We all have an image in our heads on what motherhood is going to be like. We see images in magazines and on social media of new Mums, all fresh faced and back in their skinny jeans, making it look like having a new born is a breeze.
I had all these amazing ideas of what being a Mum was going to entail. It would be the most magical thing to ever happen. I would spend hours cuddling my sleeping baby, go out for lots of coffee mornings with friends, maybe even get down the gym once or twice a week. I was going to look just like those smiling women in the magazines.
But in reality the first few months of motherhood were hands down the hardest thing I have ever had to do! There is no way to accurately describe it. My whole life changed overnight. I thought I was prepared – mentally, emotionally, physically… But really, there is no way to truly prepare for the difference having a child makes in your life.
We had spent 5 years waiting for our miracle baby boy to arrive so I was sure I would get the sudden rush of love that everyone talks about. But I didn’t, and that made me feel incredibly guilty. We had worked so hard to get to this position and yet I found myself craving my old life. Before Max came along Adam and I didn’t have a care in the world. We had date night Fridays, lazy Sundays watching the latest Netflix boxsets, enjoyed 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and could be spontaneous and leave the house at the drop of a hat to go anywhere we wanted. Now we were thrust into a world where we couldn’t leave the house without taking half of its contents with us and planning a week in advance.
I am very good at putting on a front. When friends and family would visit us in those early weeks I would brush my hair, put on some blusher and smile my way through them cooing over Max and telling me how happy I should be. But truthfully I was a mess. My brain was mush and no longer worked in the way it used to. Tiny decisions felt overwhelmingly hard. It took days to get one small task done. All thoughts just swirled around and around in my brain and I couldn’t make heads or tails of them. I was SO tired. I was afraid I’d never be myself again. I was afraid I was a terrible mother. I was afraid this was my new normal.
I would shut myself away, too anxious to leave the house. I would spend hours every day crying and begging my husband to just take the baby away – I couldn’t face being around him. My hormones were all over the place. Memories of the traumatic labour I had been through still haunted me. I was in agony on a daily basis. We were surviving on 3 hours sleep a night if we were lucky and dealing with a baby who had a severe case of reflux.
I was struggling to form a bond with Max. I just couldn’t cope. The pain I was in on a daily basis and the fact that my iron levels were so low from the blood loss at birth meant I just didn’t have the energy to look after him. I would sit and watch Adam feed him, change him and calm him knowing that these were all the things that I should be doing. I just didn’t feel like his Mum.
Adam and my family were brilliant. They would cuddle me when I cried and never once judged me or made me feel bad for the way I was feeling. They’d try their best to pick me up when I was at my lowest.
It’s now so clear to me that I was suffering from Post Natal Depression, albeit a minor form. I was considering seeking help but then something suddenly clicked. It was 3am and I was doing the night feed and there in the darkness, just me and Max, something amazing happened, he smiled at me. Not a wind smile, it was a big beaming genuine smile and he had done it just for me. A special moment that was just between us. And in that moment I felt the rush of love that everyone talks about. I picked him up and I cried happy tears. This was my baby boy and he was my everything! Seeing that smile made me forget all the bad times over the past few months and instead made me dream about all the exciting things that are to come.
Gradually over the next few weeks I started to gain my confidence back. I found myself smiling and laughing for the first time since he was born. I was getting out of the house going on long walks, proudly pushing Max around in his pram and lapping up all the attention that strangers would give him in the street. I was a Mum and it was the best thing that ever happened to me!
It’s taken a lot of courage for me to admit how I felt but Post Natal Depression is a real thing and no one should be ashamed to admit how they are genuinely feeling. I still have bad days, don’t we all, but those are now outweighed by the good days.
Whilst I managed to battle my demons without the help of medical professionals this isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re reading this and can relate to any of the emotions I was feeling then please don’t be afraid to ask for help, you’re not alone and you should never feel like you are.
I will always feel like I missed out on the first few months of Max’s life but I am proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel.