When my daughter was born, I was living what’s supposed to be one of life’s best moments, reliving one of my worst

Posted by / Thursday 06 September 2018 / Families
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I still remember the moment I found out my wife was pregnant.

I cried tears of joy. In that moment, there was nothing I wanted more than to become a dad. But little did I know, that less than a year later, I'd be crying again, but this time for very different reasons.

When my wife was in labour, we were rushed down to theatre in a sudden state of panic. She was experiencing something known as cord prolapse. Whilst I had no idea what it was, I could see the panic on the theatre staff as we entered the room. That panic quickly filled me and I immediately started envisioning the worst. A little while later, they gave my wife an episiotomy with minimal pain relief and delivered our daughter via suction cup.

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At the time, the thought of losing both my wife and daughter made me think back to one of the worst moments of my life - a night where a friend of mine lost his life.

I blame myself for what happened that night. Ever since then I’ve held an awful amount of guilt and battled on and off with depression. From that moment on, any time I find myself in a traumatic situation, I’m instantly taken back to that night.

So, when my daughter was being born, there I was, living what’s supposed to be one of life’s best moments, but reliving one of my worst.

Finally Becoming a Father and Spiralling into postnatal depression

When I first held Isabelle I didn't really feel a thing. I was fully expecting this huge rush of emotions, the type that you hear so much about in the media. I had waited so long for this moment that when it finally came I might have expected too much.

None of the emotions came, and instead I felt nothing. I did so for a few days. At first I put a lot of this down to sleep deprivation and the chaos of having a new baby. But I knew something wasn't right. Slowly the numbness turned into resentment and dislike. She would cry when she was with me and long to be with her mother. I'm ashamed to admit that I took that perceived rejection personally. Of course I know now that my daughter likely just wanted to be near her food supply and her place of comfort.

Those feelings quickly turned to jealousy, and even an unbearable feeling of regret that she had even been born. At times I felt like I hated her. That she had ruined my life, ruined my relationship with my wife, and that the two of them would be far better without me in the picture.

"Depression does something to you. It changes how you feel about the world, makes you feel worthless and can even trick you into hating the one thing that you always knew would bring you happiness, a family"

Ross,

But depression does something to you. It changes how you feel about the world, makes you feel worthless and can even trick you into hating the one thing that you always knew would bring you happiness, a family

In a way my history of depression helped. I recognised the symptoms quickly and knew that I had to make an appointment with the doctor. Straight away I was put on medication and signed off from work.

I was offered talking therapies and I know there would have been support groups out there if I looked for them, but I didn't. 

I really would suggest to anyone going through what I did, to find help, because it is out there. 

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I knew that a lot of these feelings came from the fact that I had no bond with my daughter. So that's all I did was try to work on it. I did everything that I could to try and form that bond. I bathed her, played with her, dressed her, spent as much time as I physically and mentally was able to. After eight weeks things started to change, and it all came from hope in the form of a smile.

Isabelle was propped up on a hotel bed in a nursing pillow and caught sight of me dancing. I looked at her and she smiled at me - she was probably thinking "this man looks silly!" Suddenly, I felt like she actually cared about me. Perhaps she even liked me. In that moment, I liked her too. It was the turning point that I was hoping would eventually come. A small glimmer of hope.

It took another four months before I felt like I actually loved Isabelle. And it wasn't until her first birthday that I truly felt like I had recovered from postnatal depression. I have so much appreciation for just being able to enjoy watching her grow. It’s incredible how fast a baby changes. How much they grow and establish their own personality. These days it’s a true joy for me to be a part of this journey.

I didn't hate my daughter, I just hated myself.

Looking back I know that I didn't hate my daughter, I just hated myself. I was projecting these feelings of hate onto the person that made them all come flooding back. I was guilty that my actions and stupidity on one night in my past cost a family their son. The traumatic birth brought that memory back just as my own family was literally starting. It was something that because of me, my friend could never have. Yet there I was, with everything I ever wanted, and I felt like I didn't deserve any of it.

What I have now with Isabelle is amazing. I still have my bad days, a leftover mark the depression has left from all those years of suffering. I've grown to accept that. But I really do believe that I've grown from a world of hate, to a world of love. And I can't wait to see where this journey takes us next.

Mum and baby supported by Action for Children2

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