The instant feeling when I saw my daughter for the first time. Was I happy? Excited? Elated? Overcome with a huge wave of unconditional love? No, just numb. “No need to worry” I thought, “it’s a huge life event, these feelings will come in a day or two”. Little did I realise that this numb feeling would stay with me a lot longer than that, acting as a dam to my wave of unconditional love.
I first experienced depression in my teenage years. Pretty sure it was brought on by the bullying I experienced at school. It wasn’t too severe but it it cut deeply in terms of my esteem, confidence and self belief. I thought I had nothing to offer the world. I was put on Fluoxetine and self harmed on and off for a few years. This was further enforced by a toxic 3 year relationship with a man I moved cities for, changed universities for and all I got in return was jibes about my looks and my weight. Paying for me to get hair cuts and highlights, making me think it was because he loved me but really it was because he preferred blondes and my natural brunette colour didn’t meet his approval. After that ended I was at rock bottom. Eventually I rediscovered my confidence and believed in myself. Even started to like myself. 10 years of anti depressants and anxiety medication came to an end. I met my now husband, bought a home and started a new job. When I discovered I was pregnant I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to start this new life as a family.
So why did I feel numb?
I viewed my daughter as someone else’s child. I was merely a glorified baby sitter until her real mum returned. The first few days in hospital were fine, my visitors kept me occupied and more importantly they held my child so I didn’t have to. Any chance I got I would hand her to someone else, disguised as me doing them a favour by having the joy of cradling a new born. Secretly I wanted nothing to do with her. Once home and the visitors started to dry up, thats when it all nose-dived. Her cries set me on edge, my heart would race and I would stare at her in horror. I counted down the hours until my husband would come home so I wasn’t alone with her.
I researched churches that I could leave her outside on their doorstep. “Adoption would be quite straight forward right? Oooh foster care, even better. How difficult is it to get yourself sectioned? If I run my car off the road then people will hear my cry for help, right?” Everyday I obsessed over these ideas, but ultimately knew I just couldn’t go through with any of them. Even when I felt so alone and desperate, part of me still knew my daughter needed me. The repercussions of what I was thinking would be too great to repair. I needed help and I needed it there and then.
Straight on the phone to my GP I went. I’d only left it 3 weeks post partum, I really thank myself for asking for help so quickly. Who knew what could have happened if I kept spiralling downwards. My GP was, and still is, one of my greatest supports. I was put on medication straight away and sent off to see a psychiatrist a few days later. I still remember the sense of relief I felt when I poured my heart out in that 8×6 room, like all my guilt and anxiety completely filled the room up and slowly seeped away through the walls. I had lost so much weight and never realised, never in my life have I been ordered to eat more. With regular appointments, medication reviews and developing my own coping strategies I think I am almost there.
My daughter will be 1 in a few weeks. I still fight with myself daily over how I wasted the first 12 weeks of her life wishing she wasn’t here. On the other hand, the last 8 months have been great and she is thriving. So that’s how I look at it. I might not have been cut out for motherhood from the get go, but I’m learning every day. And I’m feeling a lot less numb, that feeling if unconditional love is finally here and I’m so thankful for her everyday