So I plodded along. I relished in the days both children would nap at the same time. I would scroll and scroll through various ‘2 under 2’ Facebook parenting groups in the hopes someone felt the same as me. I felt an intense love for my daughter, and continued to resent my son. I lightly brought up topics of having a ‘favourite’ child, to which I was always shut down with how absurd that was.
“We all love our children, equally” – friends and family would stutter.
“Well I don’t!” – my heart wailed.
I continued to breastfeed both him and my daughter, my daughter increasing her feeds out of jealousy. Whenever I fed my son I would get pins and needles in my hands and arms, my legs would become restless and my body tense. My phone became my crutch, I became obsessed with Candy Crush as it was the only thing that would take my mind away whilst feeding him. My son would feed, but at the same time push himself away from me. As if he wanted my breast, yet no other form of comfort or connection.
I looked forward to when my daughter fed, I would feel relief and a rush of oxytocin. It was the only time I felt truly myself again. I constantly battled with the possibility of not feeding him, but didn’t want to wean my daughter. I knew people would find it odd to continue feeding my toddler, whilst giving my baby formula. So I plodded along.
My husband had managed to take six weeks off work to be with us. I loved it and loathed it. Having him around made me dependent on him. It was too easy to hand him the baby and leave the room. To complain of back ache when carrying him on days out. My son slept for hours on end, still does now. It was too easy to lay him in his moses basket and pretend he didn’t exist. He barely made a sound.
He continued to refuse to sleep on me. I settled for him sleeping in the cot attached to our bed. Our toddler still sleeping in bed with us. I felt guilty that my son wasn’t experiencing the ‘attachment parenting’ ways I had become dependent on, despite the fact it was him choosing his path.
I had been honest with my midwife and health visitor from the start. Stating I didn’t feel anything, but their advice was pointless. Bathe together, do skin to skin, look into his eyes, breastfeed him. I was doing all of this, but I couldn’t force him to connect with me. He would wriggle and scream, the only time he seemed to be upset, other than when he was hungry, was when I tried to cuddle him. They were sure I would figure it out. So I plodded along.
I went to my usual baby groups, reconnected with old friends I had lost touch with due to my sickness. We seemed like the perfect, happy family on the outside. On the inside I was becoming increasingly low, depressed, frustrated and incredibly anxious and paranoid. I was determined everyone was looking at me. That they could see we didn’t bond. That everyone would talk about me. Thought that I wasn’t coping. That they felt sorry for my children.
I couldn’t cry. No matter how low, how frustrated I was feeling, I just couldn’t shed a tear. I was exhausted. I just wanted to feel, something, anything! I started watching sad films, anything to bring some emotion to me, read sad novels. I would sit in bed and think of all the horrible things that had ever happened to me, but nothing worked. I felt like I was going to explode. I was sure I would break at some point, I just didn’t know when. So I plodded along.
Four months post partum. The day everything changed.
My husband was back to work, my daughter woke as soon as he left. She clambered on top of me for a feed, as she did most mornings, but accidentally knocked her sleeping brother awake. I cracked. Both children started screaming. I didn’t know who to sort first. After a while, I decided to feed my daughter, she would be content watching telly whilst I sorted my son afterwards. He continued to scream. Once sorted, and happy with a DVD on, I calmed my son and gave him a feed but he wouldn’t settle. I just wanted him to sleep so I could go back to sleep.
I put him down on his tummy, as he always slept, and started to pat him on the back. He would normally settle in minutes with a rhythmic pat on the back. However that morning he just wouldn’t settle. He cried and wriggled. My daughters DVD had ended. She started crying. I just wanted to go back to sleep. My head was banging. My whole body tense. I continued patting my son, he just needed to go back to sleep. My daughter continued to scream. They just needed to be quiet so I could go back to sleep. I started to pat faster and harder without really realising.
Just. Go. Back. To. Sleep.
My son cried out. I gasped. My daughter was silent.
My bubble popped. I burst into hysterics. Tears streamed down my face.
My daughter started to cry again, my son’s cries became even more loud and intense. I struggled to breathe. White noise streamed my ears. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t see anything. I hid under the duvet and waited for it all to end.
I don’t remember what happened after that. The next thing I knew, I was on the phone to my husband, begging him to come home. He came home to find us all fast asleep. I explained what had happened. I broke down. I admitted I wasn’t coping. That I didn’t want to do this anymore.
We called the peri natal mental health team in Exeter, a number I had been given previously and was put on a waiting list for. They spoke to my husband and decided to send the crisis team out the following day. I called my brother to come down from university, to look after me and the kids. My husband was told I shouldn’t be left alone.
The team came to my house to discuss my mental health. They gave me a new health visitor, put me on the waiting list for an attachment psychologist and sent a request to my doctor to discuss medication.
I had a plan of action.
They said I was going to get better.
So, I plodded along.
(Disclaimer – I have an array on health professionals working with me on a regular basis who are aware of my entire history of mental health issues and also read this blog.)