Written by Maria, Fergus’ mum
I have always wanted to have children, I wanted to be a mum. I thought that I would get pregnant and I would love my baby from that day. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. I was so pleased when I found out I was pregnant. Then, after the initial happiness, the worrying kicked it. How do I tell people, will people be pleased, will people care, am I just doing this for attention, will people think I’m too young or not ready, have I made a mistake, I only have a few months to learn how to have a baby, and the list goes on.
Of course everyone was pleased when I told them, and nobody, (at least not to my face), questioned my age or ability of becoming a parent. But I did, every step of the way.
And with each month of pregnancy it got harder, the body changes, not being able to be as active, not feeling ‘the bond’ with my baby. These feelings and other worries ate away at me.
Physically I had a fairly straightforward pregnancy but it took a toll on my mental health. With the support from the perinatal mental health team we had a plan for the birth (as well as you can plan a birth), and for my stay at the hospital to try and reduce my anxiety.
Towards the end of my pregnancy things got very tough, I had been self harming throughout the pregnancy and this worsened towards the end. I gave birth ten days early, was lucky to have a quick straightforward labour and birth and even got a water birth.
But as soon as he was born I instantly felt like I wasn’t good enough for him. I was terrified, I also didn’t get this rush of love or feel ‘the bond’. Something I had hoped would happen. In my mind as soon as the baby came all my worries would go away.
That was not the case. I was crying, I felt as though I had already let him down, I didn’t want to hold him, but I wanted him to be held. I felt so much guilt because I wasn’t giving him skin to skin, but I just couldn’t. Luckily my husband was there and gave him skin to skin instead.
Fast forward to later that afternoon, we had a paediatrician come to our room and do some extra tests, it was at that point we were told it was likely our baby had Down’s syndrome.
I didn’t know what to feel, I didn’t want him to have Down’s syndrome, because I felt like it wasn’t fair on him. But if he didn’t have it he wouldn’t be him, starting a whole new battle in my brain.
I felt guilt, I felt like it was all my fault, that I had let him and everyone around me down. I have since heard a phrase that I feel sums up how I felt, I wouldn’t change him for the world, but I would change the world for him. My worries had kicked in about how people might treat him, will I be able to give him the best quality of life, will he get bullied. All I want is for him to have a happy and healthy life. I also worried and still worry about the hurdles we will have to overcome. I’m sure he will be strong enough to fight everything that comes his way. However, I’m unsure I will have that same strength, I just feel like I will constantly be letting him down.
After a few days we got the test results confirming that he had Down’s syndrome, and then we were allowed home. I remember crying the whole way home. It felt like it was too much I wasn’t good enough for him, I was going to let him, my husband and my family down. I don’t remember much of the first few weeks, the worry of letting him down, not being good enough, getting to close and then someone taking him away from me proved too much. To add to all these feelings and stresses we were halfway through a house move. We had two weeks living out of boxes in our old house before moving to the new house and continuing to live out of boxes. Not ideal with a newborn. On top of that, my husband then had to go back to work earlier than expected, it was at that point it was too much I felt like I just couldn’t do it.
I was terrified of being alone with my baby, if I was alone with him then I was sure to ruin his life. It was suggested that I could go and stay at the mother and baby unit to help me.
This was definitely not what I imagined having a baby would be like, I knew it would be hard, I knew you got baby blues, but what I had was more than just baby blues.
I couldn’t be alone with him, I was terrified I would do something wrong, and that he hated me, the anxiety was so much all the time that I couldn’t enjoy anything. I didn’t want to go to the unit I felt like it would make me a failure, but we decided that it was the best option. I felt a sense of relief, I didn’t have to be alone with him, there will be people around to help me and hopefully help me feel better quicker. But I also felt so much guilt, I didn’t deserve help, I should be able to manage, I’m not good enough. How will they be able to help a horrible person like me be better, they will all hate me and not want to help me. These thoughts took over everything it was exhausting. Even when they were constantly proved wrong, they still shouted the loudest.
Over time they got quieter, and with that I was able to focus on my baby more. Before I went into the unit I would pass my baby to anyone who was near so I didn’t have to hold him. Constantly worrying I was not good enough for him, that if he spent too much time with me I would ruin his life. During my stay I spent all my time with him and received help, we did activities to help us connect.
I had to keep telling myself I do deserve this and I am enough.
Although the negative thoughts still appear, they aren’t as loud and I can now question them rather than just believe them. After being discharged from the unit I still doubted my abilities, no matter how many times people told me I was doing a fine job looking after my baby. I did Video Interactive Guidance (VIG) with a psychologist. Initially I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, the thought of being filmed playing with my baby and then seeing it felt weird. I didn’t like the idea of having to watch my self back. I did it and it has been so helpful, my brain finds it a lot harder to argue with black and white evidence. People telling me I was doing ok was easy to ignore, I would convince myself they are lying. When you actually see you are doing things well, doing things I didn’t realise, it makes it much harder to argue with. I was discharged from the unit, still doubting many things, but I could now be alone with my baby.
I often have to remind myself that I did and do deserve the help from the mental health team.
I’m in a place where, at times feel like I am enough. I can see the improvements. Originally I thought there would never be an end to the constant sadness, that my baby would always hate me, but sometimes I can see a life without these intrusive thoughts being the loudest thoughts, which means, maybe, there will be a point when I can go a day or maybe even a week without the thoughts taking over my life. I’m now able to enjoy my baby. Of course new worries creep up, will he have friends, if people don’t like me then how will he get to meet new people and make friends. I am now able to question these thoughts and look at my life and see that maybe these thoughts are not facts. I can’t, and don’t want to imagine my life without him, yes I still doubt that he likes me.
But I love him and for now that is enough, it’s a step in the right direction. With continued help, which I have to remind myself I do deserve, I will be able to feel like I am enough for him and feel that he thinks that too.
I have such an amazing support network, one of my friends wrote a poem from my baby to me, she wrote what she sees.
You said our start was tricky and it may have been for you,
But from where I’m sitting that’s
not completely true.
I’ve had my mummy close to me and you didn’t go away,
You’ve done you’re very best for me every single day.
We have been swimming lots and lots, even in the bath!
We both make sounds tapping our mouths it really makes me laugh.
I have been playing in the sea and I’m not yet one,
You put my swing up in the house that was really fun!
Now I have three pushchairs, maybe that’s too many,
But we couldn’t run, holiday or walk if we didn’t have any!
We like to go out and about, I love spending time with my mummy,
You kiss me and make silly faces, I think that’s really funny.
I am the happiest little man that I ever could be,
And that’s because I love you and I know that you love me!
I use this to remind myself, that this is what and outsider sees then maybe I’m not such a bad mum after all. Maybe I am enough.