It's a funny old business this parenting lark.
No matter how much you search for it, there isn't a book, website or any advice given from another parent that can in any way shape or form prepare you for your own experience when becoming a parent.
As far as I'm aware, I've never made it a secret that I've struggled. I've never said any part of this was easy and I've never been found to preach about how wonderful motherhood is, because quite frankly no one wants to hear that when you're up to your eye balls in yellow (sometimes, brown, sometimes green) crap and you're not entirely sure if that's snot, dribble or porridge in your hair.
I've always found ways to mask my struggles in a light hearted manner, coating my dark days with humour and sarcasm to take the edge off what I was really thinking about my new life and it really wasn't all that funny at all.
There is a whole other side to my experience of becoming a parent which I've barely spoken aloud about up until now. Even my nearest and dearest have no idea about things I'm about to share. I still struggle to find the words to say out loud what it is that's been tormenting me. I feel embarrassed to admit that it's something 'I've got,' and I still feel ashamed that 'it got me'. It's something I might never really understand or want to discuss in person, but writing about it helps me and I just wonder if there might be anyone else out there who, like me, is too frightened to utter the words or admit that there might be something not quite right.
Acknowledging The Fog
I sensed that something was a little off balance quite early on. That there was this fog constantly loitering around me, waiting for the slightest moment of weakness to arise, just waiting for me to crack so it could swallow me bit by bit. The fog would feed itself hungrily on dark long days and dark long nights and the more of those it gobbled up, the bigger and stronger it became.
I knew becoming a parent wouldn't be easy, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I'd find it this hard. When everyone kept saying that 'things would get easier', they only seemed to get harder for me. The months rolled on and I waited. I waited so patiently for life to get easier but it never did.
I waited for things to click, for life to become in some little way easier but it just never happened.
The fog never left.
It grew stronger, thicker and darker and as Elsie's First Birthday approached it really hit me that something definitely wasn't right. How can I still be finding life this hard after a year?
So much so, that I didn't recognise myself anymore.
Who Is This Girl?
It was only then that I realised, or admitted, how very sad inside I really was. I missed the happy person I used to be. Where had she gone? She was always so full of optimism, she was happy and positive and most of the time fun. I was none of the these things anymore. I was so angry. Angry at the world, at myself and mostly at my husband. We were in this together, we wanted this together and yet why did I feel so alone and so defensive in my foggy world?
I'd find myself saying things, horrible things, that I'd sometimes shock myself. I had zero patience for absolutely anything that didn't involve Elsie. I was always on the edge ready to flip, armed and well equipped with some negative and miserable responses that were on the most part unnecessary and sometimes hurtful. Who was this person? This miserable person, who wanted the days to end so badly and who hoped more than anything that things would be better tomorrow, that tomorrow would be better? I didn't know this girl at all.
Maybe I wasn't Meant to be a Mother?
With the fog brought a constant guilt. We had wanted to become parents so badly, so why wasn't I happy? I wished so hard that I could be happy. To have the perfect life again, for things to be easy, for me to be that positive person I so badly missed. I tried, I really tried to see the good in everything and to see everything I had to be grateful for. I willed it. I used to squeeze my eyes shut and hope that when I'd open them again the fog would have lifted and I'd be in my happy world again. But it didn't happen.
I felt like a failure in all aspects of my life. I was drowning every which way I turned and didn't feel like anything I did was right. I couldn't keep up with anything I wanted to do. Our home was a mess, I was a mess, everything always felt like such a mess. Why was I getting everything so wrong?
To top it all off I was permanently knackered. When you have a baby who doesn't sleep, it's not just hard to get through the day, it's near on impossible to get through life. There's no let up. There's no re-charging time. There's no me-even-just-for-an-hour-time. It's endless, it's relentless, it's beyond exhausting. This, I will always swear, will be one of the main reason to my having postnatal depression.
But here I was walking around a shadow of my former self.
I kept plodding along, telling myself that it was meant to be this hard. That none of this was meant to be easy and that I just somehow needed to suck it up and get on with it. But this of course only made me feel more negatively towards myself and my capability as a mother. Maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother? Maybe this wasn't for me and I was destined to be just Katie forever. We tried for so long to conceive naturally, but then we medalled with nature and now this was my karma.
The mind can be such a lonely, mean place.
Bad vs. Good
Subconsciously I was constantly counting the good days verses the bad days. This is the bit that makes me the saddest of all. That even after a year of having the most amazing little person in my life and feeling my heart grow bigger and so full with love and pride, each day was marked with a 'good' or 'bad' stamp.
The bad always outweighed the good, no matter how much I tried to pretend they didn't.
The good days weren't even based on anything particularly good. They were judged on things like having not cried that day, or not wanting to run away, or just generally feeling OK. Those were the good days and it makes me sad to wonder how differently the last year would have been if the fog wasn't around. I always wonder what life would have been like if the old me had been around. The happy me. The one who saw the good in life. Would she have found becoming a parent so much easier? Would life have been lovelier had she stuck around? I suppose I'll never know.
As a family we are still trying to figure out how to move forward. Life is particularly stressful right now, but with so much to look forward to and so much to appreciate, I'm determined to figure this out.
I'm not in a position to offer any advice to others as it's still quite early days for me, but what I can say is that just acknowledging the fog really helped clear the air around me. It's made me seek help and start the process of finding my old self again. I really need her right now. One thing I know for certain is that even in the midst of the bad days, it's my girl who keeps me going. She needs me, she needs all of me and I owe it to her and my husband to piece myself back together.