From mother to daughter: "I wish I could explain to you why I felt that way."

“To my darling daughter.”






To my darling daughter,

As you come of age, on your eighteenth birthday, I can’t help but remember your early months, and how I felt – I feel it is important for you to know this part of your life.  I still don’t fully understand why they were so full of sadness and loneliness.  Confusion I had never felt before.  I feared that you would know how desperate I felt, despite how hard I tried to hide it.  I felt so bad, knowing that you didn’t deserve my unhappiness.

I wish I could explain to you what led to me feeling that way, but I’m not sure that I can, even eighteen years later.  I know before you were born that I had so many hopes for you and me together, I had dreamed endlessly of falling in love with you, of holding you and growing with you, learning together in those early weeks.  I knew there was a lot to learn about having a new baby and it wouldn’t always be easy.  But I didn’t foresee feeling outside of myself, weird, unfamiliar. Right from the beginning my secure home felt different and I was scared.

I don’t know what impact my feelings and fears had on you, but I know I missed so many moments, lost in my preoccupations and my fears.  I missed your tiny smiles, the love in your eyes, the meaning of your cries for comfort.  I missed getting to know you as you started to unfold; it took many months before I really saw you.

I remember I couldn’t laugh with you and I didn’t play.  I am so grateful to your father for being this for you when I couldn’t – I cried when I heard you laugh together, your secret language that I never understood.  I felt so very bad.  I still cry now for the times when I believed the only solution was to leave you both, there seemed no other option.  I believed you needed a better mother, one who loved you more and didn’t fear you.


And then you started to cry, one weekend, you cried for nearly two days.  Your tears seemed to reach into my shadowed mind and I remember looking into your eyes.  I believe I saw you for the first time, really saw you.  I can’t explain this moment to you but I now know your love, your searching for me, reached me.  For a moment I saw myself in your eyes and realised that I had lost everything that I was and had hoped for.  This thing, this presence that shadowed me all the time was robbing us both.

Postnatal depression mums need more support.

I couldn’t hold your gaze for long at the time but I knew in that moment that I needed to do something or I was really going to lose you.

When I was diagnosed with postnatal depression the following week I felt a whole new range of feelings – relief that it had a name, one I could learn about and try to explain; I felt fury that I could not have prevented its invasion of my mind; and I felt such shame and guilt that I had failed you so badly.

It took me many months of support, love and really good health care to shift the shadows, to see you more clearly.

I feared you wouldn’t wait for me and that you would hate me.  I believed that you would know how much I had failed you.  But you didn’t seem to.


As I inched my way towards recovery you met me every time I came to you, you seemed to love me so openly and without conditions.

Since then there have been so many things that have challenged us and I wonder everyday if they are a sign of our difficult beginning together.  I know I am seeking explanations for your normal ups and downs in life in our shared early pain. Would your life have been easier if I had been there for you as the mother you needed?  I will never know.

Today, I know how much I love you, how incredibly proud I am of the wonderful young woman you have become.  I still don’t know for sure but I think I loved you like this from the beginning but my own dark feelings shadowed the love I felt and held back the intimacy we would come to know.

I am so sorry my love but I want you to know none of this was your fault.  I am so grateful that your love reached me when it did, that I could see it and do something.  I really don’t know why I left it so long, but I have learnt to treasure every moment.  I know I am a better mother for my recovery.

And for you my love, I want to fight this ever taking over your life as a new mum, so that you and your new baby can know each other from the start.  I know, despite everything, we now have the relationship that will make this possible, thank you my love.

Your loving mother.

This author is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous. 

Demand for PANDA’s Helpline, as the only specialist, national perinatal depression helpline support service has increased by 70% in the last two years. With rising birthrates this number is set to grow even further. This month, PANDA has launched the Million Mums in May campaign, calling for urgent, increased funding to support the growing number of women diagnosed with postnatal depression. One million mums from around Australia are being asked to help PANDA’s campaign and support other mums by contacting their local MP at