When I went to Italy, many years ago, someone stole my entire backpack. I was 19 and without my parents, on my very first overseas adventure. 2 days before I was due to fly home from Rome, someone took it right out of the bus I was travelling on. I loaded it on... someone took it off and walked away. I was devastated... and I had borrowed the backpack from a friend who was expecting me to return it when I got home. I had no clean clothes, no toiletries and I had lost all my souvenirs and a heap of my photos. I was scared, angry and admittedly, a little embarrassed at my carelessness.
All was well when I returned home though. My travel insurance covered the cost of what was lost. The photos I did have were enough to share with my family and friends. I didn't lose my passport (thank goodness). I didn't lose my money (thank goodness). And walking off the plane in Sydney without any checked in luggage certainly saved a lot of time! Until recently, this was pretty much the only significant thing that I've ever had stolen from me... and the recovery was pretty easy. Awful at the time, but quickly forgotten about... and now laughed about as I share the story you.
I've only had one other significant robbery in my life. Sadly, the recovery hasn't been as easy, or as quick. Travel insurance couldn't help me this time. What has been taken from me has gone and is gone forever and unlike my last story, this one won't be laughed about. When you become a parent you are given the most amazing gift. It took me a LONG time to appreciate that gift and understand exactly how amazing it is, but I got there. There's no doubt when I became a parent for the second time, I was given a great gift. But this time, I felt like I had lost a lot too. Something stole it from me. It was postnatal depression and this is what it took away.
Yes I know, every new mum says they are low on energy, but this was different. I'd experienced the usual sleep deprived, foggy headedness every new parent feels with my first baby. Second time around, after the 'happy hormones' had worn off and my adrenaline levels following a super quick labour had returned to normal, a lack of energy set in like I'd never experienced. I was ALWAYS tired and I ALWAYS felt run down. It wasn't just the energy I needed to do physical stuff either... I didn't even have the energy I needed to smile. I couldn't be bothered laughing. I was always too exhausted to care. It started to feel like it used less energy being miserable... so I often chose to be miserable.
I'm a primary school teacher so patience is something I've always had a lot of... until I was hit with depression. I started yelling at my toddler. I even yelled at my newborn. I had absolutely no tolerance for any loud noises, changes of plans or mess (they seemed to be the three biggest triggers). I took a lot of my frustration out on my baby. I got really angry at him and would find myself blaming him for everything. If something was taking longer than it should have, it was his fault. If something was making too much noise, it was his fault. My patience, for a long time, appeared non-existant.
All of a sudden I found myself completely unable to look forward to things. I often convinced myself I didn't have anything to look forward to. Pessimism became very familiar to me as I found it easier to think negatively about things than use up energy (back to point number one) being positive. There was nothing in my future that looked bright. My road appeared dark and uneven for as far as I could see. No silver lining... no ray of sunlight... just misery.
If someone asked me what I'd like to eat for lunch, I'd start to panic, because it would mean having to make a decision. Almost every question I was ever asked always resulted in an increased heart rate. I couldn't think like I used to. I couldn't plan, or organise. Instead of thinking rationally I often found my head space cloudy; my thoughts a jumbled mess. There was never any use in reading, my concentration had almost completely disappeared. Some days, when our planets aligned and the two kids slept at the same time, I would just sit on the sofa, staring into space... sometimes, my head so busy with activity it felt like the world was spinning... and other times, so numb and empty, it's almost as if I was sleeping with my eyes open.
A BOND WITH MY BABY
Depression stole my energy, my patience, my optimism and my ability to think rationally. All of these things being taken from me resulted in the biggest loss I've ever had... an early bond with my baby. My memories of his time as a newborn are very hazy. I remember getting angry at him and yelling at him. I remember begging for him to stop crying. I remember being willing to do ANYTHING to make him sleep. But I can't remember what his skin felt like. I can't remember how light he was. I can't remember his 'newborn smell'. Depression stole a really important time with my son from me and I will never get it back. When he was tiny and refused to sleep anywhere but in my arms, I would complain with all the strength I had left... he's now almost too heavy to hold while he's sleeping and I would love to do it again. Why didn't I enjoy it while I could?
My baby boy is almost 1 and it feels like I spent a lot of his first year alive resenting him, being frustrated by him, being miserable in front of him, complaining about him and getting angry at him. He has been a lot of hard work. Breastfeeding was a long, painful journey. Sleep has been a challenge from the day he came home. He is loud, strong, fast and demanding. There's no denying the kid has been a handful. But he didn't steal those precious newborn moments from me; the moments I will never have again... depression did.
*crying as I write this now*
Luckily, with the help of a very good GP, a counsellor, some medication (not for everyone, but they've helped me), support from my husband and patience and love from everyone else, depression isn't stealing anything from me anymore. In fact it's been given a life sentence in gaol and I'm certainly not expecting it to come out on parole.
Oh, and my son and I are now the best of friends. Funny how unconditional a baby's love is for their mummy.