A separate me….a journey through Post Natal Depression

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I stared quietly and unmoving at the balloons hanging from the wall in my little hospital room; the slight breeze from the air conditioning moving them enough to draw my attention to their colour. Baby Blue.

This was a moment I suffered in silence. Alone.

A beautiful child next to me – borne that very day. But those balloons were supposed to be pink. This baby was meant to be a girl. A second boy was a surprise, but not my plan. 

It is funny to write this now, as it seems so self-indulgent, selfish, and irrational. But in the four small beige walls of that room – it was all I could feel. I had no reason to believe I was having a girl – only that I had already born a son. I had created an image of the perfect pigeon pair. She was part of my picture. I knew her name, I had brushed her hair, and I had spoken softly to her at night. The hazy image of a small girl was vanishing into the little eyes of another child. A boy! The child I had just birthed from the depths of my soul. But who was he? I didn’t know him. It was a deep shift in my reality. I imagined that little girl who was to be my daughter, skipping quietly out of that room. It was the death of an image. And it hurt.

Family arrived and took pictures. He was beautiful. Perfect, in fact. I shrugged off my heroics of a speedy natural birth – made cups of tea, and chattered away like a professional mother. No big deal. Here he laid – Son of mine.

The coming days were wild and exuberant. Full of wonderful moments that deepen the colour of sunlight, where all sounds and colours fade into a melting of soft skin, and tiny baby’s eyes. I carried that baby around in my arms in the late Australian autumn sun, like a natural. Competent. Delighted. Ethereal.

Then it happened.

I looked at my son. I looked hard and long at a face that was all I knew for over 2 years. A chapter concluded before my eyes, and it sent a shattering eruption through my heart. I thought I had done the wrong thing by him. I didn’t think he needed me anymore, and I panicked.

Emotional turmoil took up residence in my soul for what seemed like an eternity: I was nursing my new-born son, emotionally smothering my first son, and trying to catch a breath that froze in my throat every day. I lay on the grass under a brilliant blue sky as the house slept. I begged the sky to fill me, the sun to shine its light into the darkness creeping within me. I prayed for sleep, but it did not come. I see now that this was the beginning of a long journey for me. I was in a boxing ring, in the corner – sitting on my stool, short of breath and ill-prepared for the fight against my opponent Post Natal Depression. How did I get here?

I was swamped with kind offers of baby-sitting my first-son: trips to the park, walks, and simply reading him stories, but I would not let other people take him away from me. I tried to act grateful, all the while cringing at the thought of being replaced. What if he loves you more than me? What if he needs you more than he needs me?
I can read to him! I will take him for a walk. I will! And I did, even at the expense of my own and my baby’s needs. I was suffering the frightful throes of separation anxiety. I curled up next to my robust 2-year-old and sobbed the tears of a lost mother. I felt so sorry for him.

There were times I could not see my new-born son for looking at him. I called upon much help, but suffered alone. I cried a lot. I tried desperately to ‘normalise’ myself around other mum’s. Did they feel this too? Is this normal? Because nobody wants PND, nobody chooses it. It just happens, and you have to face it like a warrior everyday. It was hell.

The sad fact of my PND is how responsible I felt for it. It was like trying to steer the massive ship of motherhood against the doldrums, jumping overboard and drowning in an ocean of denial and sorrow. There is an invisible list of accomplishment as a mother, and PND is not on it! Give me the messy house. Let the washing pile up. Just don’t let this happen to me. I did all that I could to throw myself a life-raft, and as much as my body wanted to swim to the safety of shore – my head continued to drown. My mind and body were separate. I was not whole.

The short story is that I had to find help. And it was there – though it took time, patience, and perseverance. It begged forgiveness and a lot of laughter. It took mentally challenging my thoughts and recognising feelings as simply that – feelings – and not facts. Instead of pitching myself against other mum’s who I saw as perfect, I recognised my experiences as real. I learned to treat myself more gently. I lowered my expectations. I felt humbled. Not afraid.

I look at my second-born son now, and it amazes me how far from my self I strayed at this time. I used to feel immense guilt about what happened. But I also see him as the unflinching companion I had throughout this journey. He relied on me, as I came to depend on him for love and comfort. It was not always easy, but we made it. And when he buries his little head into my neck, at those times when he deeply needs me I never take it for granted. These are long moments of gratitude and deep connectedness – we are true survivors meeting in an embrace that is more powerful and fulfilling than any darkness. He is the treasure I never knew I would have.

This was my article written for The Natural Parent Magazine Spring Issue 2012.
eco conscious | intelligent living | connection parenting
Find them here: http://www.thenaturalparent.com.au

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