This is a follow up post to this one both of which I wrote in the wake of post-natal depression. As I’ve said before, I hope that in sharing my experience it will help other women who also suffer to share. Despite the statistics which show that many women experience some type of mood disorder after having a baby, it is still a condition that rarely gets discussed by mothers. Hopefully we can change this.
When the Abomb was small, so many people commented to us that he was a dream baby. I’d put him down for a sleep and my mother would say, “Just like that, he goes down? No crying, no protest? That’s amazing!” At the time, I didn’t really hear their words. They didn’t see C and I driving round the block for the umpteenth time or see me pushing him backwards and forwards in his pram over the lounge room floor trying to get him to sleep.
It was only after Sdash was born that I came to realise that the Abomb was more than a dream baby. He was an uber-angel. Extraordinary by any standards. When he slept, he slept for a long time. Occasionally we had to help him get to sleep but this didn’t last long. He rarely cried and had an extremely affable and happy disposition. On top of that, he was gorgeous. He wowed everyone from the moment he was born. The other women in my mother’s group always used to comment on how gorgeous he was. He still has people stop in the street, in the supermarket, in the park to comment on his beauty and smile.
In comparison Sdash always seemed out of sorts. In the first 7 weeks of his life, he cried a lot. If he wasn’t sleeping (and he didn’t do much), he was squawking or crying. It was hard to feel close to him and I couldn’t help but assume that he was just ‘difficult’ rather than thinking deeper about what was making him cry, whether it was pain or discomfort. This meant that I rarely touched him apart from to breast-feed. I soon resented him due to what I believed to be his temprement. C and I would confide to each other that we didn’t feel close to him and that we were waiting to fall in love. It was almost our little joke and I think I felt affirmed that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Sharing these feelings normalised them for me and stopped me from looking harder at them.
It was by week 3 that I knew Sdash was not a sleeper. That he couldn’t get himself to sleep and even when he was asleep, found it difficult to stay that way. Everyone speaks of the 3 week change in babies but I couldn’t remember that with the Abomb. I began at this point to question my skills as a mother and to doubt my decision to have another child. I began to feel like having Sdash had ‘ruined’ everything; had ‘ruined’ the perfect life that C, the Abomb and I had shared. I began desperately to wish things could go back to how they were. I began missing the Abomb as I spent more and more time trying to get S to sleep. That’s how the weeping began. I would weep with the knowledge that we could never go back to the way things were; that the rarefied bond I had with the Abomb was gone in that form forever. And of course, with all these feelings, I began increasingly to resent Sdash.?I laughed in the beginning about how I felt like Sdash’s ‘wet nurse.’ In hindsight, this was a real sign of the post-natal depression. I felt completely detached from him. During my hours trying to get him to sleep I never looked at him as a baby, let alone my baby. I saw a disembodied object in front of me. One whose purpose it was to test me, to make things difficult, to take me away from my beautiful first born, to take away my sleep, to rebel.
I oscillated between feeling like a failed mother and feeling that S was at fault, taking everything that had been easy and beautiful in our lives away. The weeping increased. I remember leaving the house early one morning to walk with S in the sling. I was crying hard. We’d hardly slept at all and the idea of a walk made me feel weak with fatigue. But Sdash wouldn’t sleep and we needed to leave ever-closing walls of the house. I’d spoken briefly to my mother but couldn’t continue the conversation. I didn’t know what to say or how to speak the pain I was feeling. I wept the entire walk and for the first time was struck by the fact I couldn’t control my thoughts. Again I put it down to lack of sleep and while that was definitely the preciptator, part of me also recognised feelings and thought-patterns I’d had before. That’s when I began to feel scared. I called my doctor hoping that a conversation with her would make things clearer.
To be continued…….