My mother told me if I bonded instantly with my daughter that I should just enjoy it – don’t look back, she said, I should know that my son wasn’t affected by my postnatal depression. And logically I know that she is right, we have somehow raised a secure, kind and wonderful 2 year old who lights up our lives. I really couldn’t be prouder of him.
I see that my lack of bond with him in the early days has had no impact at all; sure I was just going through the motions but I met all of his basic needs. He didn’t know what I thought of him. Those thoughts were locked away from him, from everybody. They were pushed down deeply until they had nowhere to go and instead they bubbled up and erupted. A hot mess of emotions begging for help.
First baby to second baby
Two and a half years on and I find myself gazing at his brand new sister with sheer awe; she is beautiful, she is perfect, she is my baby. It is no exaggeration to say that from the moment she arrived in the birthing pool in our conservatory she has captivated me. Since then I have sat and simply stared for hours. I have basked in an instantaneous love which I have never experienced before. In short I have been bowled over by her. There have been tears this time too. Happy tears that I didn’t know I could cry, sad tears for the time lost with my darling son. Not for him. For me.
I imagine travelling back in time and gazing at my first born with overwhelming love. I see it now, how ill I was, and I mourn for the precious time that I was robbed of. I know it is a time that will never return, a part of my life which was not lived or felt as it could have been. As it should have been.
Memories of postnatal depression
It is so painful to me that I could not see his beauty back then. I am wounded by the memories and yet I cannot help but revisit them now. I am reliving mothering a newborn; the practicalities of feeding, nappies and nap times with a strange shadow behind me. A kind of deja-vu. Foggy repressed recollections that at times feel unreal and at others visceral.
The blanket she is wrapped in wrapped him first, he slept in that crib before she did, the change mat, the muslin cloths – before her there was him. They look different, my two children, but every so often I catch a glimpse of my son in my daughter and treasure it as if to overwrite the awful, dark memories from his early life.
Learning to let go
I was so scared of having a newborn again that I didn’t dare to dream that I could feel this way. I assumed that I would struggle, that I would disconnect. I decided that I probably would not bond again and that that was ok. So now when I find myself falling in love with my newborn and tracing the scars of postnatal depression with a loving hand I am struck by a sense of stillness.
Deep wounds are healing themselves, I can almost feel myself letting go of my demons and finally closing what has been a brutal chapter of my life. After all I have so much to look forward to, that there is no need to look back anymore.