Before we had Isabelle, I didn’t know too much about postnatal depression. Like some, I knew there was a chance that mothers were at risk. I also knew that if the mother got it, then the father might get it too. But never did I think, after years upon years of wanting a baby, that it would happen to me.
Looking back, perhaps it was the visitors who kick started it. When they arrived and took Isabelle from myself and Rachel, it stole away precious bonding moments when we needed it most. Don’t get me wrong, they did this out of kindness, and merely thought they were doing something all families do. But I can’t deny that it had a negative affect on me.
I didn’t really think too much about how I was feeling for the first few weeks. But I knew I was depressed. I’ve been there before with depression, and knew exactly how it felt, but I never thought these feelings would be directed at my own daughter.
It was incredibly hard to admit. But I hated her. I was jealous of her, I was resentful, then I felt guilty, but overall I felt that my life had been ruined. If someone had offered to take her away, I would have gladly accepted. All of that was incredibly painful to think, and even worse to talk about.
This lasted a couple of months. But luckily for me, if you can call it luck, I’ve battled on and off with depression for years, and I know that I can find ways to help ease it. So that’s what I did with Isabelle. I found ways to cope. I knew it would take time, but I had no choice but to try.
I tried everything I could in order to help myself. I changed her, bathed her, played with her, I even let her sleep on me, but still I felt nothing. When I went back to work, I felt myself gradually get better. I had time to think about things and not feel like she was constantly demanding from me. Having that break, as lucky as I was to be able to actually have them, did help.
Not including my wife, I’ve always struggled to care about other people. But it’s also incredibly hard to love someone that takes so much from you without a thought of anything in return. The only problem is, you’re not supposed to think that way. You’re supposed to love them no matter what. You’re not supposed to tell someone that you don’t even like your baby, let alone love them. But my partner stood by me. She knew I couldn’t help it, and supported me the entire way through. Without her, I would probably still be in a bad place.
It took a while, but eventually Isabelle started to give back. When we first went away with her, she smiled for the very first time. It wasn’t just that she smiled, it was the fact that she did so at me. It was the first time I actually felt that she liked me. And I felt a feeling start to grow. It wasn’t big, but it was there. We had found something that worked. Going away with Isabelle and taking myself from all the distractions of being home really helped.
But it’s hard. You have to learn to love them. It’s not always an instant thing, much like any relationship we have, it takes time and work to make things great.
What I have now with Isabelle is mostly amazing. I’d be lying if I said things were perfect now, but they’re certainly better than they were back then. She’s currently almost 9 months old, and I still have days where I don’t feel like I love her. I want to, I really do, but there’s a part of my brain that’s afraid of loving her in case she gets taken away. That and there’s a part of me that feels like I don’t deserve this. I’m partly responsible for someone being without their child (long story), so why I should I have one myself?
If you are suffering from this, just know that there are people out there willing and able to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, this depression isn’t you, and it’s OK to admit you’re not coping. Talking about this made me feel a lot better, and even today keeping that open dialogue with my wife keeps everything in check.
All I can say is that it will get better. I can’t tell you when, but there will come a time when you feel it. It might not last long, and you may revert back like I occasionally do. But you just have to keep going, keep fighting and slowly let the good days out number the bad ones.
Thank you for reading this, whoever you are. This wasn’t something that was fun to write, but it’s something I felt was at least important. I’m also working on finding as many ways as I can to help with this. I’ve even started a toolkit on my own site in the hope I can suggest as many things that worked for me, and hopefully someone else out there can better help themselves.
If you are anyone you know if struggling with perinatal anxiety or depression, call PANDA’s free National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline (1300 726 306). The service offers counselling, information and referral services with ongoing telephone support for families throughout Australia. The helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 7:30pm EST.