Maternal Mental Health and Me

Part 3 - Surprise Number 3

New Year’s Day 2004 arrived, we hadn’t celebrated it as I was too tired and had fallen asleep only to be woken again at around 2am. I took Reagan downstairs, this was the norm these days spending the early hours together, trying to sleep, rocking and pacing the living room carpet as to not wake everyone else. 

I was broken, crying and thinking of the prospect of a new year in the same routine, exhausted, working and just being mum. It was the new year, the day for new resolutions, I vowed to do better, I was beginning to question our relationship, I was pushing Marc away and I resented him that his life hadn’t seemed to change. He was able to go to work and go and play football at the weekends, meet his mates in the pub afterwards. What did I do? 

At that moment I made my resolutions, this year would be better, I would leave Marc and I would be happy. “ I could do this” 

However, the fear took hold again, I couldn’t do it alone, I was a rubbish a mum, I had failed as a mum. The resolutions never happened, I was too scared to change, to seek help, to ask for help. Things stayed the same and life carried on until I became unwell. 

In the February I took myself off to the doctors, my periods were becoming very inconsistent and I was bleeding in-between I was terrified something was seriously wrong. The doctor asked if I could be pregnant, it never crossed my mind and to be honest Marc and I hadn’t been close, so I said no. However, a test confirmed it and I went for a scan 

I went through the motions, we got to the hospital and I was convinced they had got it wrong, as I was been scanned, Marc looked at the monitor and said ”that’s a big baby” I was in fact 21 weeks pregnant. “how could this be” “how didn’t I know”. Looking back, I realised the dates linked back to our one evening out we had. 

Once the shock went, the panic set in, I had no bump, no symptoms, was the baby going to be ok? How are we going to afford three babies’? Where are we going to fit in another baby? We still lived in our little two-bedroom house and Reagan was not sleeping still. I had just got my job and we were supposed to be saving for a new house. This wasn’t supposed to happen. 

The next few months were spent in a panic, we looked into moving but it fell through and we were resigned to staying in our little house. I was monitored again as my bump didn’t appear until around 34 weeks, again they worried if the baby was going to be small and my SPD returned more painful than before. I began to panic about the birth too. I was assured that having a quick birth with Reagan was a fluke and it wouldn’t happen again! 

22nd July 2004 my due date the other two arrived on theirs, would this one too? This pregnancy had already been very different, and I still wasn’t prepared, I had virtually cried every day and I was sure that things were going to go wrong. Still, I told no one how I felt and carried on. 

Marc went to work that night after me telling him nothing was going to happen, as usual, I spent the early hours with Reagan though I was able to soothe him in my bed. He woke at 6am and I took him downstairs for breakfast, Marc came home around 6.30, five minutes later I was overcome with a contraction. I looked at Marc and he rang the hospital. 

The contractions came thick and fast and I was overcome, Marc was on the phone to the hospital who by then was telling us to come into the hospital. Reagan by then was crying so I took him out of the highchair, I went into the bathroom and my waters broke. I hadn’t realised that Reagan was behind me, Marc picked him up and took him to my neighbour, by this time I was in agony, I stepped into the bath, I don’t know why? Within two pushes I was there again holding my baby in the bathroom alone, it was around 7.10am I was making breakfast only 30 minutes before! 

Another quick birth and quick pregnancy, but we had another beautiful boy who we named Dylan. The paramedics and midwife soon arrived, and they were amazing, the midwife was concerned as I had lost a lot of blood and was anaemic, but she allowed me to stay at home as it was just under the level of concern. Later that day I was washing up, I know I had just had a baby but me being me wanted to do everything, the midwife knocked on the door then and saw me and sent me off to bed to rest. 

The weeks following the birth, I was living like a robot, it was just constant feeding the boys, bathing them, getting ready for school, I was just on autopilot. I was often up for hours on end with both boys whilst Marc was at work. Often these nights were spent in tears and only my thoughts for company, my thoughts were getting more intrusive. Still, I told no one. 

I had not bonded with Dylan, I knew I loved him, but I didn’t feel as much love as I did for the other two, what was the matter with me? I didn’t get to have the time to sit and cuddle him as I had done with the other two boys, it was a case of feeding him whilst Reagan wanted entertaining or Connor needed help with his reading. Dylan just had to fit in, he loved his sleep and he quickly got into sleeping through.

 Life was busy with three boys and every day seemed to be like Groundhog Day, I wasn’t enjoying life, in fact, the thoughts were becoming worse. I strived to be better to be the perfect mum, I didn’t go out too much as I was still convinced people would stare due to the bells palsy or perhaps, they will find out what a bad mum I was. 

