Here is my honest, unapologetic and somewhat confronting story of how I literally collided into motherhood. I chose to share this extremely private part of my life in the hope that it may help some fellow mums out there to not feel so alone in their struggles. Big hugs to you all xx.
Baby #1 the shit storm begins
It was Christmas Day, and those first few hours after birth I felt like someone had tried to brutally murder me, I was ripped, torn, bruised and battered. I still had a catheter attached. I hadn’t slept in over 48 hours, all I wanted was to get a solid night of sleep. But I now had this screaming newborn that I was now responsible for; to feed, to change, to settle. I could barely move due to the forceps delivery, 3rd degree tear and episiotomy. I felt as though I was being judged if it wasn’t me that got up to the baby when he cried every half hour, instead of my husband or calling the midwife.
I immediately resented this tiny, perfect baby, because I was beyond exhausted, my eyes were swollen and stinging. I just wanted to go to sleep and for the nightmare to be over when I woke. I didn’t get those warm fuzzy feelings of instant love that new mums always talk about. I felt as though this baby was a stranger, there was no instant connection that I was expecting to feel. I just wanted to imagine he wasn’t there, just until I could get some sleep and feel ready to deal with this shit storm I had created.
By the second night I was in tears in hospital, we couldn’t stop our baby from screaming, he wouldn’t latch properly and he wasn’t getting enough colostrum. I begged the midwife to take him away for a few hours, just so we could get some sleep. They took him for 3 hours, and I remember thinking it was nowhere near long enough. It didn’t really occur to me at the time that these feelings weren’t normal. When we got home on boxing day, all I wanted to do was fall in a heap and cry. I didn’t want to hold my baby, because that meant that he would want to feed and cry, and repeat. I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep.
Mat was tired and exhausted and he wanted to sleep as well, I felt like even though I was the one who had been torn to shreds, it was still my responsibility to do everything for the baby. I still don’t understand why we as mums feel this overwhelming need to have control over everything,even though Mat was incredibly helpful and eager to learn how to care for his newborn baby.
Darcy was very unsettled as a baby, he pretty much cried for the first 6 months, there wasn’t much that he was happy about. I found it difficult to bond with him because I just couldn’t seem to keep him happy despite my best efforts. I always felt as though people thought I was over exaggerating, I got comments like “oh, that’s just what babies do, they cry” and “just enjoy the newborn cuddles, it goes so quick” these comments are incredibly unhelpful to struggling new mums, (1). Darcy would never allow me to just “cuddle” him, he had to be held upright over our shoulder whilst we paced the floor continuously, he would start crying as soon as we sat down and (2). we all know that logically this phase of life is so short in the grand scheme of things, but you have to understand that when you are in the thick of it all it actually feels like it is going to last forever, and that you are never going to sleep again.
On the nights that we couldn’t settle Darcy I would bundle him into his capsule and just go for a drive in the hopes that he would fall asleep and stop crying. In hindsight, this wasn’t the best decision, I was extremely sleep deprived driving around in the middle of the night. I often had thoughts of crashing the car into a nearby tree or perhaps a kangaroo would jump out and hit the car, just enough to injure me, and cause me to end up in hospital for a few days where I would get some sleep and there would be people to take care of me. Now, most ‘normal’ people would be thinking this is quite an alarming thought to have, one in which I thankfully never acted on. But, the point is, I had these thoughts. I knew I fiercely loved my baby, but at the same time I couldn’t deal with how constantly unhappy and demanding he was. To me, at that point in time, the crying and unsettledness wasn’t worth the fleeting smiles and giggles we tried so hard to get out of him.
After 8 weeks or so I discovered that he had a lot of symptoms and signs that pointed to reflux, but I was quickly dismissed from my local maternal and child health nurse and GP, so in my naivety I assumed this would be something that he would eventually (hopefully) grow out of. I became obsessed with sleep, I would be up all night reading and researching different articles and literature on baby sleep. Thoughts of escaping often flooded my head, almost every day for 9 months or so.
Eventually once Darcy hit about 9-10 months of age, I started to see light at the end of the tunnel, I put in a lot of work to get him onto a structured routine and he seemed to respond well to this. In a short time he was sleeping well and in turn was generally a much happier baby. Then I fell pregnant… again.
When I found out I was pregnant with Vinnie, I cried. I honestly didn’t think I had the mental or physical capacity to do this again, so I was in a bit of denial for the first 3 months. I went back to work and kept myself busy with a toddler and a full-time workload whilst I tried to mentally prepare myself for the next newborn to enter our family.
Baby #2 the aftermath
I returned to work 12 weeks pregnant in January 2016 after my first child was born. So, not only was I trying to navigate through the relentlessness that is parenting, and meeting the needs of a toddler that was trying to adjust to childcare, I was also trying very hard to meet the needs of each of my staff in my team, fit in a full-time work load into 4 days as well as grow another tiny human, morning sickness anyone? Gah! I’m exhausted now just thinking about how I managed. Needless to say, I didn’t really manage, and it’s no wonder that I didn’t end up in a very good place once Vinnie was born.
It has taken me a very long time to accept what I actually already knew, but never really admitted to my self. That I wasn’t listening to my body, that I was trying to do too much. That I’m a people pleaser, and the thought of letting anyone down would bring me to tears. The thought of appearing weak, as though I didn’t have my shit together would make me feel physically sick. Yet the thought of walking into the office day after day in an environment that was not conducive to my already fragile state of mind was even more crippling.
I would sometimes sit at my desk with tears welling in my eyes, thinking how did I end up here? My stomach would sink every time my phone rang and I had to pick it up with potentially another rude or disgruntled customer on the other end. Whilst I enjoyed my work to an extent, I started to realise that the environment I was working in was toxic for me and it was leaving me riddled with anxiety. This became very apparent to me when I returned back to work after Darcy was born.
