My darling boy I can’t believe you’re almost 10, a decade, double digits the time has truly flown. It’s a total cliche but I remember the day you were born. It was the most incredible day of our lives. You were the most fascinating and I can’t lie, scrawny thing I had ever laid my eyes on. You took your time to arrive, making us wait for 10 days longer than your due date and then 24 hours of labour before you finally decided to show your face. Your dad was amazing at the hospital, he held my hand and rubbed my back and even put the Tenns machine on his bottom when I needed cheering up. He was just so excited to meet you. We both were. The hours leading up to your arrival were brutally beautiful. I describe it like that because although it was the most intense and overwhelming pain I had ever known there was a sort of magic about each moment that drew us closer to you. Like anything at all was possible in that little room with the romantic and gloomy lights. When you arrived though, the atmosphere changed and the magic evaporated from the room in an instant. Instead of the noisy sound of newborn cries we listened to panicked voices and whispered instructions. The once beautiful lighting suddenly felt dark and suffocating as a grumpy looking doctor whisked you away from us. You were sick, really sick and I thought it was all my fault. In the hours following your birth while you lay your tiny head in the plastic NICU cot I said to myself over and over and over again that if I got to take you home I would never let anything happen to you again. It became at first a mantra, then a promise, then a plea. If I could just get you home then I was sure I could take care of you and keep you safe. I would do absolutely everything perfectly I said in my head, I wouldn’t get a thing wrong I would say. I prayed to all the gods I could think of and wished on every star and eventually it worked and a week later you came home. But when I got you home something wasn’t right. Something had happened to me in those dark hours of begging and pleading that you would be ok. I had changed, my desperation to keep you safe drove my mind to a place that it had no business to be. A dark place where the thoughts were jumbled and reality was distorted. I knew deep down that you were better now that you were a beautiful and healthy boy but in that dark place in my mind I was certain that one late bottle or nappy left too long would harm you. That one tiny bit of fluff on your pyjamas or hair in your cot would mean you would go back into hospital. I tried really hard to fight the urges, I tried to enjoy those early months as your mummy but somewhere along the line I stopped just worrying about germs and started to wash my hands in bleach so you wouldn’t get sick. I stopped leaving you with your family that loved you so they couldn’t give you their bugs and I stopped holding on to the part of my mind that was still in the real world and moved completely into the dark place. I know now that this dark place is called Postnatal Depression. I know you hear me talk about that a lot and I’ve never told you why. We talk about mental health, you even told me about mindfulness at school but I couldn’t bring myself to tell you why it’s so important to me. Now you are 10 I worry you will hear things from other people, maybe your friends at school will read something online and that’s not how you should hear the next part of our story, it has to be from me. When you were almost one I was so far into that dark place that I couldn’t remember what it felt like to be out. I didn’t remember the days or the hours but I felt every moment pass me and with each moment I just felt overwhelming pain. I was so sure that I wasn’t doing enough to keep you safe, I worried that something would happen to you because of me. You see I loved you so so much that the only thing that I really knew for certain was that the most important thing in the whole world was you. While I was in that horrid dark place my mind told me lots of times that you would be better off without me, that I was letting you down, that other people could take care of you better than I did. I told my mind that it was wrong and I argued and argued ‘nobody can love him better than me’ I would shout to myself but one day my mind won. That day was the darkest day and when I think about it now I feel the same overwhelming pain that I felt back then but not because I can’t take care of you but because just the thought that I almost left you forever hurts so much I can barely breathe. I bet your wondering why I’m still here? Why my mind didn’t win? Well I shall tell you beautiful boy, because while I lay in that dark place, allowing the black fog to consume me and my brain was telling me to leave, you were the voice in my heart that was willing me to stay. It was because of that voice, your voice, your face that I walked to the doctors and told them what my mind had told me to do and they very quickly too care of me. You. My gorgeous, brave and funny boy, you saved mummy’s life. I know if you read about what I did in the papers or on the internet it may seem like it was because of you that I wanted to leave but it is because of you and only you that I fought to stay. What the papers don’t say is that it was your smile or your crazy dancing that helped me to get better. That being at your first birthday party and knowing that I wanted to see all your other birthdays gave me the strength I needed to keep trying to leave that awful place or that laying down with you in our bed in the middle of night you were like a torch leading me out of the dark. Now I don’t want you to feel sad at all about how poorly I was because I’m better now and I never want you to be scared that I will go back to that dark place again. Now that I know what the dark place looks like I know just how to stop myself from visiting. You are a very special boy and on your birthday if I cry a little bit I promise I’m not sad I’m just so pleased that I made it to see your big birthday and that I will be here to see many many more.
*If you have been affected by any of the content of this post you can reach out to Mind Mental Health Charity for support or contact your local OneFitMama instructor*