In my head, it was perfectly normal to be slumped on the floor of my completely disheveled home when my husband walked through the door at night. I was tired and resting, leaning against the wall with my eyes closed, perfectly happy to stay that way for a couple of hours.
I was unable to move, but not too fussed about it.
My husband became used to walking through the door quietly, greeting me gently, stepping over me and taking over the care of our kids while I enjoyed my time on the floor, my mind completely blank, my body devoid of even a scrap of energy.
I’d eventually get up but I wasn’t the same energiser bunny who had whizzed through her day caring for three children, two of whom were only 16 months apart, and an extra baby courtesy of my sister who had returned to work. I loved my children, I loved all the kids very much, but with a sort of I’m-meant-to-love-them sort of way.
It was buried under what I now realise was post-natal depression. At the time I just thought I was tired, sad, and busy.
My husband was the one who mentioned that I might be suffering from post-natal depression. He was scared to bring it up, unable to gauge my moods. Unbeknownst to me I was a mess and he never knew which version of me he’d come home to. Finding me slumped on the floor was apparently more of a relief than anything. Other versions of me involved sobbing while washing the dishes or entering a manic state where I’d obsess over the tiniest thing.
Life was unbearable.
There was part of me that realised I wasn't behaving normally and I could still pretend to be happy when family and friends paid me a visit. It was a performance and I'd secretly count down the minutes until I could usher them out the door so I could resume my muddled, sometimes fitful style of parenting.
I was never treated for post-natal depression.
My recovery began with that initial conversation with my husband. His acknowledgement of my condition served to wake me up to a degree to what was going on in my world. I nodded wordlessly as he explained how worried he was about me and after he had finished talking I picked up the phone to my sister and told her how I was feeling.
The next day she turned up at my home and pushed me out the door, telling me to go for a walk. I hadn't left the house in two weeks at that stage and it was the last thing I wanted to do, but she slammed the door in my face.
I reluctantly walked around the block and when I knocked on my own front door to be let in so I could resume my spacey existence she opened it only enough to tell me to "go again" and so I did.
Twice a week she'd push me out of the front door and I'd do it begrudgingly at first but eventually came to look forward to it.
Reading has always been my therapy and I started researching post-natal depression, reading Down Came The Rain by Brooke Shields and finding some interviews with Bryce Dallas-Howard about her own experience with post-natal depression. It all sounded shockingly familiar.
In the TV series Susanna a sister is left to care for the baby of her troubled sister. Article continues after video.
These two actresses were so candid in their description of their complete emptiness in those first few weeks and months of motherhood. I recalled the day I gave birth to my second son. Our business was collapsing and there I was holding a new baby in my arms. I remember looking at him and feeling nothing. My husband walked in and I said, "Sorry he's so ugly". He had a slight hair lip and wasn't as perfectly formed as my first son had been.
I said it with no thought as to how such a cold statement might sound to others. My husband wrote it off as the after-effects of the medication I had been given for my c-section birth, but it took me months to feel love for my second son. I kept waiting for it, but it never came.
"Do I love him today," I'd ask myself. "No, not yet, not today," I'd realise and continue caring for him and my older son.
Writing about it now makes me feel quite sad. It's like I was living in a bubble with the kids and everyone else was "out there" in the real world. I was in the bubble crying and screaming but nobody could hear me.
My husband and sister eventually did and I give them both full credit for helping me get out of that bubble. Their gentle love and acceptance of my behaviour and emotions gave me the space to sort myself out. I know many women aren't lucky enough to be able to do that. Their post-natal depression is more severe, requiring medication and treatment.
It's all a distant memory now and my feelings for all three of my children are ones of overwhelming love and complete and utter devotion, as they should be, as well as a pinch of anxiety about their futures and just a sprinkle of incomprehension about how overwhelming the task of raising humans really is.