Maternal mental health and me

Part 2 - why am I not enough for him?

Becoming pregnant again wasn’t to be so easy, we went through the heartbreak of miscarriage and although very early they were still a part of me. So, when I became pregnant with my second son, I was terrified, it wasn’t the best pregnancy it was so different from my first, I had hardly any symptoms with Connor but this time around was hard. 

I spent much of the pregnancy being sick, I was regularly monitored for bleeding which was unexplained. I had a constant fear that something bad was going to happen, though again I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. As my bump grew, I developed synthesis pubis dysfunction (SPD), which is a condition that causes pelvic pain as the ligaments become too soft. 

Although I was in agony at times I carried on working, by this time I was an assistant manager of a party shop, to be honest, I couldn’t wait to leave. Connor was due to start school in September and I was due in October, so I wanted to spend some time with him. I was still worried about how I was going to love another baby as I did for him. 

I was able to spend September settling Connor into school, it was lovely getting to know the other mums and I quite liked our chats in the playground as we excitedly awaited our children to come out and share news about their day. Though the school was only a short walk away the SPD meant it was painful to walk, though I gritted my teeth and carried on.

Connor seemed settled as I was worried for him, he was quite shy, and he sometimes found social situations difficult, but he quickly made friends and we enjoyed some lovely playdates. It was nice to have some adult conversation too. 

On the morning of the 14th October I woke up feeling horrendous, Marc took Connor to school and told me to go back to bed, I was due on the 18th so not long to go, Connor was born on his due date, but I wasn’t expecting this one too. My head was pounding and all around my left ear, it was excruciating. I tried to go back to bed, then the midwife turned up for our appointment. 

As I was talking to her, I could feel that I couldn’t get my words out, she then told us to go straight up to the hospital. I was petrified, we quickly made arrangements for Connor and off we went. At the hospital, we went to maternity, by this time the left side of my face had dropped, and I was slurring my words. Marc thought I was having some kind of stroke, I was assessed and as too was the baby, I was panic-stricken “this is it I’m going to lose my baby” I thought. 

After some monitoring, the baby was seen to be perfectly healthy with a strong heartbeat, I was so relieved. I was then given the diagnosis of Bell’s palsy ( a facial paralysis), I had never heard of it and was literally sent home with an eye patch and eye drops and that was it. 

There was no google back then so I got back home totally lost and looking like a monster, though it took a while to face the mirror. By the evening I couldn’t close my left eye, hence the eye patch and drops to prevent it drying, my mouth was lopsided and I couldn’t move it. I was dribbling and I couldn’t eat or drink anything as it fell out of my mouth.

I was dreading seeing Connor too, what had happened to me? I was lost those next few days. I stayed in the house whilst Marc took Connor off to school. It took me a while to look in the mirror when I finally did, I was heartbroken “where had I gone?”

On Friday 18th October my due date, at around 3.15am I woke needing the toilet, not unusual at just 40 weeks pregnant, I made my way downstairs to the bathroom. We lived in a two-up, two down and the bathroom was downstairs at the back of the house. I wasn’t feeling anything different to previous nights and went to the toilet, as I went to get back up, I was overcome by the biggest wave of pain which had with it the sudden urge to push.

My body did what it needed to do, I can’t remember too much but within seconds my baby’s head had been born down the toilet, I had a breath and shouted for Marc. He was luckily not at work that night, but I couldn’t shout again as another pain overwhelmed me. I stood up a little as if I didn’t id of dropped my baby down the loo, I pushed again and there I was in the bathroom holding my second baby.

I screamed for Marc, but he can sleep through anything, I then managed to walk through the kitchen and lounge to the bottom of the stairs with the baby still attached. Shouting for Marc, I think he got the shock of his life seeing me there at the bottom of the stairs holding our baby that was still attached.

The paramedics arrived and the midwife followed closely after, they were amazing, and I was ok to stay at home. The midwife was lovely, and once I explained about the bells palsy as she thought it had happened through shock, she gave me some more information about it, something the hospital didn’t do at the time. 

The next few days are hazy, we had another gorgeous baby boy, Connor seemed to have adapted well to being a big brother. When everyone found out how he was born, I got told how lucky I was, the jokes came thick and fast. I was in shock for a few days, within a week I had lost myself, my smile but I had gained a baby, yes I must be lucky! Even if I didn’t feel it right then, I felt incredibly disconnected and those early days I spent doing the things I should be. 

Welcoming visitors when they came knocking, listening to their conversations but not feeling like I was there. Feeling so angry as yet another person wanted to hold the baby. Putting up the pretence and laughing at the jokes surrounding the birth and my face. 

We couldn’t decide on a name, we were going to call him Louis, but it just didn’t feel right now. Especially given that he was born on the loo more or less! The name Reagan popped into my head one day whilst feeding him, I don’t know where from as it wasn’t on our list, but it seemed to fit him. Though we did keep Louis as his middle name, he was affectionally our baby loo for a little while. I embarrass him now with that at 17 ha-ha.

My mum came down to see him and she urged me to see the doctor again as I fell apart in her arms. I couldn’t smile, laugh or eat and all I wanted to do was celebrate this little boy. I have no photos of me from that time aside from a select few as I felt so ugly.

Back at the doctors and he basically told me there was nothing they could do, I just needed to wait, sometimes it can take weeks, months or in the worst-case scenario I would need surgery. I was devastated, I felt lost, ugly and even worse I had completely failed at being a mum. The not knowing was scary and I felt so out of control and lost, I had lost the old me and my smile with it. 

