I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but the words just wouldn't come. They still are not flowing easily now, but I am trying hard as this is something I want to share with you all. I feel it's an important thing to do, both for myself, and for anyone else out there feeling the same way.
I live under my very own cloud, and its name is postnatal depression.
Those of you who have followed me for a while will know all about my three children, and the way they arrived in this world. (If not, please head over and read my Birth Stories - it will explain a lot). None of my labours or births were what I expected, or wanted. They were all horrifically traumatic, unexpected and stressful.
Birth is supposed to be such a special, magical time where you finally meet your baby after all the waiting. That first cuddle - the fact you are the first person to hold them. That's never happened for me. Someone else held all of my babies before me.
I hate this. It makes me cry.
All 3 of my babies were treated in special care. They were all in incubators, hooked up to wires, monitors and tubes. I couldn't hold them when I wanted, I had to ask someone. I couldn't dress them, feed them or cuddle them without someone saying it was OK first. That's not how it should be.
After Gemma's birth I suffered. I suffered flashbacks that woke me in the night. My dreams always ended with me being rushed to theatre not knowing if my baby would be dead or alive.
I couldn't function properly. I didn't bond well with my precious daughter. I struggled through daily life with a newborn, but underneath it all I felt hopeless, sad and overwhelmingly guitly.
Guilty that she was born by C section, that I couldn't birth her naturally.
Guilty that she was so poorly, was it my fault?
Guilty that I failed to breastfeed.
Just guilty. Guilty about everything.
Luckily, my condition was picked up on, and counselling and medication got me through.
Then Jacob arrived. Again a horrible birth, my premature little boy who I failed to keep inside me long enough. The guilt was back. Why couldn't I have carried him to full term, then he wouldn't have been poorly? Why had my body failed my little boy?
Back under the storm cloud of depression again.
By the time Jacob was about 18 months, I was free. Free of that awful gloominess. And when I fell pregnant with Max, I just knew this time would be different. The likelihood of 3 babies needing special care was slim, it wouldn't happen again. Reaching 36 weeks was a milestone for me. Almost full term. If he arrived now, he would be fine. Right? Wrong.
Another premature birth. Another poorly baby who couldn't breathe properly. Another special care baby. And another dark cloud of sadness, hopelessness, and the ever present guilt.
Again, guilty of not carrying my baby to full term, not protecting him like I should have.
I KNOW that these things are not my fault, but it doesn't matter how many times someone tells you that, it doesn't stop the way I am feeling. I feel that I failed my babies. I feel that I didn't deliver them the way nature intended, I didn't keep them in me for long enough, or that I didn't keep them safe from harm. I have never once had those precious moments where you meet your newborn, hold them, give them their first feed and look into their eyes, the windows to their soul. For me their births will always be about tears, trauma, alarms, struggles and sadness. And that's just not fair.
I don't want to look back and be sad. I want to enjoy every moment with my amazingly strong, beautiful and inspiring children. But I can't. I have been robbed.
There are people out there with much bigger problems than me, but this is my personal storm cloud, and it's a pretty dark place to be sometimes.