All you need is love … and 2.4 children, apparently.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes mum with the baby carriage, or something along those lines. That’s how it’s supposed to go right? That is the universal dream isn’t it? Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way society thinks it should, and we should all be ok with that.
My husband, Tristan and I were together 4 years before we got married. And then married for 7 years before we had our darling baby boy. So we were on the right track, right? I remember that Max was 3 months old when I first heard “Well it’ll be time for the next one soon” and I was absolutely gobsmacked. I think the v-jay jay had only just healed, so I definitely was not ready to go back for round two.
I had the absolute dream pregnancy, after taking a little longer (almost a year) to conceive than I would have liked. I was healthy, had no morning sickness or heartburn or cravings or any of those other nasty pregnancy side effects you hear about. I was determined that I was going to have a natural birth, and it was all going to be hunky dory. I was never scared about the birth, I think I’d read every book and watched every documentary on the subject, so I was set. What I was worried about was what the hell to do with this tiny human being when I got it home. I couldn’t believe that they trusted me to take this little thing home and be in charge of it!
So as planned, I gave birth to the child, it all went really well, I stayed in the hospital for 4 days probably because I didn’t really want to go home and have sole charge of this baby, I was shit scared. We went home and started the new role of being parents, we changed nappies, and fed formula (no judgement please!) and I became very fixated on the routine and the timing of everything. I would write down on the chart given to me by the hospital when he slept, when he pooped etc and I became quite anal about it to be fair. It became the only way I could cope, was to stick to the schedule, and I couldn’t cope when things didn’t go to schedule, like if Max didn’t sleep as long as he was supposed to, or drink as much as he was supposed to. I became too scared to leave the house because it didn’t fit into my carefully curated schedule and I was scared of what to do if my baby cried and I didn’t know what to do. I know now, that thinking like that is ridiculous, and crazy talk, but that’s how I felt. I was anxious, and scared and over whelmed all the time.
When Max was 6 months old I finally admitted that I had a problem, and I knew that I wasn’t being the best Mum to Max or the best wife to Tristan, so I needed to get help. I went to my GP and she was awesome and validated my feelings and choose a medication for me to go on. I felt better the next day, and I know that medication doesn’t work that fast, but I think it was the fact that I had told someone how I was feeling, finally after putting on a brave face to coffee group, and friends, and family. One of the hardest things I had to do was to tell me Mother and my mother in-law because I felt like I had failed, they are both of the generation where you just get on with it, every one has these feelings, it’s just part of being a mother. Only in my eyes it’s not!
After 6 months on medication I felt great, more in control, and it was time to go back to work. “I’ve got this” I thought to myself, I’m going to come off the medication because I’m going back to work and I will be away from the environment which caused the depression (home and the baby) So off I trotted to work, unmedicated!!
I think I only lasted a couple of weeks before I had a melt down at home one weekend, and admitted that I actually need to still be on the medication. Which once again felt like failure, but did solidify in my mind that it was a hormonal imbalance, and not something I had control over. So back to the doctors I went.
During this time, as you can imagine, it was particularly tough on my marriage. My husband was fantastic, he just bonded with our son immediately, and nothing was too much trouble when it came to helping take care of Max. He took on the role of parent, like he was born to do it, bless him. I on the other hand, struggled, became teary, overwhelmed and probably a pain in the arse, and this was not a great time to be married to me (my husband won’t say it but I will).
Once the medication kicked in the second time, life was great, everything was ticking away nicely, and for a brief moment I actually contemplated having another child. Because that’s what you do right? “Every child needs a sibling” “It’s almost child abuse to not have another child” “Just because you had depression with the first child, doesn’t mean you’ll have it with the next” “there’s never really a right time, you just do it” all statements that I’ve heard, and discarded, because I’m the only one who can make that decision. I had to make the decision based on how I felt.
And how did I feel?
I felt as though I didn’t think my relationship and my sanity, could cope with another bout of depression, and yes I knew that it may not happen again, but it was not a chance I was willing to take. I’m not saying my marriage is not solid and good, it is awesome and I feel grateful every day, that I get to do life with this man. But there were some dark times during that first 18 months, and I don’t ever want to go back to feeling like that ever again.
I have always been very up front, and honest about my journey as a mother, and how I dealt with post natal depression, because I feel like it’s not something to be ashamed of, it happens a lot more commonly than we know about, and if I can help one other mum who’s feeling crappy, then me putting myself out there is absolutely worth it.
I don’t believe that my life or my son’s life is any worse for us only having one child. He is a funny, smart, articulate young man, and I feel blessed every day that he has helped me become the woman I am, by becoming his Mum. I take my hat off to all the mum’s out there who are doing amazing jobs raising their families of one, two or ten children, we have all had to make the decision that it right for us, and should not be judged for that decision.
It was a hard, scary, soul destroying time in my life, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It was taught me how to communicate with my husband better, how to judge less, how to be confident with my decisions, and to trust my own instinct. I believe that I am a better wife, friend, daughter and mother because of this experience.