YOU ARE OKAY MAMA – A letter to my postnatally-depressed self

Two and a half years ago, I gave birth to an incredibly beautiful, wise beyond his time, alert little boy. He unfortunately had a rather horrific entry into this world. He managed to be delivered via forceps and somewhat ‘naturally’ after a very long and confusing labor.

There are a few things that I can remember very clearly about that day. One of which makes its way into my dreams from time to time and fills me with guilt and hatred – I gave up on our baby boy.  After 23 hours and a team of maybe 8 medical people chattering, throwing terms back and forth that I didn’t understand but I knew weren’t good, there was a moment when I gave up. I looked at Jake and said, ‘this is it, he is not going to make it, he cant come out alive, how could a tiny baby survive this’. I wasn’t sure that I could even survive such an unnatural and horrific experience, and then seconds later there he was. Our tiny bundle of blue. He let out a wonderful scream and with it we knew he was going to be okay, he is a strong little thing.

The experience took its toll on me. I didn’t realize it fully at the time. Max struggled to, he screamed and screamed for the first six months of his life. He was an incredibly upset little boy. To add pressure to what was already a difficult time, My Fiance had recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and was suffering from scary seizures and constant auras. It was a terrible combination, Jake could not be tired or stressed otherwise his health would rapidly decline, which would result in more seizures. I couldn’t run on no sleep and survive the day with an upset newborn. Jake couldn’t, carry him around, bath Max or drive, We couldn’t risk him falling down holding the baby so I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) leave him at all, even for five minutes.

After the arrival of my baby girl six months ago, I begun to learn that what we had gone through with Max was not typically ‘the newborn phase’. I was incredibly alone and scared. I wrote a letter to the myself, or the version of me who went through that time.

{Good-morning Beautiful,

Dreading the day aren’t you.

I know, I have been there.

Just do it. Roll over, drag yourself from bed – you don’t need or want to hear this but the truth is, he needs his Mummy sweetheart. Just as you are. It is all he knows; his only comfort in this new overstimulating and scary world – you and only you my dear. You CAN do it. It is in there, you can’t feel it but I can see it, YOU HAVE GOT THIS.

I want you to know a few things, really know them, in your heart and in your soul.

YOU are okay – you don’t feel it, but you are. You are alive, and you are doing a good job. YES, you loose it and scream into that pillow. YES, you catch yourself thinking ‘I hate this, I am a bad mum, and I am not built for this’. But guess what, YOU are doing it. Each minute, each day. You are being Mum and you are doing it well.

That is all you need to do. Be Mum. Leave the housework it doesn’t matter. I know sitting in a messy house all day makes it worse, so ask Jake to do it. Lean on him. Tell him that you can only do ‘Mum’ at the moment, There is not enough of you left for ANYTHING ELSE.

I know you feel like you have to achieve it all, and asking him to help makes you feel like you are failing. What you don’t see is that he is here with you, watching the love of his life ache in pain, without a clue as to how he can make it better. He needs to be able to make it better, he is a man. Your man. And he is a new Dad, and you are the mother of his child. He wants to help you, and you need him to.

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The tears will slow soon beautiful. The ache in your heart to. You are overwhelmed with love – love like you have never known, and fear – fear and worry. This little person needs all of you for a little while. He unknowingly takes all you have to give until there is nothing left. It is all so very new and so very unknown. I promise you are okay, he is okay and you are doing it Mama. You are stronger than you know.

The sleep will return one day, the exhaustion is blinding you and sending you mad. Through all of this you are coping, barely, but you are. One day soon you will be able to close your tired eyes at night, knowing in your heart that he is fine in his cot. He will be safe and he will sleep and wake just like every night before. He is strong and he can survive the night without your hovering presence constantly checking his breath. He has you to thank for that strength, you have him and he has you, close your eyes and sleep Mum.

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It is so hard, the constant battle; you never imagined you would feel this way, that you would struggle. You feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it. No one will admit to struggling just like you are, not because they want you to feel alone, because the fogginess of now fades and one day you to will look back and think ‘ that wasn’t so hard was it’. You are not alone Darling Mama, but you feel it don’t you? More alone than ever before – even in a room filled with people. I have been there to.

Your new baby has given you the gift of a new Heart. This one is bigger, much bigger but softer and far more vulnerable. It has the capacity to hold so much love. Too much to bear right now, but you will grow into your new heart and you will need it because some day soon you will feel things that you have never felt before beautiful mum. One of those things being Pure joy – not happiness – thorough, spine tingling joy. It will feel like you could melt. He will pull his first smile, you wont expect it and It will hit you like a thousand trains. This is the moment you will discover what your new heart is for.

You cry all of the time. About nothing and about everything. You worry about; SIDS, SUDI, teething pain, colic, wind, sufficient weight gain, weight loss, Is he in the average percentiles’ Is he getting enough milk? sleep cycles, milestones, is he too hot? You panic about other people holding your baby, dropping him, walking down stairs, bathing him. You feel like no one else would do it like you, and you’re right. No one in the world can do it like you, they don’t need to. The worry will go soon, not all of it, but enough so you can enjoy him while he is a tiny baby.

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You worry about hurting others. New Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents who have just met your baby, your oxygen, your reason and purpose. They don’t understand why you can’t let them hold him for long, or rock him to sleep, or carry him around or drive the car when he is in it. They can’t feed him or get him out of his cot when he wakes. People you love and need will be mad at you for being something other that what they expected. They will think it is something to do with them, a personal attack. They cannot see your pain, your need to ferociously protect him. They can’t see how worried and weak you feel. They don’t understand just like you don’t understand it and that is okay. You need to do this your way, protect your heart. They will be there later, shut them all out while you pull it together. Nurture your heart; you need to look after yourself because he needs you.

You wonder if he knows. Does he know you are a mess? Does he know that his Mum is drowning in her new role? He doesn’t Wonderful Mama. He has an inherent trust in you. You should to, because you are doing this, you are being his mummy. He feels your love. You are his safety, his warmth, his home, his food, and his love. All he needs is you. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

Try not to question your ability, you are more than able. You are going to get through this Beautiful Mumma. The Dark will lighten up soon, you are not alone, talk about it, and do not be ashamed, Block everything else out.

All that matters is that you survive this. One day you will be able to talk about this time and you will think ‘it wasn’t to bad, was it’. Right now is your time. Your new little family’s’. Pull together and push through.}

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Thank you for reading this, It has taken so much courage to share with you my experience.

If you feel there is someone you know who may relate or find some strength in my letter please share it with them, it is just so important to support new parents because you never know what goes on on after you leave. They may be drowning in there new role and that scares me.

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