They are the happiest days of your life, the baby you spent so many months growing, and many more anticipating is here. You watch him sleep in your arms, hold him that moment longer before laying him down.
You sniff him at regular intervals, whether it’s to remember his newborn perfume or to gauge the severity of what sits in his nappy. In fact, that poo smells good too. You are happy. His eyes lock onto you and you smile in wonder at this little bundle who thinks you are the world. You are happy. Happy. Right?
I was happy, too, which made it all the more baffling as to why after the birth of my son, I could no longer laugh or maintain a simple conversation. Why did the ground feel like quicksand? Why did people around me seem so vacuous and clearly unaware that I was now a shadow of my former self? They tell you that you are glowing, and you wonder whether this is a pre-scripted throwaway line to cheer you up, or whether you have perhaps now gained a halo you were unaware of. You may now call me Mother*$%ing Superior, thank you.
I am not sure how long it took me to realise it as I had avoided the conversation with myself for many months. I had no time for internal self-reflection, I had mama-skills to hone. I don’t even know when the realisation hit, but sure enough it did, and it said to me, ‘I think you have postnatal depression.’ Well shit on a rusk, now what? (Post continues after gallery.)
Even after my epiphanic moment I took a while to accept my self-diagnosis, so I kept my little secret tucked away whilst still enjoying the whole motherhood gig and being gloriously in love with my beautiful boy. This is where I felt an incongruence with my understanding of PND and the actual reality of PND.
I thought I should have been feeling disconnected from my child if I had PND. Don’t women with PND feel like harming their babies? I didn’t. I love him more than I love myself right now, I thought. So where did I go wrong with my preconceived picture of postnatal depression?
I call it the Dr Phil Syndrome. Remember back when Brooke Shields confessed to visions of her baby being harmed and the world went into a frenzy of PND concern? They reported to us over and over of Shields’s disconnect from her baby Rowan, yet too often left out the fact that she had suffered a traumatic birth, involving an emergency C-Section and an umbilical cord wrapped around her baby’s neck. She had lost people close to her, included her father just weeks before the birth. All the media tended to report was that Brooke Shields wanted to harm her baby. It wasn’t as simple as this, but truth rarely sells tabloids.