As time went on, I retreated to the house, I couldn’t go out looking as I did, so it began a routine of being alone in the house with Reagan. On the times I had to go out I would wrap a scarf around myself, making sure I gave no eye contact with anyone, it was a quick school pick up for Connor meaning no more conversations in the playground.

Reagan was a very different baby to Connor, he would constantly cry, when I fed him, he would literally throw it all backup, I constantly walked around covered in sick. No matter what I did I couldn’t comfort him, ‘maybe it was me, I looked like a freak I am probably scaring him”. We would be back and forth to the doctors, always with the same answer that he’s fine and that I was worrying over nothing. I just felt that I wasn’t being listened to, “this wasn’t right, but they are professionals, right, it must be me, my fault again”

Finally, I got the diagnosis that he had reflux and he had a milk allergy, a change of milk helped slightly but again I blamed myself. I had made him this way; I had made him have so much pain. He hated being put down so I would spend all day and all night holding him upright, he would snuggle in so tightly, his little way of asking me to help him. 

Marc still worked nights, so night times were spent just the two of us, pacing the floor, sleeping for small 20 minutes at a time. Even when he did sleep slightly longer, I would sit and watch him, I had convinced myself that something bad would happen to him.

During these nights, at times I would be consumed with so many thoughts, some very intrusive thoughts entered my head, I was convinced he was going to die and that it would be my fault. Sometimes I had nightmares that I had actually killed him, other times id have nightmares from my own childhood and I convinced myself then that my dad was going to take the boys away. 

I told no one of these thoughts, I just made it my mission to keep them safe, the love I had for Reagan was very overpowering, I loved this little boy so much, but I knew I wasn’t enough for him. I had failed him, why can’t I look normal? why can’t I be a good mum? Why isn’t he sleeping? Why can’t he take milk normally? It’s all because of me I’m not enough and I don’t deserve to be a mummy. 

I kept these thoughts to myself not telling Marc and my mum lived in Yorkshire, so it was easy to hide. So, I got on with being the ‘perfect mummy’ I had to try harder. I didn’t attend any groups with Reagan, and I was mainly in the house with him. I had to ensure he was safe and being in the house was our safe space, if he cried, I went to him straight away, Marc used to say I was picking him up too much. 

However, if he managed to get him to sleep or to get him to do something new, the jealousy raged inside of me. Another reason to see that I was useless, I couldn’t get my baby to sleep, feed or sometimes to just settle. A mummy is supposed to be able to do these things right? How come with Connor he did those things, he slept fine and was happy, Reagan wasn’t happy, and it was my fault.

Back to the health visitor, putting up the pretence that I was fine, I did my hair and put on my makeup, by around 8 months my face had started to return though I still have a wonky eye and smile to this day but it’s fine these days. Reagan was still not sleeping well, and I just couldn’t understand why I got told to leave him in his cot and walk into the garden. How could I do that, I was his mummy he needed me when he cried? 

After everyone telling me that I needed to let him cry for him to learn to sleep, I had even bought a book that told me how to do this. I won’t name the book now but it’s one that I don’t like to this day, it was bandied about for years. 

So, I did as I was told, I put him in his cot and walked into the garden, well it lasted less than 10 minutes. I was his mummy and I will be there to keep him safe; I was pushing Marc away. However, he was good often coming in off a night shift to take over whilst I slept a little. That’s how it went, we juggled no sleep, often ending up on the sofa as we couldn’t wake up Connor. I would spend many nights in tears, alone and with more intrusive thoughts.

I would run through scenarios in my head, what if the house burnt down, how would I save the boys? What if we got knocked down crossing the road? 

Honestly whenever I did go out, which wasn’t frequently id be running through risk assessments through my head. I just had to keep these boys safe! 

The following September I took a job in a call centre working for a travel company, I was worried about leaving Reagan, but I was also excited. I had wanted to work in travel, and this would be the job of my dreams, I could create the perfect life whilst being the perfect mummy, I could have it all and I would show everyone that I am fine. 

So, I found a lovely nursery for Reagan, I would get up and do my make-up and hair, hiding the bags from the sleepless nights, by this time Reagan was in our bed permanently. I would drop off Reagan, usually, I'd end up in tears as I left him crying to make the dash for the train. I loved the job, though I missed the boys, sometimes I wouldn’t be home until gone 7, I was really battling my emotions. 

I was surviving on maybe 4 hours sleep at the most and working fulltime, I would tell myself and everyone else that I was fine. I would wait for the phone to ring to tell me something had happened to the boys because I wasn’t there. I would go home and cry the moment marc left for work, we hardly saw each other, and I was too tired to string a sentence together when we were together. 

My mum came down for Reagans first birthday and she told me and Marc to enjoy an evening out, gosh we never went out. We were stuck in our mundane routine, in the midst of everything we had forgotten about each other. 

We chatted but yet I still did not tell him how I was feeling, how could I? he would think he had married a madwoman; the kids would be taken into care and everything would fall apart. No, I had to keep up the pretence, it doesn’t matter how I felt, as long as the boys are ok that’s all that matters.

You can read part 3 tomorrow -  surprise number three! 

 

 

 

Sweet Beginnings Babycare

 Claire is based in Maidstone, Kent and her sleep consultancy, baby massage and baby yoga classes offer a nurturing space for mum and baby to relax, recharge and connect. Claire has an extensive background in childhood studies and baby care. 

 

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