Sunday, 20 February 2011

Being A Mommy - week 1

Post natal depression is a kick ass poker player.  It doesn’t hit you 1-2, 1-2 like a boxer would.  No, it prefers to screw with your head so that you actually think you’re fine, even though you have never been so far from fine in your life.

It lets you think you’re getting away with it, even though you’ve battled depression twice before.  You know the signs, you’re braced, you’re aware of the growing numbness, but this doesn’t stop you hoping you are wrong.  Even when the amazing movie star boyfriend leaps in with his self-pitiful, “this is great, I just fucking knew it”, you wonder why you didn’t, and why you are so disappointed.

For the 2 days you were in hospital, you thought you were coping.  You smiled at your visitors, you generously let everyone who wanted to hold and snuggle your baby, you even managed to change baby’s clothes (you try not to dwell on the fact that it took you half an hour to summon the courage to even attempt this).   You dismiss as normal the way her cry knifes through you, and how very very grateful you are when the nurses take her away to the sleep ward.

It’s only 1 week later, at the insistence of your wonderfully honest GP, that you face the truth – you are only fine when you are not being a mother.

I was always adamant I would never have children.  I always knew I wasn’t maternal, and that really deep down I was far too selfish to be a mother.  My own had been amazing – loving, selfless and inevitably a little smothering – and I knew that was not an existence I could subscribe to.  Inevitably, it took her death to make me realise what I had lost and how to regain it.

Even when I was pregnant, I think I was more in “shopper” mode.  It’s very exciting having a whole new room to design and plan, and a whole heap of clutter to buy for it.  And let’s not forget, baby clothes and soft toys are very very cute and very very cuddly – they do indeed make you go aaaah.  Funnily, I never realised I was buying them in a standalone sense, rather than for a little someone to use.

And then there’s the whole garage full of crap required for the baby just to function – prams, car seats, sterilisers, bottles – it goes on, as does the quest for the “perfect” one.  Such a little person, so much clutter.

And so on the day you leave hospital it really really dawns on you, with the sensitivity of a hammer, that however you walked in, you are walking out as a mother.  What the hell does that mean? And how am I supposed to do it?  I’m great at my job, ok as a girlfriend, positive as a person – but no one taught me what this motherhood malarkey means.  I am acutely, rawly aware that I really need my own mother to illuminate the path.  Stubbornly, the path stays depressingly dark.

By the time the movie star boyfriend arrives to take you home, you can barely contain your nerves, your fears or your rage.  You have been trying to telephone him all morning – now he tells you that he didn’t answer the phone because he was determined to enjoy his last lie-in of his adult life.  WFT?  Did I seriously have a baby with this piece of shit?

The first couple of days at home are bewildering, scary and like nothing I have ever had to cope with before.  For the first time, I do not have all the answers, or know how to find them, or have any confidence in what I am doing.  The baby monitor which I considered essential is just annoying – if the baby’s finally asleep, I can’t cope with the stress of listening to her sleeping.  Knowing my bubble of peace could be punctured at any minute is almost more than I can bear.

Due to the caesarean, moving is difficult. My ankles still look like concrete pillars and my head is a mess.  I have never known a tiredness so deep or so inescapable – like a tide pulling me under, all I want to do is drown in it.

And there’s so much to do.   When the baby is awake it needs watching or interacting with.  And when it’s asleep there’s bottles and sterilising and all that crap to do (Beth thankfully having given up on breast-feeding just before the movie star boyfriend punched the wall because she wouldn’t “crack on with it”.)  Which is all fine, crap but fine, until you wonder when you’re ever going to shower again or have a meal again.  You’re not even fussy.  It doesn’t have to be a cooked meal, just any sort of meal.

And then the bomb drops.  Almost as soon as the baby is home, Shaun has to go back to work.  You have felt his departure counting down like a nuclear warning for the last 2 days and suddenly it is here.  Your only response is to cry.  You are scared shitless.  How the hell are you going to cope with a baby for 12 hours while he is at work?  Alone?!  OMG, alone.  You.  You and the baby.  Alone.  The panic is shrill and all encompassing.  It has enslaved you – all you can do is think about it and how the hell you are going to get through it.

Through it.

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