Warning: this post may be distressing for some readers.
A story about a mother ‘hating’ her third child, published on a popular online blogging site, has disturbed readers and opened a confronting conversation about regretting having children.
The ‘mother-of-three’, who posted anonymously on Reddit, explained that she had two daughters, aged eight and six, who she loved. However, she’d fallen pregnant a third time, despite using birth control. She hadn’t realised she was pregnant until 16 weeks, when it was too late to terminate. She says she “sobbed her eyes out”, not wanting to go through the baby and toddler stage again.
“I feel terrible saying this, but I found myself willing this pregnancy to have a serious problem, because that’s the exception for an abortion,” she wrote. “But it was healthy.”
“I felt ‘cornered’ into having the baby because I felt we couldn’t really have two babies and then ‘give one away’.”
The woman lost her job when she was 36 weeks pregnant. Once the baby was born, she found him a lot more difficult than her two daughters, describing him as “a refluxy/colicky nightmare”.
She admits she “honestly hated him” for the first 18 months of his life.
“I don’t want to be insensitive to anyone who has suffered a loss in this way, but I have to be honest, my husband and I both had a period where if he had have died in his sleep, we would have felt relief,” she added.
The boy is now three, but the woman says she still doesn’t love him, is not interested in talking to him, and feels “nothing” when he gives her a hug.
Despite going to two therapists, the woman hasn’t been able to change the way she feels about her son.
“I hate feeling this way,” she wrote. “I know he didn’t ask to be brought into this world and he deserves better, but I don’t know how to make myself feel differently.”
When the woman’s story was shared in UK publication Mirror, many readers were distressed. Some said they cried reading it. Some labelled the woman “heartless” and “vile”. Others begged her to give up her son for adoption.
Some identified with the child.
“I was my mother’s unwanted and unplanned pregnancy, as she’s told me that herself,” Jonela wrote. “I wish I was given away to a family who would have loved me.”
“As someone who grew up with a ‘mother’ who didn’t want a second child and resented me my entire life,” added Eastendbelle, “I’d recommend that she either seeks counselling or does give him up for adoption.”
Psychologist Kirsten Bouse talks to Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes about what post-natal depression really looks like, and strategies for coping. (Post continues after audio.)
Hanna Beaven is an Adelaide psychologist who specialises in parenthood issues. She’s worked with women who regret having children for many different reasons. But she says this woman’s feelings are “extreme”.
“The concerning thing is she apparently said she hated him so much that she didn’t want him to live,” she tells Mamamia. “As a psychologist hearing that, that’s not okay, either for her or for the child.”
There are a lot of reasons that mothers might not feel connected to their children. The pregnancy being a “mistake”, as in the case of this woman, is one of them. Beaven says others could include the experience of pregnancy and birth, and issues with feeding and settling.
As for loving two children and hating a third, Beaven says parents might find they connect more easily with one child than another. These feelings can change over time. But if a parent “consistently struggles” to connect with one particular child, then it’s time to get help.
Children who grow up feeling that they’re not loved as much as their siblings may end up needing therapy themselves.
Hanna Beaven, psychologist. Image via Facebook.
“We are all born with an innate need to be loved,” Beaven adds.
Beaven says the woman who wrote this post has needs, and so does the child. “And as a parent, we have a responsibility to elevate the child’s needs.”
She says any woman who feels this way needs to get help.
“The big thing is to feel brave enough to seek support – obviously, for your own distress, to meet your own needs, but the needs of your child. We don’t want to lose sight of the mum and her distress, but we cannot lose sight of the child and their need to be loved.”
Beaven believes it’s possible to work through these kinds of feelings.
“All pain and suffering can be explored and processed with the right support,” she says.
If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association. You can find their website here or call their helpline – 1300 726 306.
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