There are a group of bloggers who are all banding together & participating in a series of posts called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You”. The TIATTY movement was inspired by a post from Jess Constable of Make Under My Life & Ez of Creature Comforts. If you’d like more information on the TIATTY movement, you can read Jess’ interview with Laura Rossi from the Huffington Post. You can also visit Robin at Farewell Stranger to read other TIATTY posts as well. All these women are truly amazing & inspirational & I’m so very honoured to be part of this movement.
This is an open letter to my daughter, Orli, who will be four this September. (The name Orli means ‘my light’ in Hebrew).
Dear Orli monkey/muppet,
As you read this letter, please remember this: You are so very loved. You were wanted & you were planned. I love & adore you more than words could ever convey. You bring me joy each & every day & there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. You make me so completely proud & I’m so very lucky that you chose me to be your mum.
I ask you from the depths of my being to remember that what I’m about to tell you is not your fault. It’s no ones fault. It just happened, & I’m a better person for it. So please don’t get too caught up in the how & why because, well, because it just was.
When I was pregnant with you I wasn’t being very honest myself with how I was feeling. I know that every pregnant first time mum has certain trepidations & anxieties about having a baby – about having it be completely dependent on you for the first year & a half (at least), about the sleepless nights, about the changes in you & your partners life & your relationship, about staying home with a baby & not going to (paid) work every day, about giving up a career (or at least stalling it), about having less disposable income, about saving more, about making more decisions on a daily basis & also for the long-term decisions to be made i.e. schools etc. Well, I had all of those thoughts & feelings, but also a few more too.
We had a lot going on in our lives during your pregnancy – my job was extremely stressful & I was working really long hours with management that didn’t seem to care that I was throwing up in the bathroom several times a day, excusing myself from client meetings to get air & generally feeling crap. I was covering for someone while they were on long sick leave & they decided to fire my resource, so I was pretty much doing my job, covering for someone & taking back everything I had delegated my subordinate to do. I also had a miscarriage before falling pregnant with you so I was nervous about getting too excited about you too early in case I lost you as well. I couldn’t wait to get pregnant again as we wanted you so much.
During my pregnancy with you, your Zaida’s (your Daddy’s Daddy) wasn’t very well. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a little while before Daddy & I got married & was having a difficult time while I was pregnant. Having said that though, he made it to see your first birthday which was special beyond words, but I worried that he might not have ever met you which was so heartbreaking & I didn’t want that to be. But I think on top of the work issues & your Zaida being unwell, the major stress I had while I was pregnant with you was that my parents (your Saba & Omi) spilt up after being married for 39 years. It came as a massive shock for me. I could see that they were no longer happy, but I never thought they would actually end their marriage. I was first told about it the week of my miscarriage, but chose to push everything & anything I felt about it under the preverbal carpet & focus on getting pregnant again whilst grieving the loss of your sibling.
And all of this leads me to why I wasn’t being honest with myself during your pregnancy. My focus was on having a baby, on starting my own family & no longer being an extension of my parents. Work didn’t matter, because I was leaving (although I was miserable each day I went), I avoided anything & everything to do with my parents because I was having a baby & that was all that mattered. I figured it was their crap & I was old enough not to be affected by their separation. I was pretty down & extremely anxious but I just kept on thinking that once you arrived my life would be complete & joy would fill my days so that nothing else mattered.
You decided to come at 36weeks. You arrived just after midnight & were taken straight away to the special care nursery for observation because you were early & so very little & I first held you (properly) about twelve hours later. You weighed 2.025kgs & were a spitting image of your Daddy. I’d love to be able to tell you that the day of your birth was the most exciting, amazing & awe inspiring day of my life. But sadly it wasn’t.
So this is where I’m going to start sharing with you all those things that I’m afraid to tell you.
* I had an out of body experience during your birth & was looking down on myself. I started thinking (whist pushing you out) that I didn’t want to have a baby. My life was good & I didn’t want it to change.
* We were separated after the birth & I was glad of this because I was so scared & wasn’t ready to meet you.
* I felt so disconnected to you after the birth & when I first held you there wasn’t that overwhelming sense of love & attachment that people talk about or happen in the movies. I felt numb.
* Daddy went with you to the special care nursery after you were born & all I could think of was that he loved you more than me & I wasn’t important anymore & was replaced.
* You stayed in hospital after I was discharged & I was relieved as I wasn’t ready to take you home.
* I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding you – I preferred to express & bottle feed you even though it was much harder work. Much harder. (And expressed for the first eight weeks of life). And when I said I preferred to bottle feed you, well, I actually meant I didn’t enjoy feeding you at all, because all you did was scream at me. I actually preferred when Daddy fed you so I wouldn’t have to.
* When you got home all you did was cry. You were so unsettled & when you finally fell asleep, I dreaded you waking up.
* I had no confidence as your Mother.
