The pure joy of uttering those magical words; “I’m having a baby.”
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was. Recently married, we had just bought our first home and we both had great jobs. We were full to bursting with happiness! Life was just perfect.
And then it wasn’t.
I went into early labour at 36 weeks after just 24 hours of maternity leave, one hypnobirthing session and, due to having just moved into our new home, zero baby equipment. No cot, no pram, no car seat. The hospital bag wasn’t packed and I had a million and one things I needed to do to prepare for baby’s arrival.
But he had decided waiting was not his style.
Labour bloody hurt. Each contraction grew worse and worse, tearing through to my core like a hot blade. I bore down as each pain started and held on tight to the thought of my little boy.
Suddenly whilst pushing, my contractions stopped with my son in the birth canal. All hell broke loose and my son went into distress. The room swiftly filled with doctors and midwives and the decision was made to get him out quickly via an assisted delivery.
Horrifyingly, it failed.
The panic in the room was audible. I was absolutely petrified but, thankfully my contractions suddenly returned and I managed to push him out into the world. I have a fleeting memory of him being placed on my chest just as the edges of the room started to blur and I began to haemorrhage.
I remember waking up in the delivery room alone. My body was broken, bruised and bleeding and my son, born struggling to breathe, had been taken to NICU. I sobbed with everything I had left.
That first time I saw him haunted me for years to come. In the quiet darkened room I could see a tiny baby laid in an incubator. Wearing just a nappy, eyes covered with a mask, with tubes coming from his nose and wires stuck to his chest, he looked so incredibly vulnerable and fragile.
And I felt nothing.
I thought I’d be overwhelmed with love, that’s what everyone tells you, but I was just empty. My head knew that this was my son, that this was the baby I had carried around inside me for months. I’d stroked him lovingly and felt his every move inside me. Only a few hours before he had been inside my womb, as close as any two people can be. I felt shame as my body rejected him whilst my head was screaming silently with the pain of failing at that most essential part of being a mummy – loving your own baby.
On the postnatal ward once my husband had left, I was silently distraught. I could hear the mums on the ward tending to their babies, talking, caring, loving them. I was useless. All I needed to do was love my son, and I couldn’t even do that.
Things got progressively worse. I tried to express breastmilk, but I wasn’t producing any. Further evidence of my complete failure as a mum. I felt incapable, inadequate and undeserving. I was scared of him but most of all I was scared of how I didn’t feel about him. What kind of monster was I? I didn’t deserve to be a mother. The anxiety, fear and guilt swirled inside me, growing out of control. I cried daily, wracking heart-breaking sobs. Every part of me knew how I should be feeling, but I just could not connect with this little baby. I hated myself and the world grew dimmer and dimmer so that even on the brightest of days, all I could see was the darkness within.
It was a long, long road to recovery; perinatal counselling and huge amounts of family support in the main but it wasn’t until this year – almost five years later, that I’ve finally found closure. Although the daily feelings of PND had passed, the one thing I had been unable to move past was the heavy burden of guilt.
It all came to a head when my daughter was born. We had a picture-perfect birth this time, and when I held my daughter in my arms I knew she was mine, I loved her with everything I had.
But with that blissful happiness the old feelings of guilt began to creep once again, clawing at me, demanding my attention.
I knew I needed to forgive myself, and so I decided to try something completely different, a little wacky and kooky even. Past life therapy. I would be regressed to the day my son was born.
On the day of my appointment I was terrified, but also excited to confront my demons. In the therapist’s room, I made myself comfortable: reclined, and warmly wrapped in a blanket with the smell of soothing incense in the air; I was ready. I closed my eyes and listened to her calming voice. Time ceased to exist to me and eventually, I became aware of being back in that delivery room.
It was a surreal experience – I was there, but I wasn’t. I was in my body, seeing things through my own eyes, examining and unlocking a memory so painful the effects were being felt years later. It was without doubt one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but the release of emotion that came after was momentous. To relive the feelings that broke me cracked open old wounds, but this time, instead of being left raw and open, they were healed. I saw that the feelings I had were not me, I was powerless, and most importantly I saw that what I did have in my power was forgiveness. By forgiving myself I could move on and finally enjoy my beautiful family, free of the shackles of the past.
A relatively new blogger (but with heaps of enthusiasm!), Emma is Mum to an energetic 4 year old son, and an increasingly mischievous 1 year old daughter. An aspiring author, she is set to commence an MA in Creative Writing this autumn, after which there will be no free time to enjoy hobbies such as; binge-watching tv shows on Netflix, shovelling in popcorn at her local cinema or meeting friends for drinks and gossip. Find more from Emma on Twitter @rowsonemma1 and via her blog.