My body aches. A 26 hour labour and five epidurals later I was given a child. I looked into my husband's eyes which welled with satisfaction and completeness. This was our child! On 6th of August 2010 at 9.28am I was declared a parent. I knew that after nine months of carrying him, I was sure to love him and look forward to cuddles, not so much the lack of sleep but the love I would give him would be indescribable.
So why did I feel empty?
He was so innocent; he looked at me, he looked in my eyes with longing. He was new to this world and needed care and protection. He was how I felt - extremely vulnerable. For the next two nights I desperately tried to feed him, for 18 hours straight. I was doing it right, I wasn't holding him right, I was just inept at being a mother! When the nurse finally came round, they eventually realised that he had tongue tie. The tongue had fused to the bottom of his palette, not allowing him a good suckling motion.
After three days, 4 variants of catheters later, and one to go home with for three weeks, I was told I could leave. Chris (my husband) clambered in with all sorts of excitable goodies with which to lavish him. Car seat being a priority obviously. We loaded the tiny thing into this mechanical transporter and my dad arrived with his own form of mechanical device to take "us" home.
By this point, the bewilderment of one minute having a growing something inside myself, to now having a real breathing screaming - screaming did I mention screaming? - somebody now sat next to me was dawning.
23 years old and the oldest out of my siblings to become a parent, still felt like my innocence was stolen. You see, I was never given a childhood. I had a hard testing upbringing, for which perseverance had become my life-line and friend. My innocence was stolen from a young age, and my eyes had witnessed horrific events that could never be erased. There was never a device to quite literally take your eyes from your head and wash away hurt and pain. If the eyes were truly the gateway to the soul then mine had become broken.
What does this have to do with a baby, right?
Well I never loved mine, not straight away! It became quite apparent that a week in to being "mummy" my main priority was cleaning. I had just been told, after the fourth rush back into hospital, that I had gall stones and would need my gall bladder removed. Great, so not only was I now incontinent but I now needed surgery! Twenty minutes of sleep in a week and manically cleaning became my obsession.
I knew how to clean, I knew how to make everything sterile, I knew how to make everything safe! Safe enough so that this thing didn't die on my watch. Every few seconds I would go in to make sure it was breathing. Chris became the father he was destined to be. He was kind, he was caring, he was affectionate and endearing, all the qualities I lacked. I turned into a mechanical robot trying to preserve a life, terrified I might kill it.
The thing was, I was terrified of the responsibility, terrified of the uncertainty, terrified to love.
I had spent most of my life wishing to be dead, and now something needed me, depended on me, to live. Needless to say my behaviour didn't go unnoticed. A crisis mental health team were called in and I was carted off to hospital!
Instead of me checking it, someone was checking me. Ten minute checks to make sure I hadn't hanged myself became normal after the 5th check. It was inevitable. They gave me 800mg of Quitiapine and 400mg of sertraline and after a week or two, they were happy that I had stopped calling my baby "it". He had a name: Reuben.
And it is a wonderful name.
After what seemed like an eternity I was getting better, resuming night feeds and learning to look at my baby. I was told I had post partum psychosis and was bi-polar. Ok, what did that mean? I never really found out, all I knew was that it meant some kind of mood disorder! As I learned more, and found out about my illness, my medication changed and I became more stable. Correctional surgery was given and after spending countless therapy sessions, of talking and helpful strategies I started to feel like a mum!
By the time Reuben was one-year old, I came to love him. I never really understood love, but my child everyday showed me what it really meant to love somebody unconditionally. He wasn't aware of my affliction or pain, all he knew was that a cuddle from me and a kiss on the hand meant he trusted me enough to slip blissfully into a protected sleep and dream.
He turned 6 a couple of weeks ago!
It now breaks my heart he is growing up so fast. It took along time for me to realise how much I could love this boy, and by god, I would kill anyone that tried to hurt him! I can not turn back the clock, I can only wish that I could have been the perfect mum. But a few words from him "you're the bestest mum" melt my heart and touch my soul more than anyone will ever know.
I love you, Reuben.
You are my world!