. I smile and laugh and dance without Gin. I feel great. I see the beauty in all my kids, especially Ava. There is no glass there anymore. I can reach out and touch her; hold her in my arms and squeeze her tight.
But occasionally I forget my tablets. And I notice it. The first thing that takes a hit is my self esteem. Faulty thinking enters in. ‘You’re not a good mum. You messed up today. You need to do better.’ I think all mums feels like this at some time, but PND argues it in such a way, that it convinces you of your utter hopelessness.
So this story is not ended. It’s a ‘watch this space.’ Sometimes I worry I won’t ever function without medication. Sometimes I am scared of the day my doctor tells me it’s time to wean. What if my brain is broken forever? What if I never feel normal again? What if I look at that precious face, and see just another child. One of the brood. Another mouth to feed, and body to clothe. What if I stop taking notice of her every beautiful detail?
Right now that seems impossible, so I’ll soak this moment up. So that instead of seeing the glass, I see the glory. Instead of the pain, I’ll see the person. Instead of fear, I’ll look into the eyes of the future.
And the future…well she is beautiful.