Happiness isn’t a prerequisite to birth.
After I’d given birth I felt like I’d been in a car accident. Dazed, traumatised, bloody and in pain, I was handed a tiny, beautiful girl. I was petrified at the thought that I had to care for her, I could barely sit up. I remember sobbing “ Get her away from me!” and handing her to my partner, just before I was sedated by the doctors.
Once home, I alternated between short bursts of bliss, a strung out feeling of hyper vigilance, and a bizarre sense of being under water. The feeding and settling ritual that took about an hour and half, left me only another hour or so to sleep before the whole cycle began again. Mostly I didn’t sleep though. I stared at the ceiling, watched TV or played mindless games on the iPad. I was completely sleep deprived. I was a wreck.
My partner offered to help in any way possible, but I remember constantly pushing him away and wanting to do it all myself. I could see he was confused and very worried about me. After about 10 days of little or no sleep, I began having horrible thoughts, mostly about harming myself or, and it breaks my heart, harming my daughter.
I confided in a friend who sensed something was terribly wrong after I burnt some toast and sobbed for two hours. She convinced me it wasn’t about the lunch, that maybe I was unwell and needed some help. So told her everything.
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The mental health team that came that day, saw me every day for about three weeks, and after a disastrous start with the wrong medication, I began to feel better. I would drag myself to Mothers group, and could see in the faces of the other first time mums, that perhaps things were tough for everyone. I started talking.
Slowly the thoughts started disappearing, and I slept. I slept at night while my partner bottle fed our daughter, I slept on the couch next to the baby’s basinet when she napped during the day. I slept, and slowly I began to heal.
Two years on, my life is filled with chaos and joy. I have mostly “good” days, but occasionally a “bad” day where endless tears or frightening thoughts, bring memories of those early days crashing back.
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But another thing has happened, something I didn’t expect. It feels as if I’ve grown another heart. Even when things are crappy, I’m tired, bored, lonely and the house in knee deep in dirty washing, I have an undeniable, endless, source of love for this tiny little person. And I can’t help but smile. And it feels something like peace. I am mindful of taking good care of myself, and of speaking up when I need help. And now I’m speaking out, and hope that if things are tough for you, you might speak up too.
Isabel Watts is an Artist, Illustrator, occasional Writer and Mum of a very energetic toddler. In between cleaning weet-bix off the floor, looking for her daughter’s lost shoes, and drinking too much coffee, she creates water-colour images, commercial illustrations, and her favourite: children’s book illustrations.