If you know me mostly through my social media you probably did not know when I was expecting my fourth child. This is because for most of those 9 months I hid the fact that I was pregnant. In fact very few people found out before 6 months, and even then my baggy clothes continued to hide it. My blog and Instagram page went eerily quiet as I tried to make sense of what I was feeling. I was eventually diagnosed and treated for prenatal depression.
It was only after this rather dark time had passed, that I realised, the number of people who lit the way through for me-and I am not sure how I would have survived this part of my life’s journey without their support: my husband who was a passenger on this emotional rollercoaster, my sisters who kept telling me that I would be ok- and offered to adopt my baby, the SCS staff (even though they found out so late), my boys’ teachers (Amy and Kayle) who spoke to them about their new roles and genuinely met most of their emotional needs while I was an absent mother, and, my dearest mom-squad, my rocks, the J’s ( Julia and Joanne) who never judged me when I expressed my shock and confusion about being pregnant, and checked up on me almost daily, who eventually convinced me that I should buy some stretch-mark cream at 6 months pregnant, and, who understood when I chose Palmers over ‘Happy Event.’ I will always be grateful to you all for carrying me through this.
Having struggled with Post natal Deppression after my first was born, I was surprised I didn’t recognise the symptoms sooner. But to be honest I was in complete denial – in my mind I simply could not be depressed, there was no time for it- although I very much wanted to hide from the world it was not an option as I was working and had other children to take care of, and so I very robotically did so.
When my teaching contract ended, I spent most of those weeks sleeping, and at one of our doctors visits it was pointed out to me that I was in fact ‘depressed’ regardless of how many times I said that I was ‘OK’ – I was not. I was prescribed medication which I did not take for over a week, until one evening, my best friend messaged me, when I voiced my struggle to swallow the antidepressant pill, and could not understand why it was so difficult as I knew it would help me – she advised that the answer was a simple one- I was judging myself for not being able to cope, for needing help to overcome what is now a known and accepted illness. I took the pill for the first time that night.
Most people do a nine months in vs nine month out picture- I don’t have many bump pics and so I decided to recognise the nine months out part in a different way- an apology to my baby.
A letter to my bonus baby,
It has been 9 months since you made your arrival and as you hit some major milestones with learning to crawl and cutting your first teeth, I realised that I owe you an apology.
I am sorry.
I am sorry that I was not thrilled when the pregnancy test showed up positive and I dropped it from my hands as if it was on fire. I did not think another baby was on the cards for us.
I am sorry that I did not go to the doctor to make sure I had enough progesterone to keep you going- I was in a state of shock and could not acknowledge you.
I am sorry that I kept all my Ramadaan fasts even though I felt terrible and struggled because accepting God’s mercy with pregnancy and fasting would mean that I was somehow accepting that you were there.
I am sorry for the negative energy that flowed through you during your stay inside me- I was absolutely overwhelmed.
I am sorry you heard me cry so many times and it was almost always related to your coming.
I am sorry I didn’t want to tell anyone that you were growing inside me.
I am sorry I felt embarrassed about having a fourth child, I felt judged and didn’t want to deal with the “Don’t you own a TV?” type comments.
I am sorry that I hid you for almost 6 months, and even then, only told the people who needed to know.
I am sorry that it seemed like I was being ungrateful.
I am sorry I did not have more faith that things would be ok- and that I needed to just breathe.
I am sorry that it was not me who was elated by your coming but grateful that your siblings were thrilled- and seemed to feel you were needed.
I am sorry that I didn’t count down the weeks to your birth as your brother Hamzah did- making him the one who kept track.
I am sorry I didn’t treasure your movements inside me as your older sister hugged and kissed you from the outside- making sure you knew her voice.
I am sorry that you were celebrated by absolutely everyone else in our lives- and that I eventually needed to be medicated to cope toward the end of the pregnancy.
I am sorry you did not have a ‘medication free’ stay in the womb.
I am sorry that I did not have the usual monthly ultrasounds but working full time left little time for me to make the 2 hour drive to the gynae and that’s why we only ‘saw’ you three times.
I am sorry you don’t have an album full of in utero ‘bump’ pictures, or a maternity shoot or a host of ultrasound pictures- I was just trying my best to pretend to be ok for your siblings.
I am sorry that I did not want a baby shower – I ended up having a surprise one thrown by the Grade 5 class ( a memory I treasure forever), and a second one thrown by your aunts while on holiday with them.
I am sorry that your oldest brother Isa eventually asked me if I didn’t want to have you- he noticed the toll it took on me and reminded me all the time how excited and happy he was about you, that he would help care for you- and he does!
I am sorry that I had an anxiety attack as they attempted to insert the spinal block, and that I tried to get off the table to leave the operating theater, at that point my fear caused all rational systems to crash. (The Doc came around to try and calm me down but I needed to be held by two nurses to complete the spinal block.)
I am sorry that my anxiety attack was due to the reality that my life as I knew it was about to change and the unknown is something I struggle with.
I am sorry I did not fall in love with you while you grew inside me.
I am sorry for not being a better mother to you in utero.
I am sorry that it took our first meeting outside of my womb for me to see your perfection.
I am sorry that it was only when our eyes locked that I realised that apart from love, I felt relief, that even though I had been so terrible to you – that you were somehow still ok, that I did not hurt you with my negative energy.
I am sorry that it was only when touching your soft new-born skin that I realised how absolutely in love I was with you.
I am sorry that before your birth I didn’t want to breastfeed you- but did so under the guidance of my midwife who said it would help us bond due to my anxiety and depression, and here you are, still breastfeeding at 9 months.
I am sorry that it took some time for me to become the mother that stares at you in awe.
I am sorry that it took us a little longer- but now I can’t cope with the love I have for you- and the joy each smile brings me.
I am sorry that you had to teach me so many lessons.
I am sorry that I had no idea how beautiful you would be and how I still had so much space in my heart to love you.
I am sorry that I could not for-see the joy you would bring to everyone in our family including me.
I am sorry that I only decided to do a new born photo shoot after your birth in order to make up for my not doing enough for you in utero.
I am sorry for all the guilt I have felt since your birth. I cannot undo what has passed.
I am sorry that I did not have enough faith that everything would be ok and that life with you would be truly beautiful.
I am sorry that I could not see, that after your birth – I would not be able to imagine a life without you.
I am sorry that every time you smile at me – a small part of me wonders how I could ever, not have wanted you.
I am sorry that I was not better for you in those nine months- but despite everything you faced from conception- you are here- and there is no one who celebrates that more than me …
With love to last you a lifetime,
Your prenatally depressed mother.