I'm wondering if I have been exhibiting signs of post natal depression. At times, it feels like I have been observing my own life as if from a distance.
The person I see there, weeping in the bedroom in front of the mirror is not me. I used to be a confident, vibrant and opinionated woman, happy most of the time. Now it seems that to even get through a single day without crying is a small victory. I know my state of mind isn't helping Oscar, or P, or myself, but I just can't help it.
P says I'm just tired, and if I would only "sleep when the baby sleeps", life would appear so much easier, Oscar's needs less overwhelming, my outlook significantly less bleak. I know he is right, and I do try and make myself nap on our bed next to Oscar's cot when he finally succumbs to slumber.
But then I think of all that needs to be done, and I start to feel guilty about what I'm not doing to be a good mother, and while these thoughts spiral, I've wasted 20 minutes, and the baby is stirring and needing to be resettled. I even feel like I don't deserve to be feeling this way: our baby is healthy, thriving, putting on weight, alert, and he certainly can't be described as being even a tiny bit colicky.
I wonder, how do those mothers who have infants with colic do it? What about single mothers? And those with other children, too – demanding toddlers who have a constant need for attention? What's wrong with me, that I don't think I can cope, me, with a beautiful bonny baby and a supportive husband? What's wrong with me? I feel so fat, so haggard these days, my boobs are huge and sore, my hair lank and stringy, my mouth downturned and sour, my attitude, utterly hopeless.
And in the midst of all of this, I look at Oscar, who is by now awake in his cot, and I think see a smile. Yes, I do, it's definitely there, and it's getting wider, his blue eyes dance merrily and his whole little face is transformed, Despite myself, I too break into a grin, and find myself laughing, even crying a little bit, with wonder, and joy.
So this is what it's all for, I realize with a jolt. All the sleepless nights, the pain, the surrender of one's sense of self. All this, for a smile from a being whose whole existence depends on me. And what a smile it is. I never realized the emotional rollercoaster I was stepping onto when this all began.
Don't get me wrong, I know tomorrow morning I'll be feeling much the same way, showing those same signs of post natal depression, but at least now, I have a lifeline and a purpose. At least now I can see that someone is benefiting from all of this, and perhaps, with each smile I get, the reward will be enough to get me through another day.
The Association for Post Natal Illness ( http://apni.org/ )
The mental health charity - Mind has a booklet on Post Natal Depression
Did you ever or do you worry you had/have post natal depression?
If you feel like you are not coping, it's important to seek help. Talk to your GP or health visitor.