At last we were all home together to start this new chapter in our lives as a family of four. Thinking I’d left all my troubles and worries behind in NICU, I started to go about the day to day business of raising two little people.
Yes, it was really hard, tiring work. My daughter, Missy B, is such a fun loving, live wire. Just watching her is enough to tire any one out. Couple that with the needs of a new-born baby and you’ve got one busy Mumma!!
I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed Mr A. As he was still quite small, he needed feeding little and often.
Any of the time I didn’t have him attached to my boob, and on the rare occasion I could actually put him down to sleep in his moses basket, I was faced with a dilemma….
Do I spend this time trying to make the house look less like its being inhabited by squatters, OR, do I spend some quality one on one time with Missy B?
I’m sure she was feeling the effects of having another little human in the house, especially one who demanded so much of her Mummy’s time and attention. If she was feeling put out at all, she didn’t show it. She is such a well-adjusted, wise little girl.
I think having Mr A in NICU for those 13 days acted as a buffer for Missy B. She knew she had a baby brother, but he wasn’t immediately thrust into her life. She had visited him in NICU and would then come home with Daddy. Back to normality. I think this gave her time to adjust to the idea that he had arrived and would eventually be at home with us.
In the early weeks, I felt constantly torn between my two children. Both needed me but in varying amounts and at different times. I found myself attending to Mr A’s needs, but not necessarily engaging with him as I had done with Missy B when she was a baby. I thought that, if I talked to him too much or paid him too much attention, Missy B would get jealous. I didn’t want her to start feeling any resentment towards Mr A. I was overcome with guilt trying to do the best by them both.
The early days and weeks were a massive struggle for me. The nights were the worst.
I’d even go as far as to say they were torture. I spent most of the day looking forward to bed time as I thought I would get a bit of a break.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Missy B was still a superstar at going to bed and sleeping through until about 7am. Mr A, on the other hand, woke nearly every hour or two to feed. On a few, very rare, occasions he might sleep for three hours in a row.
Mr A always seemed to struggle with wind. By the time he had had a feed and been winded, he slept for a short while before waking up and crying. He seemed so distressed. I always put it down to being painful wind, verging on colic. But looking back now, it may have been a bit of separation anxiety also.
Most nights it took so long to settle him after a feed that he would only sleep for a short while before waking and being hungry again. I would quite often start to drift off whilst feeding him and the jerk awake to check I hadn’t dropped him or he’d slipped under the duvet. He was always fine.
To give you an idea how tired I was, I actually fell asleep with my head on the bedside table whilst rocking his moses basket!!
How did I feel when I as wrenched from my sleep by the ear splitting squeal of a new born?? I felt hideous to be honest. I would think all sorts of things….
‘What the bloody hell do you want now? I’ve only just finished feeing you?’
‘You can’t seriously be hungry again?’
‘Can’t you just leave me alone for a few minutes to get some sleep?’
‘Why are you doing this to me? I’m doing my best and it’s not enough for you?’
‘For god sakes go back to sleep you little sh*t!!’
‘He must really hate me.’
‘I’m a terrible mother.’
‘Maybe I’m not making enough milk for him.’
‘What have I done to deserve this?’
‘I need to be up in a few hours and looking after two of you. I need more sleep than this.’
So many thoughts and feelings raging through my head. I was tired, angry, even furious at times…. Why was I failing at being a mother this time round?
Having these feelings alongside feeling an immense surge of love for him was confusing. Feeling such a strong urge to comfort and nurture him and attend to his every need.
My need for sleep and rest to recover from the past two weeks didn’t matter to me. He needed me and I wasn’t doing what he needed me to, clearly that’s why he wasn’t sleeping.
I didn’t know what to do with these feelings. How to deal with them or compartmentalise them.
So I cried. Silent, heavy tears rolled down my face and soaked the pillow. It was like a release of pressure, the only way my body knew how to let these feelings out.
You’ve seen the stories on the news before, where a mother hurts her baby, even killed them. I used to think how on earth can that happen??
Now I know how.
When you are driven to the edge of what your body and mind can handle, it can be easy to snap.
When caught up in the depth of confusion and despair, your mind isn’t thinking clearly.
You are not yourself. You are not thinking and acting as a rational human. Your body and mind is in turmoil.
I’m lucky that I never once came close to hurting Mr A. The thought never even crossed my mind. I’d rather soak up all the pain myself than inflict any on him.
In my deepest darkest moments, I thought my children would be better off without me. In my head, I was the problem. So removing myself from the equation would solve this problem.
Then, at least, someone who knew how to look after children properly could have them and do a better job than me.
I would never hurt my children, but hurting myself started looking like an option. The long dark nights seemed to be the time I had my darkest thoughts.
Everything seems so bleak and hopeless in the middle of the night. Everyone else is asleep. You feel you’re the only one awake, dealing with this crap.
As these thoughts of ‘taking myself out of the equation’ became more frequent, I started to suspect that these disturbing thoughts were down to more than just being over tied or exhausted……
This is when I made the decision to go and talk to my Doctor for some advice. It still took me a few weeks to actually go but, once I had it in my head that I needed help of some kind, the thoughts became less frequent.
A few weeks later I plucked up the courage to go to the Doctor. After a long discussion, he diagnosed me with Post Natal Depression, and prescribed me antidepressants.
Despite the feelings I’ve described above, it was still a shock to hear the diagnosis. Even more shocked to be prescribed antidepressants.
I was actually relieved now because I had these pills and a label for what I was experiencing. Surely now I’d start to gradually feel better.
In a few months, I’d be back to my old self.
WRONG!!!! The hardest times were still to come……