When you go through something as horrific and life changing as your child dying you develop this ultimate skill of putting up a barrier. This can be any aspect of your life. You could put up a barrier with friendships, work, your emotions, accepting that good things happen or love. Since Dexy died I have found myself distancing my life away from everyone else. I don’t make as much effort with people as I did before, I don’t get attached to anything as easy and I’m so scared that everyone around me will die that I sort of block out emotions.
When I was pregnant with River I never promised myself he would be born alive or that I would get to take him home. Loving him was scary. I had loved his brother more than anything and he was cruelly taken from me for no reason. I never said “when” because my life proved that “when” never actually exists in a positive nature. There was no “When Dexy came home” “When Dexy got married” there is only “When Dexy died”. The thought of being positive in life now is hard. I struggle every single day with the idea that River is alive. My mind is always like this “River is alive” two seconds later “For now”. How awful is that? The idea of even planning for the future is something I put off. How can I?
So, back to when I was pregnant… I love River, I did when I was pregnant and I do now. At no point did I ever question if I loved him. I think I was so scared of him dying was actually because I did and do love him. I remember the first time I heard his heart beat, it was the best sound. As always I was then faced with the thought “Now I know it can stop”.Everything is greeted by such negativity and I’m actually growing sick of this blunt reality I live now.
So what happens when your baby is born and it isn’t the way it was meant to be? You shit yourself. I knew the whole time that inducing River pre term had its risks but they were outweighed by knowing that inducing him then could potentially stop him dying like Dexy. As Dexy had no cause of death there was no telling us it wouldn’t happen again because you don’t know why it happened in the first place. So when River was born I only held him for about 10 seconds before he was pulled off me. I never really got to see his face properly or even him. I was so scared that another child of mine would die that in that 10 seconds I built the biggest, thickest and strongest wall to not become attached to him. I didn’t want to hurt, I didn’t want to feel that pain again.
I waited forever to be a mum to an alive child and this is nowhere near how I imagined I would feel. I was meant to be so deep in love with him and happy he was here but I wasn’t. I was overcome with fear. Seeing him taken out of the room and Phil gone too all I could do was imagine the worst. Other parents have children a lot sicker than River but after your child dies everything becomes 1000% more terrifying. You learn not to get your hopes up and then have them crashing down. As I said before I knew I loved him, I just didn’t want to let myself get attached to him incase he was taken.
Over our time in hospital I started to open up my feelings towards him. When it was time to come home I really felt like I was okay. I was nervous like any other mum bringing a baby home for the first time and I was excited. With Phil being home for a week I felt in control of myself and how I was feeling. I loved taking him out, cuddling him, feeding him but it wasn’t sitting right with me. I was constantly worrying that I was a bad mum and that everyone was judging me. Small comments by people made me feel like they thought I was a shit mum. Now I look back I can see that isn’t what they meant but at the time I was silently struggling and not realising.
The sunday Phil went back to work was my breaking point. Up until then I had always had someone with me or something to do and this was my first day just us two with no plans. River was crying a normal amount but for some reason it was really grating me. Being his mum felt like a chore, like I had to do it with no escape and I felt trapped. None of this really signalled any alarm bells for me. I didn’t tell Phil how I was feeling because it wasn’t that big of a deal. I changed River’s nappy, fed him and he had a short nap for about 25 mins and then when we woke up he was crying. I realised then that something wasn’t right with me. I couldn’t cope. I begged Phil to come home because I was just a mess on my lounge floor balling my eyes out. Blaming myself for Dexy, blaming myself for River crying and being ill, thinking I was a bad mum and realising I couldn’t cope.
That Friday I saw my therapist and we talked it out. I was so depressed and I didn’t want to let River in emotionally. I had been putting up this wall throughout my whole pregnancy, his birth, our stay in hospital and then when we got home it was a million times worse. I starting imagine what it would be like to have River die now that I had seen him in his cot and pram. I starting getting paranoid that Phil would leave me and find someone else who didn’t have a saggy tummy and massive boobs. I broke down in my session talking about how scared I was to be his mum. How scared I was to finally admit that I loved him.
Over the next couple of weeks I was still depressed, not finding happiness in anything but I did start bonding with River more. I made sure we had skin to skin, go out just us two and cuddle him whenever I had the chance. Then one night I stayed up pretty much the whole time because I had this panic that if I fell asleep River would die. I loved him, I cared for him, I let him in and now I was afraid. I felt this feeling that imagined I would feel when I first saw him. I was his mum. I was his world. I just took my time to get there.
Over the last month my bond with River is so strong. I look back now and see just how far I have come. I think I would have taken a lot longer to get out of that really dark place if it wasn’t for my amazing therapist, Phil and my family. I still struggle now with fully opening up to River but I can happily say now that I truly love him and he is my world. I felt so guilty for how I felt and how I still feel but it is completely reasonable considering what we have been through as a family.
Feeling like a failure of a mum because you are suffering with PPD/PND/Anxiety/Depression is horrible. I punished myself without understanding why. I didn’t realise that I needed help until I broke. It shouldn’t have taken me to get that bad before I said I was struggling. Since opening up and talking about it I have never once been made to feel like a bad mum for struggling and feeling how I did. Not once has a health care professional thought I was unfit as a mother or a “risk”. I got the support I needed and the help I needed and with that I finally think I can do this. Ask me tomorrow when I have no sleep and would love 5 minutes to myself- Haha. Whether you have lost a child and are feeling this way, a first time mum or a 7th time mum and feeling this way just know that no one is ever going to think that you are a shit mum for not coping or are at breaking point. There is help and support there when you feel the time is right to access it. You cannot rush these things. It isn’t meant to be rushed. You need to do it at your pace and you will be caught when you fall.
Some useful links, people, charities and places I have found useful are linked below: