The Baby Blues
Writing this post has been hugely emotional for me – I’ve felt bucket loads of guilt, shed a lot of tears and even felt ashamed of myself. When so many people go through difficult things on a daily basis with sick babies, even losing babies, I questioned whether I should even write the post at all. But I want to share my experience so that anyone else feeling this way doesn’t feel so alone. Being a first time Mum to a newborn can be a terrifying thing.
Yesterday, I held a friend’s six day old baby and realised that I have almost no recollection of Elle being that tiny. It made my heart ache with sadness as I realised that there are literally months of her existence that I can’t access in my mind.
Elle was born in January 2015, following a very happy and healthy pregnancy and a practically text book labour. The last emotion I actually remember feeling was a huge rush of relief. Perhaps selfishly, relief that the pain was over. Then relief that Elle’s cries meant she was alive, breathing and full of spirit. And then there was nothing.
I didn’t have an initial rush of love that people talk about, no uncontrollable tears of joy. I didn’t feel any pain or soreness. I just felt nothing. When the midwife visited the following day, she warned me that I might be feeling teary – and I was – but it was because I still felt nothing and by this point I was questioning whether my lack of feelings was normal. All I felt was total emptiness – as if my body was just skin, bones and tissue with no nerves or thoughts or feelings. If someone had pushed me too hard I would have just collapsed, and worse still – I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.
There was also a disconnect somewhere in my brain – this baby wasn’t mine, I was just looking after her for someone else. Every minute of every day for a long, long time I felt like I was just going through the motions and that someone would come and collect her, return her to her rightful owner.
As the numbness slowly ebbed away it was replaced with a huge, overwhelming feeling of sadness – like a dark cloud over my brain that just wouldn’t lift and all I could do was cry. I think I cried solidly for about six weeks. And then following that I cried at least daily for a good few months.
With the tears came the guilt – what kind of person thinks that their child isn’t theirs? How could I possibly be so selfish and self indulgent when there are people desperate to have children or those who have lost their babies? How can anyone not feel any emotions towards their baby? At my lowest point I just wanted someone to take Elle away from me, so I could sleep. All I wanted to do was lie in a dark room. Going outside and being with people made me feel vulnerable, raw and exposed. Thank goodness for the dog, who literally forced me to get outside and slowly, this became my refuge.
As the months rolled on and my body and mind slowly started to recover, the fog started to lift. It was a gradual process – there’s no moment that I can look back at and think ‘that’s when I realised I loved my baby.’ A slow burning love began to unfold, a deep, soul changing love that only a parent can understand. And now I can’t believe that I ever felt that way about my little girl. She’s the most beautiful and lovely soul I’ve ever known and I’m eternally thankful that she’s mine.
Having written this down, it’s clear to me that I should have spoken to someone about my feelings. But when asked ‘Is everything ok?’ Yes was a much simpler response than ‘No – I’m not sure that I love my baby yet.’ And behind the scenes was Matt, who knows me better than I know myself, and was watching me with care and patience, just in case I didn’t find the strength to pull myself from the hole I was in.
If you’re recovering from having a baby – please be kind to yourself and please talk to someone if you’re feeling low. Growing a human is tough, it takes a huge amount out of you – much more than you realise. You can feel it physically, but sometimes the mental changes go unnoticed and they can easily spiral out of control. Those first few weeks and months are tough, and it’s ok to not enjoy it. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and it definitely doesn’t make you a bad Mummy.
(Image of Elle taken by Anna Clarke – she’s around 6 months here)