On the whole I believe experiencing PND has left me a more compassionate, kinder person but, unfortunately, one negative personality trait has greatly increased: jealousy.
It's been more than three years since I had my son but every time I hear a new mum talk about the incredible, instant bond she has with her newborn, or how she's never been happier or how she feels more fulfilled than ever before it's like a tiny stab to my chest. And I want to clarify that I am so, so happy for these mums. They are my friends and I wouldn't wish PND on my worst enemy so I'm relieved for them that they feel this way. But sadly, there is a deep down, darker part of me that feels bitter and envious, and I have to work pretty hard to turn this negativity around.
I've written before at length about my expectations of motherhood and how when that instant bond didn't come it triggered anxiety that I believe led to PND. Whatever endorphins are released following birth just didn't happen for me, perhaps because of my EMCS or perhaps not. I will never know and overall that's okay, I continue to make peace with that every day. But hearing how those first few moments were so magical for someone else will always bring the bitter taste of envy to my mouth.
For me, the first few weeks of motherhood were overshadowed by anxiety attacks and depression. For others, they get to exist in this wonderful new mum, love-filled bubble where - yes, sleep deprivation is hard and the lifestyle change is unsettling - but when they hold their baby in their arms the love and contentment they feel overwhelms any distressing emotions, at least for that lovely moment. I didn't have that and I can't help feeling angry about it.
I'm not trying to pretend for one moment that motherhood will always be blissful for anyone who didn't experience PND - everyone has their own difficulties and all children go through seemingly endless phases of sleeplessness, sickness, tantrums and countless other challenges that make any parent want to cry in the bathroom or rip their hair out. I just wish I had the memory of that beautiful new mum bubble to keep in my heart.
Maybe I'm exaggerating this blissful new mum time anyway. Maybe because I didn't experience it I've put the entire period on a pedestal. I'll never know.
I am so happy with my lot in life. There is so much pain and loss in the world, much greater pain than I have ever experienced, and I'm so incredibly grateful for my healthy, awesome son, my successful recovery and the opportunity to be a happy, healthy mum. This jealousy isn't something that upsets me regularly, or affects my general emotional wellbeing these days. It's just an occasional little splinter that I need to manage.
Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in my feelings. Through this wonderful writing journey I have met so many mums who have felt able to honestly share their own less-than-desirable early experience of parenthood. And this makes me feel less cheated and more comforted.
I love being a mum now, and that's what I will continue to focus on. I live in hope that this bitterness will eventually be so buried by love that it hurts less and less.