I’ll never forget the moment when I was looking at my few days old children and tears were falling down my face. However, it wasn’t the tears of joy, it was the tears of regret. Regret that we’d wanted to have them and regret about my future.
It was a couple of days after Yaw and I had moved into the hospital. Nurses recommended this step as I’d wanted to breastfeed. During one week all four of us lived in a hospital room the size of a shoe box. I am always grateful that we had this option but it wasn’t easy to live like that. In a real-time it wasn’t a long period of time, but for me, it was the longest week of my life. And one of the hardest ones.
I was looking at them as they were asleep and an intense desire for them not to exist took possession of my mind. Up until today, I get goosebumps when I remember what had been running through my mind at that moment. Why did we want them …? Why did they have to be born? With thoughts like this, it made me happy but mostly scared to death. But there was nothing to stop these feelings. Why hadn’t anyone told me about any of this? Why was I stupid …?
I almost wasn’t able to think of anything else. My body was lacking any energy and for some period of time, it became just an empty box that worked mechanically like a robot. Common sense was completely dysfunctional.
I was hoping to feel better when we’d got home. It was a truth to a certain extent. However, then I found it hard to accept the fact it wasn’t just the two of us there anymore. I couldn’t accept the kids being there and kept asking myself: Why were we so stupid? I longed to turn back time and erase the decision to have children from our lives. The tears were almost constantly flowing down my face. Especially, when I was hanging children’s clothes on the dryer as this was reminding me of their existence.
I was crying even when I went to a shop because it made me realise I’d no longer be able to pop out like this anytime I wanted to. I remember walking blankly down the city, tears running down my face and I didn’t even care. My life is gone forever … Why were we so stupid? Why did they have to be born?
To me, postnatal depression is a synonym for hell. It is a demon that completely absorbs your brain and you suddenly have no control over your thoughts or actions. It is a disease that can be extremely dangerous not only for you but especially for your children.
How can you free yourself from the symptoms of postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is not a disease that is cured once and then you have peace of mind. You can get it under control, but there’s always a slight chance (at least for some time) it may come back. That’s why you need to treat it very responsibly and do everything you can have more chance of managing it. In many cases (so as in mine) medication treatment is essential, but the significant part in this process is your own work on yourself, your thoughts and attitude. Personally, it really helped with counselling sessions.
If I could turn back time, the first thing what I would have done is start talking about how I felt much earlier. Practically, at the first signs. I made a huge mistake in suppressing and hiding my emotions. Apart from Yaw, for a long time, there was no one who knew about it. This way I just unnecessarily made myself more stressed. When I started to open up, a huge weight fell from my shoulders and I tell you it was much bigger than I’d realised.
Many new mothers who go through baby blues or postnatal depression feel they are one of a few. However, the truth is they belong to the majority. Things they fear to talk about in front of other mums are usually things those mothers experience or have experienced themselves. Actually, the harder and more delicate the subject is for them, the more likely it is that other mums have experienced it too. Perhaps the fact they don’t talk about imperfections is the reason they look perfect.
I, for example, found it hard to cope with the fact my life would be gone forever. I’d always lived an active life, I’d had a lot of hobbies, I’d used to go out on the weekends and then sleep till noon… Somehow I couldn’t accept the fact it would be over. Suddenly, I had in front of me two little screaming strangers who were supposed to stay with me forever. Problem was that at that time I hadn’t yet developed any emotional relationship with them. I didn’t expect it to be a process. I thought that as soon as I saw them, all my values would be immediately changed and I wouldn’t feel anything else but the greatest love in the world. It’s true that feeling came, but it certainly didn’t happen overnight.
The first strong feeling of love came at the moment of the first physical contact I had with them (which was in our case only three days after birth). When the nurse put them on my naked body, a love fountain of a new, heady dimension burst in each cell of my body. I longed to keep that feeling, but after a few minutes it started to fade away from my body. Like a drug whose effect begins to wear off. This feeling kept returning to me in certain moments, but always only for a while. There was this timeless love for the children and simultaneously the regret about their existence rotating inside of me.
I had a feeling that the only thing they did was cry and the only thing I did was feeding and changing. My active life had now turned into an automated machine without any life. So this is going to be my life now? I asked myself over and over again with the tears falling down my cheeks.
I didn’t feel like a mother. I didn’t feel like someone who was going to be responsible for another human being and give them security and support. After many years I’d reconnected with my inner child, who had been talking to me intensively day and night. But who will now support me? Who will comfort me when I’m feeling down? Who will chase away monsters from underneath my bed? That voice didn’t go silent for a moment. The more I tried to suppress it, the louder it called. Hello, I’m here! Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?
I wish someone could have told me how I’d feel in a year’s time. Not that I’d have felt perfectly fine in a year’s time – certainly not. Sometimes I still feel overwhelmed and anxious due to the fact I am alone with the boys most of the day, however, I cannot even compare it to how I felt at the beginning. Today I cannot even imagine my life without children and the love I have for them is the most magnificent experience in my life. I also had no thoughts about death anymore. That is the main difference.
Talking is the key
Believe me, if you are experiencing even the slightest sign of depression, seek a professional help and talk to your closest friends and family. Do not put it off, do it right now, today. Tomorrow can be too late.
They say everything takes time and this case is no exception. As a new mother, you cannot be hard on yourself and give yourself time to adapt to the new situation. You now experience a huge variety of emotions, but as time goes by, you’ll be getting to know your baby. You will be learning to recognise individual sounds the baby will make, learning how to feed them, putting them to sleep, soothing them and your love will grow stronger each day.
As a mother you do not lose your life, you just fill it. It will be very difficult for some time, but only temporarily while your babies are little. Each month they will make some new progress that will slowly lead to their independence. When they start to laugh, hug you, talk to you, show you their love – you will never understand how you could ever exist without them. That is when you’ll know that you’re a Mother. You’re a mum from the first moment but you also need to give yourself time to learn to be a mother.
Just remember, if you feel any kind of discomfort at the moment, talk about it. I say it all the time and I always will. Talking is the key. There is nothing you need to keep to yourself. Whatever you experience, you can be sure many other mothers experience or have experienced it too.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re having a bad day. That you don’t feel well. That you cry. That you’re overwhelmed. That sometimes (or often) you feel hopeless. There is nothing wrong about that, nor is it special. You don’t have to worry about people judging you. Do you really think that there is one perfect mum in the world that can allow herself to judge you and look at you from above? Mums like this exist only in our imagination. Real mums feel the same as we do and I know because I felt it and know deep in my heart you are a real mum too.
Talk and make other mums open up as well. Talk and free yourself. Talk and let yourself enjoy motherhood the way you deserve. Don’t think about it, just talk. Talk and never stop.