I left my baby somewhere in a parking lot. Left him still strapped into his car seat on the cold tarmac. I walked away.
Now it is dark outside. I need to find my son. I can hear him crying but I can’t find him. There is no one but me in this huge, grey building with it’s many levels circling up, up, up into the night sky. He’s not crying anymore. He is screaming. I try to place the screams but I can’t. I’m running through the emptiness. Where is he? WHERE IS MY BABY???
And then I wake up. My heart is pounding, I am drenched in sweat. I check on my son sleeping in his cot. Focus on his chest to check if he is still breathing.
This is the recurring nightmare I had when my son was born. Also, I dreamt of him falling from a balcony. I run to catch him, but can’t reach him in time. It all happens in slow motion. In eerie silence. My arms are stretched out to catch him. It’s too late. He has gone over the edge.
The worst thing was that the panic didn’t leave me when I was awake. I lived with heavy dread in my chest and anxiety like red ants crawling in my stomach. I could’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was out of control with worry over this tiny being I was suddenly so very responsible for. How could they leave me to take care of this little life? What if I dropped him? What if his soapy body slipped out of my hands in the bath? What if he had too many blankets at night? What if he was too cold? What if I didn’t sterilise his things properly? What if some germ entered his body and it was my fault?
The craziness just kept on coming until one morning I couldn’t move. I sat crying on my bed, frozen in fear. I told my husband that I could’t do it. I couldn’t be a mother to this child. It was all a big mistake. I literally felt like his real mother was about to walk in the door and all would be well again. She would take her child and she would know how to keep him safe.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I had read every single pregnancy book and magazine while I was pregnant. I was prepared for a c section due to high blood pressure, I pre-washed all the tiny baby outfits in special detergent, folded them neatly and stroked over the soft fabric, dreaming of holding my baby close for the first time. I had wanted this baby for such a long time!
But things just seemed to go wrong from the start.
My due date was February the 2nd, a Friday.
On Wednesday the 30th of January my blood pressure kept on climbing. We live on a farm, 125km from the nearest hospital, so my husband was in charge of taking my BP twice a day. At 21hoo that night my BP was 180/120. We checked in with my gynae and he told us to get in the car and get to the hospital immediately. It is a 90 minute drive. By the time we reached the hospital my BP was 200/120. I was taken straight to theatre, had an emergency c section and my son was born at 00h45 on the morning of the 31st of January.
I felt nothing like I thought I would. His tiny features didn’t look familiar to me at all! I felt no connection, no instant love, nothing. I tried to breastfeed but he wouldn’t latch.
The breastfeeding just didn’t work. Redfaced from crying, my son was hungry. The first feelings of doubt settled in my head. Why wasn’t this working?
But I had read all the info on “Breast Is Best!”, and I was determined to do it.
We were discharged after three frustrating days.
My Mother In Law came to help out during this time because my own mom had passed away during my pregnancy. I was 16 weeks along when she had a heart attack. My mother and I were really close. But her death left me numb. My body protecting the growing life inside me. Big red flag. Someone should have noticed. No one did.
Once home, we continued with the struggle to breastfeed. My son was crying permanently. Waking up every 1/2 hour to feed. I sat in the same chair night after night, trying to settle him.
I woke up somewhere in week 2 and was told that MIL had given my baby a bottle. He drank and drank, finally getting the food he needed. I should have been grateful. Instead, I was furious. She had made an important decision about my child without asking me.
And then came the little voice again : “Maybe she just was a better mother than I could ever be?”
At the three month mark I fell apart completely. I went to a local GP, told him how I felt and was promptly told to pull myself together because my son didn’t ask to be born and he didn’t deserve this. One of the many idiots I came across during my two year journey with Post Natal Depression.
Because that is what it was. The irrational fears, the heaviness, the doubts about my abilities as a mother. The mission it was to get dressed, brush my teeth and face each day.
Post Natal Depression. What I was going through finally had a name.
My recovery was a long process of trial and error. It included 2 suicide attempts, 3 admissions to psychiatric treatment facilities, going from one psychologist to the next to find the help I needed.
I spend my life shouting from the rooftops: PND is real! It is treatable! Please be aware of the triggers and the risks!
I come across many, many misconceptions about the condition.
“Pray, and it will all get better.”
“Just keep going, it will get better.”
“Suck it up. You wanted this baby, remember?”
Yes, I did.
Today he is 12 years old. A beautiful soul with a heart of gold. He does well in school, he is popular with many friends, he has a fantastic sense of humor.
I look at him and think : “We made it , boy. Yes, we did!”