Parenthood did not get off to a good start.
I suffered a birth trauma at the hands of the hospital who delivered my baby, followed by a horrendous 2 night hospital stay, ending with me discharging myself early because I couldn’t take it anymore.
My first night home was almost as bad.
My Mum came to stay for a few days, so I put on a brave face and pretended everything was fine. I did so well at appearing like I had it all together that my Mum left earlier than she planned because “you’re handling everything so well, there’s not much for me to do. I’ll head home and give you some privacy”.
In my head I was begging her not to go.
My husband drove her to the train station and I had a panic attack. Exacerbated by the fact it took over an hour for him to get to the station when the whole round-trip should have taken 45mins.
And anyone who has anxiety knows that my head went to the worst-case scenario. That my husband and mother had gotten into a horrible car accident.
That I was going to have to raise this baby alone.
When he got home I hugged him so hard and he hugs so well that I thought maybe, just maybe, everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t.
Anxious thoughts led to depressive thoughts, and before I knew it I was so far gone even I didn’t notice.
So here is a list of confessions I wish I had confessed in those first few weeks of my son’s life.
1. I Have No Idea What I Am Doing
For a parent with anxiety it is particularly horrifying. Everyone says “we’re all like that to begin with but we all figure it out”. But it doesn’t help the rising panic, because anxiety whispers “but I won’t. I will never figure it out”.
People asked how much milk he was drinking per day and I had no idea.
How many wet & dirty nappies? I have no idea.
How many hours a day does he sleep? No idea.
Every other mother just knows this stuff. I obviously don’t pay enough attention to him.
So I created a spreadsheet that I obsessively updated. It detailed what time he ate and how much he ate, and how much was breastmilk and how much was formula. It detailed when I changed his nappy and if it was wet or poopy (or both). It detailed when he woke up and when he fell asleep so I knew exactly how frequently he slept and for how long.
I spent hours poring over the numbers. Googling how much a X week old should eat, sleep, poop.
Because this is what a mother should know.
But I absorbed myself in the numbers so completely that my baby practically ceased to be, replaced by numbers and tables and calculations. A textbook baby. Literally.
2. I Want Someone to Take My Baby Away
I literally do not want to do this. I made a huge mistake. I’m not cut out for this.
Nothing is going to plan. This is my #1 anxiety trigger. And nothing ever goes to plan with children. I knew this. Yet I had a baby anyway. And now I am stuck with a tiny human who is basically a constant trigger.
I don’t want him near me.
Sometimes I can’t even look at him. When I do look at him I worry that he can see that his Mummy doesn’t love him.
And that’s no life for a child.
Please, just take him away.
3. I Am Terrified They’re Going to Take My Baby Away
Contradictory to my previous confession, right? No one ever said anxiety was rational.
I ended up lying on the PPD screening questionnaire the health visitor got me fill out. Twice. The first a few weeks after his birth, the second at 4 months.
I lied because I was afraid if I told the truth they would take him away. Confirm my fears that I am the worst mother ever.
But the fact I had to lie already means that I am.
4. I Am Lonely
So. Fucking. Lonely. New parents usually are. Everyone tells you to get outside, go for a walk, go to the library (Bookbug is great! they say), join a parent & baby group.
Anxiety won’t let me leave the house because there are people out there.
Anxiety won’t let me near a parent & baby group – there are people there.
And they will all hate me.
5. I Want Everyone to Leave Me Alone
The midwife visits, the health visitor visits, the family visits.
Every single one makes me feel even worse.
I am peopled out after a day with my own family, a day with my best friends, a day out with my husband.
And now I have a baby attached to me 24/7, strangers coming into my house, and guests wanting to make conversation with me when I’ve barely slept 10 hours the last 2 weeks.
I am so. Fucking. Exhausted.
I wish everyone would just piss off and leave me alone.
6. I Hate Breastfeeding
Like, absolutely detest it. The latching, the suckling, the letdown, feeling the milk moving through the ducts, the engorged breasts, the leaking, the smell of the breast pads. Everything about it grossed me out.
I hated constantly pulling up my top and unclipping my bra. I just wanted to put my boobs away, sit back and relax. But my body was not mine.
I felt like a cow.
I resented him every second I was feeding him.
I experienced an insurmountable rage that made me want to wrench him from my breast and throw him across the room. This then turned into an unbelievable sadness that made me cry and cry until the feed was over.
Where was the rush of love? The bonding hormones? The goddess-like feeling of nourishing another human life with nothing but your own body? I had read about all these things yet all I was feeling was rage and sadness.
I’m obviously a cold, uncaring mother.
7. Mum Guilt Is Consuming Me
Despite the hatred of breastfeeding, I kept doing it. Breast is best, right? Formula is synthetic crap, right? Mums who don’t breastfeed don’t care about their baby’s health, right?
But the Mummy guilt. Oh the Mummy guilt.
I should love breastfeeding. I should love the newborn cuddles. Breathe in his scent. I should play with him more. Sing to him. Dance with him. Play classical music to stimulate his brain. There are a million things I should be doing that I am just not. I can’t be bothered.
I am too lazy to be a mother.
8. I Don’t Love My Son
At least, not any more than I love any other baby. I make sure he is fed and dry and well rested and has a stimulating (but not over-stimulating) environment. All the things the internet sanctimummies say you need to do in order to not be a monster of a mother.
But I’m not doing it out of love.
I’m just following a recipe. The “quick and easy” version, while everyone else is following the gourmet version. Seasoning with love and kisses, smiles and singing.
I’m just sticking a bunch of random ingredients over pasta and hoping for the best.
What kind of mother doesn’t love her child? I am a monster.
9. I Actually Kind of Hate Him
He wasn’t letting me sleep. He wasn’t letting me eat, shower, put him down. I longed to do something, anything, I actually enjoyed doing.
But it’s just feed, change, hold, feed change, hold, feed, change, hold…
I’m so touched out. I need a minute to myself. Time to breathe. Close my eyes.
Feed, change, hold, feed, change, hold, feed, change, hold…
I put him in his crib and collapse on the sofa, listening to him cry, crying myself, shouting at him to just shut up and leave me alone.
“Why are you ruining my life?!”
Okay, now I am being borderline abusive.
But I can’t stop.
The ranting and raving, hysterical crying, throwing things across the room.
None of it even helped.
10. I Want to Run Away
I’d thought about it. I had several plans.
I’d wait until I heard my husband get home, leave by the back door and run.
(Maybe towards the bridge over the motorway).
I’d get on the train, leave the baby with my Mum and run.
(Maybe towards the cliffs).
I’d go stay in a hotel room for a night’s peace but never come back.
(Maybe take a whole bunch of pills with me).
I was an absolute wreck and no one noticed, not even me.
While pregnant I was sure I would see the signs in myself that my mental health was slipping. After all, I have suffered from anxiety my whole life. I know my signs.
My husband was sure he’d notice. I was a state when we first met. He’s seen me at my worst. Or so we thought.
Even a lifetime of mental illness did not prepare me for the torture of post-partum mental illness.
It took the most precious thing in the world from me – a deep, loving bond with my own baby.
I will work hard every day to make it up to him.