Here’s something that I never thought I would be writing about. It’s something that I wasn’t sure I was ever going to make public, but ultimately thought it would be for the best. This is my story of having postnatal depression.
I didn’t see it coming. Maybe it was the fact that it’s rarely discussed, or the fact that when it is, it’s about the mothers. But when my daughter was born, after years of waiting, I felt nothing.
It’s hard to pin point what I think started it. Maybe it was the difficult birth, where we ended up in theatre and the stressful emotions that came from that. Or perhaps it was the visitors; having people come in and take your baby off you, even if it’s out of a place of kindness, when you’re just starting to form that bond probably didn’t help. But I didn’t even notice at the time, with everything going on, I didn’t get chance to process anything.
It took a few weeks for it to really sink in. But I was depressed. At first I put it down to the usual things you get when you have a newborn; sleep deprivation, utter confusion as to what you’re doing, and this overwhelming sense of “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
But I’d been here plenty of times before. I know how depression feels, I’ve had it on and off for around seven years, pretty much up until when my wife got pregnant, but never had I imagined I’d feel this way about 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 offered to take her away, I would have gladly accepted. Everything I just said is horrendous. They’re terrible things to say, but I’m just being honest about this, that’s genuinely how I felt.
Those feelings lasted a couple of months. But luckily for me, if you can call it luck, since I’ve been on and off with depression for so long, I knew that I could 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. It was either that or I’d have to take myself away, and that was never going to happen.
I did all that I could. 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.
It’s 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.
Then she started to give back. When we first went away with her, she smiled for the very first time. Not only was it a smile, but more importantly it was a smile at me. And I felt a feeling start to grow. It was the first time that I actually felt that she liked me. It wasn’t a big feeling that was there, 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. It didn’t come easy, but it did come eventually. Just know that there are people out there willing and able to help you. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it, this depression isn’t you, and it’s ok to admit that you’re not coping. Talking about this made me feel a lot better too. Putting everything out there through something like this helped me process it all.
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, you just have to keep fighting for it.
5 Months on From Writing This Post
Since first writing this post, it has been in Green Parent magazine, which then meant that the current version you just read is actually not my original. I had to alter this one for exclusivity reasons with the magazine. After that, it went a little bit viral after the Wales Online picked the story up. A bunch of other news outlets got hold of it and before long we were on This Morning. Talk about a bizarre turn of events.
It’s currently January 2018 as I’m writing this, and I’m guess I’m here to say that I still have bad days. Even now, I still have moments where I don’t feel that much towards Isabelle. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty more good days than I have bad ones. I just think I’m the sort of person that struggled to develop strong feelings for other people, and maybe it will take me a lot longer than most to actually feel like I love my daughter all of the time. I know deep down that I do. But I almost feel like I have to put “guess” there instead of “know”, because truth be told, I don’t know if I really love her. I just guess that I do, and for me at this stage, that’s good enough.
If you want to watch me talk about this, then I sat down and recorded a video version for my YouTube channel: