I have been toying with the idea to write about my experience with postnatal depression and bonding problems. On writing this, I hope to highlight the importance of talking about a taboo such as this.
My earliest memory of knowing I didn’t want to be a mother was when I was eight years old. My mother was a child minder, as well as bringing up myself and my two brothers and family life was a struggle for her. She battled on a daily basis with breaking up arguments between my brothers and the children in her care, pushing a double push chair with two toddler’s sat inside enjoying the ride and cooking a hot meal every night that everyone agreed with and would enjoy. Being a mother appeared to be hard work and a life style choice that everyone seemed to adopt. Waiting with my mother, for my brothers to come out of school, I would look at the other mothers in the play ground and feel for them. Seeing them provoked a feeling of pity, sadness and loss. A loss of life. A life wasted on beckoning to every call and need from a child.
Seventeen years too young, is the age I fell pregnant with my first child. I felt on top of the world and special to be carrying a child within my womb.
My first scan fell on the seventh of January 2009, three days after my eighteenth birthday. My baby wriggled around on the screen and the midwife smiled sweetly and told me the baby is beautiful and healthy. Tears streamed down my face but not for the reasons the midwife was thinking. They were tears of sadness as I realised I didn’t want this baby. There were no feelings of love that rushed to me, no warming of the heart or thoughts such as ‘how lucky am I?.’ Inside I was numb and empty. My elated feelings of discovering my pregnancy were tainted as sadness contaminated me. I held a constant low feeling and I was unable to bond with my unborn baby.
As my baby grew within me stretch marks etched their ugly reminder on my body that I was soon to be a mother. All control I once had on my life and body had been snatched from me and I was terrified what the future held. Every day I would try to spark my maternal feelings. I would watch a show about teen mums and mirror their mannerisms and things they said in the hope I would then be fixed. Joining a mother and baby group also failed my expectations of a quick fix. I was hopeful talking about my pregnancy to other young mums would make it better and my bond would soon appear.
Suicidal thoughts crept in and I felt awful that my sad feelings had taken a sinister turn and all hope of being okay had now faded. This illness I was experiencing was winning and I had no control of it.
I began to accept I wasn’t a real woman. When I was made, my maternal instincts hadn’t been built within my heart. Being honest with myself in this brutal way made me feel sick with fear and cry so hard. I kept telling myself, ‘you can’t hate your baby forever.’
Nine hours and forty six minutes after arriving at the hospital I pushed my son into the world. He didn’t cry and was taken away to be resuscitated.
My baby took his first breath and I let out a sigh of relief. The midwife swaddled him in a blanket and I was asked if I wanted to hold him. No I thought. Yes I said. Placing him onto me the midwife stood back to admire this picture perfect moment. I looked down at him, so perfect, so at peace and innocent. Instead of smiling because I felt happy, I smiled weakly because if I didn’t smile I would cry. The flicker of instincts vanished now I knew he was safe. Oh god there is no bond I thought.
My baby was named Dougie.
My first night in hospital was horrible. I was taken to a postnatal ward and placed on a bed situated by a window. The midwife told me to buzz if I need anything and at that she pulled the curtain around me. Dougie was sleeping soundly and balloons and cards from family surrounded me painting a happy scene. Sitting on the bed in front of Dougie I let go of my emotions that I had been trying so hard to keep in. Putting my head in my hands I silently cried so no one would hear me. Dougie was here and now there is no going back. Bleary eyed because I had so many tears, I looked up to the sky and for the first time in my life I mouthed please God help me.
A month after Dougie was born I spoke about my problems for the first time to my aunt online. She promised to allow my secret to also become hers.
Three days after our conversation the home phone rang and my mothers normal perky tone turned into a whisper. I knew it was my aunt on the phone. Some minutes later my mother entered the room and sat on the sofa opposite to me. Turning to me she asked if I was okay. I considered lying but the urge to give up over powered me and I broke down in tears and repeated the words ‘I just don’t want him’ over and over again. My mother told me I would be okay and her and my dad will support me.
My feelings about being a mother didn’t improve. My mother helped me by having a health visitor come to the house. She told me I had Postnatal depression that had developed from Prenatal depression and it was important to see a doctor straight away. This was some closure as I knew a illness was living in me and once it goes I will then be the best mother in the world.
Postnatal depression became worse as each day went by and I started to feel suicidal and often wanted to run away. Over the years since Dougie was born I have sought help from two counsellors, prescribed anti depressants, spoken to a number of health care professionals and friends and family. Nobody had been able to help me.
Postnatal depression left a path of destruction and left me with a condition called bonding problems with an older child. My symptoms were similar to Postnatal depression and included being unable to show and receive affection, feeling no joy from being a parent and feeling detached from Dougie. The symptoms were difficult to experience and it broke my heart as well as Dougie’s. People seek fame and money but all I wanted was to love being a parent.
I had missed six years of mothers days, birthdays, and Christmases. Most importantly it had taken away everyday of my sons life from me. There was no joy or happiness. People complimented myself as a mother, however they didn’t see what was inside. Everyday I carried out the jobs a mother should do but I didn’t experience the emotions. Dougie felt alien to me and every so often in a bid to bond I would look through the memory box to try and spark that warm fuzziness of happiness within me but was only greeted by a blank emotion.
My blog is about how I recovered through my own techniques from a condition that isn’t spoken about. Limited information is available and I strongly believe there are many sufferers that are too afraid to speak out. I hope my blog empowers women.
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