I just carried on putting up the pretence, to Marc, family and friends, I was fine I said when anyone asked. Deep down I wanted to yell that I wasn’t fine, that I felt so unhappy and even worse that I just didn’t want to live anymore. 

That’s it everyone would be better without me; I was a rubbish mum and I had failed everyone. Lonely nights consumed me with only Reagan who looked for me for comfort, rarely we were joined by Dylan, but he loved his sleep, he still does now at 15! I had promised to keep my boys safe and I couldn’t do it, I was still consumed that something bad was going to happen to the boys and it would be my fault. I needed to go before something did! 

Some nights I would actually plan how I would take my own life; this is something I have never spoken about before. I was so lost and at a very dark place, but still, I didn’t reach out. I was torn between these thoughts and being the perfect mummy, what would people think if they found out if I wasn’t the perfect mummy? 

This carried on for a few months, at Dylan’s appointment for his injections the health visitor had asked how I was feeling. I said “yes I’m fine” as I normally would, I couldn’t let anyone see how I was really feeling, I was terrified, they would take the boys, and everyone will find out. 

Though she talked to me, and to be honest I had not had the best experiences with professionals before however, she was different. She helped me make an appointment with the doctor and I was seen, the doctor however wasn’t as kind he sent me off with some pills and said I would be fine it’s just the baby blues he said.

 I really wish I went back and spoke to that lovely health visitor, but I didn’t I began to take the anti-depressants and returned to life. I actually hid them from Marc, he couldn’t know that I was mad. 

I did slowly begin to feel a little better, I would go off for long walks with the boys, exploring the parks nearby and slowly I fell in love with Dylan. I started helping out in Connors school and I loved it, thoughts of becoming a teacher came about but I would quickly tell myself that I couldn’t do that as I wasn’t clever enough. 

Dylan was 6 months when I returned to work in January 2005, another New Year’s Day spent making resolutions for a better life! When I returned to work, I went part-time, though I was expected to still hit sales figures as a full-timer. Being part-time, I felt as though I wasn’t doing a good enough job and I began to despise my job. It wasn’t a job I loved anymore; it was time to find my passion.

 I lasted four months and handed in my notice, I didn’t tell Marc, I don’t make many impulsive decisions as I am naturally an overthinker, but this was one. I wrote to schools and nurseries to see if I could get a job, I would become a teacher. 

I did get a job quickly as a trainee nursery nurse in a private nursery, I loved it and I adored working in the baby room. I qualified as a nursery nurse and I loved working with the children, children don’t judge you and see past your faults, maybe that’s why I loved it. For the first time, I felt as though I was doing something well. 

I loved chatting with parents, and I developed some lovely friendships with my colleagues. We are still friends now! It was great to be asked to go out and for the first time, I felt I was Claire and not someone’s mum. Though I was battling mummy guilt too, I was trying so hard to create a better life for the boys, but I was missing out on so much with them by looking after other people’s children. 

I was still up most evenings with Reagan and Marc and I were barely seeing each other, I was pushing him away, he often said I put the boys first which of course I did but they needed me. Another few years passed, and we juggled life with work and the boys, another few news years days arrived with me making empty resolutions. Though in the summer of 2007 I decided that our relationship was over. 

Marc moved out and we amicably cared for the boys, now on my own with three boys what was I going to do? I carried on working and made sure the boys were ok, I put the boys first. I went all out and worked so that they could have the life they deserved. I was exhausted, I went down to working three long 12-hour days and made sure the other days were fun for the boys. 

Reagan still wasn’t sleeping so I was still living on 4-6 hours sleep a night if I was lucky. Another news day arrived, and I swore I would be the best mummy to my boys, another impulsive decision I booked a holiday for us in Spain, just me and the boys. I was always taking the boys up to Yorkshire on my own so Spain would be fine. 

In May, off we went to the airport, I was incredibly nervous but the next two weeks were amazing. The boys loved it and I was able to spend time clearing my head, there’s something about being by the sea that makes me feel so calm and connected. I guess it's from growing up by the sea and escaping to the beach when things got tough. 

Whilst there, Marc would phone the boys, of course, they were having too much fun to talk to their dad, we began talking ourselves, it got to a point when I would look forward to his calls. Being away, being in the sun and being able to breathe made talking much easier.

When we returned, we met up to talk alone, we actually met up in secret for a while, each time I opened up more to him. Talking about how I had felt for all those years before was hard, I was afraid he would judge me or hate me, but worst of all that he would now know that I wasn’t the perfect mum. 

I began to open up more and we enjoyed a year of dating, having fun, doing the things couples do before they have children and finding our love for each other again. We were still kids when we had our boys, we had forgotten that our relationship mattered too. We made plans and finally we bought a new house and moved in together with our boys, our family was complete, and this was our new beginning.

You can read part 4 tomorrow

 

New house-new baby

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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