Fourteen Years on from PND
My son was fourteen last week.
Let's pause for a minute there.
Four-teen years old.
One minute I was worrying about him starting school, shedding a few tears as I walked away from the school gates, and the next, he's a strapping teenager about to start year 10 and gearing up to GCSEs.
Setting aside the fact I can still remember taking my own GCSEs I'm a bit shocked that I'm a mum to a six-foot boy, a young man who can rest his chin on the top of my head.
If only I'd known he would be a strong, independent, healthy, intelligent young man twelve to fourteen years ago. During those two years I suffered from depression after suffering from PTSD related to birth trauma. A bittersweet time (mainly bitter) that shrouded me in guilt for a long time during and after. Thinking I'd scarred him for life.
I used to look at parents with teenagers, when I was pushing my son in his pram, and was so envious. I knew they’d be getting decent sleep at night. I knew they wouldn’t be worrying about reflux, or jabs, or stressing because their own milk wasn’t strong enough for their child so would have to supplement it with formula. (Oh the guilt for doing the latter.)
And if I wasn’t worrying about any of that I’d be worrying about his sleep patterns, whether I should be doing ‘controlled crying’ or numerous other things I found out about on the internet.
I was tense, anxious, unhappy. And guilty because I felt all of those things.
And every time I closed my eyes I would picture the birth, feel the birth, over and over on a loop.
I was writing and blogging by the time he went to school. Blogging helped me to recover, to have a purpose that wasn’t baby or toddler orientated.
I didn’t often write about my son, or what I went through, but this is my blog post, written the day before he went to school for the first time ten years ago:
On the Edge
My son is standing at the beginning of his school life, not knowing what is waiting for him on his journey. I stand watching him, anxiously biting my nails, my stomach swirling in anticipation of those last few moments when we have to say goodbye – until we meet again at the end of the school day.
He has so much to look forward to. I enjoyed my school years. I loved learning to read, write and to spell. I can still remember the pieces of paper that my parents had to sign to say they had listened to me read for two, or three or more pages. I was also a spell-a-holic.
He has all this to look forward to. Meeting new friends. Experiencing new experiences.
It is a fabulous time for him.
Yet all I feel is sadness.
I feel like I am losing him. I am sitting here, typing, with tears welling up in my eyes. I have known my son for over four years, yet the first few years of his existence are a blur for me. I don’t remember much about it. I don’t remember the first time he spoke, or walked, or sat up. I do remember when he first smiled, when he was lying on my bed and husband and I were peering over him. I don’t remember it as a magical moment though. I have to use photographs as prompts for other memories and sometimes these photographs just remind me of a time of great unhappiness when it should have been a time of joy.
Damn it. I feel cheated. I have such a lovely, fantastic little boy, yet I have only recently come to appreciate him. To enjoy his company. To delight in his voice and childish mannerisms.
I have always loved him. But I didn’t love the life I had made for myself by having him.
Now I am enchanted by him and for the life we have. I now want to be his mummy.
But tomorrow he will be going to school.
As I read through this blog post again it does give me a little sadness at what I went through at the time. But, ten years after he started school, twelve years since I recovered from PND, fourteen years since I gave birth to my first child, I have to say the years to come outweigh all of the difficulties and unhappiness. It has shaped me BUT, crucially, I don’t think it has affected him at all.
All the guilt I felt at the time that I was a bad mum and didn’t give him enough time and love – it has had no impact on him whatsoever. Because, guess what? I was a good mum. I loved him and cared for him. I just didn’t see it because the negativity in my head blinded me to what actually was happening.
I saw a clip of him and me on an old video camera a few weeks ago. He loves ‘old tech’ and had got it working again. There I was on the TV, holding him, a small baby, during those bad times when I thought I was a terrible mother. With time and space I viewed that clip with fresh eyes. Even though I knew what I felt like in my head you could not tell that by looking at me. By how caring I was being with my son. It was eye-opening and any residual guilt that might have been there all these years later, disappeared in a puff of smoke.
See, we may have had two ‘bad’ years but we’ve since had twelve good ones. The guilt I felt for not being ‘right in the head’ during his first two years has gone. I’m here for him. I’ve always been there for him, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.