* I was completely overwhelmed by all the information I was getting about what was best for you, what was right, what was wrong & the good & the bad way of doing things. Every midwife had a different way of latching you onto my boob, every person I spoke to had conflicting advice – it was just all too much & I found it so hard to trust my own instincts & do what I felt was best. My head was a jumble of too much information & not enough clarity.
* Life was so much easier without you.
* I resented you – for not sleeping, for not allowing me to sleep, for being completely dependent on me, for the constant crying day & night, for making me have you & for putting my career on hold, for coming early & robbing me of my last four weeks of maternity leave & for not having the balloons & flowers that other hospital rooms had (we told people not to visit as you were in the nursery & they weren’t allowed to go in). I was crying all the time, I was so angry & miserable & your Daddy & I fought all the time in which was so testing on our relationship.
* I wanted to run away from home. I thought you & Daddy would be better off without me.
* I wanted my life back.
* I resented the fact that my role in life had changed. Just because I was now a mother, I was also the homemaker now too.
* I couldn’t understand why people ruined their lives & had children. And I certainly wasn’t going to do it again.
* I pretended to love & adore you in public & socially, but I was lying to both them & myself.
* I hated coming home after being out for a while as I knew it was going to just be groundhog day & I hated every minute of it.
* I wanted to have you adopted out because I was sure there was another family that would be able to take better care of you. And what I mean by ‘family’, I mean Mother.
* I wasn’t able to eat, sleep or do any menial daily tasks as I could before I had you. It was as though you made me miserable even though these tasks had nothing to do with you.
* I wondered what would happen if you feel off the change table or if I let you fall into the corner of the coffee table. I thought it, although I knew I wouldn’t act upon it.
* I was so very very sad & never thought I would ever be happy again.
* I hated the mornings because it meant that my day was going to be the same as the day before & the day before that. Actually, the days weren’t separated at all – my life just felt like one long day.
* My intrusive thoughts were so overpowering & on loop. I blamed myself for you being unsettled (it turned out you had a diary intolerance & I was craving milk & was drinking it all the time), everything was my fault, if I went out for a bit without you I usually came home to you screaming so obviously it was because you were punishing me. It took me a long time to turn the volume of that self-talk down.
* Overall, I regretted having you.
Orli monkey, the reason why these are the things I’m afraid to tell you is because I feel ashamed about the way I felt about you, the way I behaved when you were a baby & the way I, in my mind, mistreated you. I’m embarrassed because I could handle such difficult tasks at work but when it came to a baby, to my baby, to my newborn that only needed feeding, bathing & changing, I was completely incapable of functioning normally & was anxious about every.little.thing. You were completely innocent of everything I felt or thought at the time yet were integral to why I was thinking & feeling all those things. I need to remind you, that none of this was your fault. It would make me so very sad if even for a millisecond you thought it was. And what’s more, please don’t ever judge me for this because it’s not something I chose or would have ever chosen to have gone through.
I know I had some of these thoughts because I was a first time mum & overwhelmed with an unsettled baby. I also knew I had these thoughts because I was just so very very tired. But mostly I had these thoughts as I was suffering with a mental illness, more specifically, a postpartum (postnatal) mood disorder. It was confirmed ‘officially’ when you were seven weeks old & at eights weeks of age we went to a mother baby unit at a psychiatric clinic. You’ve heard me talk about ‘the nuthouse’, but I really think we need to call it our lifeline, because that’s what it was for our family. I was put onto special medication to help my mind level itself out & had lots of groups with other mums that had my issues (or similar) & the fog slowly lifted & I was started to be able to be your Mummy & not just your Mother. It took another few months until I felt better, but it was really when you were about a year old that I started feeling like myself again.
People always comment to me that you’re such a happy little girl & that when you smile your eyes sparkle. I have to be honest with you, as much as this comment makes me proud, it also triggers a sadness in me which I fear will haunt me for the rest of my life. You see, I thought that my ambivalence, numbness & disinterest in you in the first few months of your life was going to ruin you forever. I have proof now that it’s not the case & that our relationship doesn’t bare the scars of that time, however, the overwhelming fear of its possibility will never be forgotten or minimised by me.
My little angel – you have taught me more than I ever imagined I could learn from a little person. I now get why people have babies & I also why they have more than one. And so we did. You have a little brother. And the way you love & care for him is beautiful it makes me think we’ve done ok.
I’ve spent a long time trying to be ok with people knowing about my postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) as well as trying to not care what they think of me having it, being admitted to the nuthouse or being medicated or whatever. But, what I haven’t worked on & is how I’ll feel one day when YOU know all about it. It’s one thing for me to share my story because it happened to me, but, this also happened to us. I hope you continue to grant me permission to talk openly about this as it’s the only way to diminish the stigma associated with PPMD’s. I’m also passionate about the need to increase it’s awareness to ensure no one suffers in silence or alone & so that all mothers with any PPMD know that help is out there & recovery is possible.
Monkey, those are the things I’m afraid to tell you. What I’m not afraid to tell you & never will be is that I love & adore you forever & ever & you will always be the light that brought me back from the dark.