Oh my word. When exactly did this happen?
My son, my tiny, tiny baby boy, is growing up. Yesterday he chased after Eric, demanding a “big hug!”. He can put the balls in the ball-run at the soft play centre like nobody’s business. He plays with other children, and is so gentle and patient with those younger or smaller than him. He’s taken a few steps, and when he’s got his walker he can run. Last week we had to buy walking shoes, as his feet were squeezed by his cruisers. We’re also going to have to buy some more 12-18 month clothes at some point: they seemed impossibly big when he was born. Now, his newborn clothes reach his knees and his elbows, and he’s into the toddler ranges in most shops. He’s the most loving, affectionate little boy I’ve ever met. I love him so deeply it hurts.
This journey, it hasn’t been easy. My pregnancy was wanted, but so unexpected. We were fraught with worry all the way through; Joe and I had to learn to be a couple before this ticking time bomb exploded into our lives and made us a family. There was confusion over my due date, with two and a half weeks between my dates and my midwife’s. At twelve weeks, when I suffered bleeding, I was convinced we were going to lose him; that feeling stayed with me throughout the pregnancy. He was born eight days before the midwife’s date, and a month before mine, perfect in every way.
Bonding with David took me a long time; longer, perhaps, than it took Joe. There was this expectation that I’d be ecstatic to have my new baby, that I’d love every element of motherhood. Who in their right mind loves cracked and bleeding nipples, sleepless nights, shitty nappies, and not being able to sit down on less than six layers of padding? I was severely anaemic, and had to take iron tablets. I was ill, and tired, and I hated breastfeeding with a passion, but I forced myself to continue until David was a month old, the time that I could express milk and introduce bottles. I was adamant that I would NOT use formula, that I’d be a terrible mother if I did. I remember sitting up and trying to feed David, and passing out while I was feeding him. I remember sitting in a clients’ offices when David was ten days old, trying to feed him and failing, and feeling so miserable.
When he was about eight weeks old, I started the Pill. It made me bleed heavily, and I became very anaemic again. I couldn’t express nearly as much milk as before, and David would either go hungry, or start having formula. He started on formula, and I knew that I was supposed to feel like a terrible mother. In reality, I was relieved.
I’d had some mental health support from a community mental health nurse since David was four weeks old, and when he was about three months I was able to see a psychiatrist. That psychiatrist prescribed a low dose of Sertraline, an antidepressant that is safe to take whilst breastfeeding. I wish I could say that it provided an instant fix, because it didn’t. I stopped feeling suicidal, yes. In fact, I stopped feeling much at all. My visits to see him consisted of “Yes, I’ve got side effects, no, I’m not suicidal, yes, therefore things must be much better, see you in six weeks.” In June, when David was six months old, I could take the side effects no longer, and stopped taking the Sertraline. I felt better almost as soon as I stopped taking it, well, as soon as the week of withdrawal symptoms had passed. At the end of August I managed to get myself discharged from community mental health support, too, and I felt free.
We’ve muddled along for the last few months, and things have slowly been improving. I’m not sure at which point it was that I finally felt better, more at home with myself. Maybe I’ve just settled into motherhood now, and maybe it’s just because David is just easier to look after, more enjoyable.
Because David is easy, these days. He’s a toddler, he understands what I’m saying and responds to it. He stops playing to give me a hug, then goes off and does his own independent little thing. He’s mimicking what we say all the time (including “crap!” in the car the other day.) Even his tantrums, although trying, are an interesting side of his personality that has only just started to show. When I was in the darkness, I never thought I’d feel the kind of joy that I feel watching him grow and change and learn. Now that I am here, I appreciate him even more.
If you are reading this, and you feel like I did, talk to somebody. Tell them how you feel, and get some help and support. It is not your fault, you are not a bad parent, and you will get better. It’s worth all the hardship just to come through it and feel alive.