I had just been through hell and back (mentally) over the last 12 months adjusting to motherhood, my priorities had shifted. The things that once seemed important at work, now just seemed so trivial and pointless. So here I was, worrying about my toddler and how he was coping at child care, trying to grow a human and not let my morning sickness interfere with my work, worrying that I’m not doing good enough in my job and that colleagues were judging me, trying to prove to my team that just because I work part time doesn’t mean I don’t deserve my role and that I can still be a valuable employee with a lot to contribute.
Eventually this all caught up with me. I developed a chest infection at about 35 weeks pregnant that stuck around until I gave birth to Vinnie at 38 weeks. I was exhausted, I didn’t finish work until I was 37 weeks, the day I went into labour I was in the middle of fully reorganising my pantry!! I was legitimately crazy!! I mean, if I were seeing any one of my friends running around like this in their late stages of pregnancy I would be like hey ladyl!! Sit yo ass down and chill the eff out!!! There is plenty of time to be crazy after the baby is born, you need your strength.
Vinnie was born relatively quickly compared to Darcy, but unfortunately I had some complications and a lot of bleeding soon after that left me in a lot of pain and utterly exhausted. After a week at home I was rushed into emergency with some retained product and an infection in my uterus, this left me in excruciating pain and very unwell for a few weeks. I honestly believe this was the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak. A quick and traumatic birth, secondary infection and (another) incredibly unsettled new born was a recipe for disaster.
The first few months of Vinnies life I had my mum looking after Darcy most days, cooking us dinner, doing housework for us and Mat working from home meant that he made himself available to me when I needed him. I had all the support in the world from my amazing family to help me through and yet I still felt so incredibly alone and overwhelmed. I couldn’t understand it, for the life of me, I was telling myself over and over “Rebecca, get your shit together, it shouldn’t be this hard, women do this all the time”.
I actually hated being around my children, I know that’s a really strong word and most people would find this statement confronting, but I honestly didn’t want to be around them. Darcy was still a baby, he was only 18 months old when Vinnie was born. He was teething, discovering tantrums and obviously his whole world had just been turned upside down when we brought Vinnie home and I was finding struggling to deal with it all.
The road to nowhere
“Nothing good ever happens after 2am”. The world is a very lonely and scary place after 2am, especially when you are a new mum in the thick of postnatal depression and anxiety. I called it the road to nowhere. I was confined to the 4 walls of our bedroom, it was my prison cell. At this stage I was sharing the room with our newborn and Mat was in the spare room so he could get up to Darcy during the night.
I was getting up to Vinnie every 1-2 hours, most of the time he would be unsettled until his next feed. I didn’t want to have the T.V on or any lights for fear of stimulating him too much. So, I sat in the feeding chair with him attached to my boobs while I trawled the internet and scrolled through my Facebook feed on my phone. I couldn’t even feed lying down because of his reflux. I couldn’t let him cry too long for fear of waking up Darcy. In my mind the only thing worse than a baby that wouldn’t sleep at night was TWO babies that wouldn’t sleep at night. So, I found myself back in the same place I was 12 months before. Driving on the road to nowhere at 2am hoping to get this damn baby to sleep.
The thoughts of escaping came flooding back, only this time they were worse, I was visualising how I would crash the car, which tree I would hit. By some miracle I never acted on those thoughts and I managed to escape my thoughts of escaping. My anxiety was worse, I was freaking out over the smallest things. In my head, the world would end if I didn’t do things in the exact same order every day. If Darcy’s dummies and Vinnies bed time bottles weren’t washed and sanitised by the same time every morning then it would send me into a spin and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I became a master at hiding these thoughts and behaviours, I could mask them from the world, and no one was any the wiser.
I developed an anger that I never knew existed in me until I had children. A temper that I just couldn’t control. I could feel it bubbling away inside me, I felt like a pressure cooker, the smallest thing would set me off, and I would explode. I yelled at Darcy so many times, and I yelled at my newborn when he just would. Not. Stop. Crying. And I HATED myself for it. Most days I ended up falling in a heap and crying uncontrollably on the floor just repeating “I can’t do this”. I would walk into another room and release my anger by slamming doors, throwing things or punching the couch. Of course, I never physically hurt my children, but the fact that I could display such anger in the same house as my children scared me a lot.
When Darcy was born I found myself extremely anxious at the thought of leaving the house, for fear of being caught in public with an inconsolable crying baby, he would often get himself so worked up that I was always on edge. I began to find myself avoiding any kind of social situation with my baby, because no one truly understood what it was like for me when Darcy started to get worked up and I couldn’t bring him back again. Vinnie was exactly the same.
I would have panic attacks when I was preparing to leave the house with him, the thought of leaving the house with both of them on my own also had me riddled with anxiety, checking and triple checking the bag and lists to make sure I had everything I could possibly need before I left. If just one of them started to cry as I was putting them in the car seat then I would just get them both out and cancel my plans. I just couldn’t bare going anywhere with both of them on my own.
I realised that my health was deteriorating, my family were suffering because of my deteriorating mental and physical health and I was stuck in a job where the people I am supposed to be helping see me as the enemy.
Something had to give, and in the weeks after Vinnie was born I became very aware of my rapidly declining state of mental health and I knew that I had to do something about it.
If you have made it all the way to the end then Congratulations!!! because this was an epic first post. I promise I wont make them all that long 😉 My road to recovery has been slow, but it has been worth the fall.
Go ahead and share the love by clicking one of the share buttons below 🙂 you never know if you might be helping out a fellow mum.