I hope you enjoy this short two thousand word story. If this story touches you in anyway, could I please ask you to consider donating to Mind to help those struggling with Postnatal depression, or many of the other mental health conditions.
A short story by
Edited by: Kendra’s Editing and Book Services
"You will love it."
“There is no better feeling in the world.”
“They complete you.”
It was all lies.
At least, that’s how it felt at the time.
No one told me the truth. No one ever said becoming a mother would shake me, break me, and turn me into a withered fraction of the person I used to be.
Sure, I had the emotional moment and feeling of absolute joy when my son was placed in my arms for the very first time. And yes, my chest constricted with an overwhelming sense of pride when he first opened his blue eyes and looked up at me, melting my heart.
That feeling didn’t last long.
Within a week of my son’s birth, everything had changed.
Sitting on a bench facing the small lake, the dark water reflecting the changing autumn leaves of nearby trees, my thoughts drifted back to the time when being a mother became too much, when I wished it would all just go away.
That he would just go away.
Harvey, my son, had been a little angel. “Our very own gift from God,” Dylan, my husband, would say. Of course he would. He didn’t get to see the devil-child like I did.
As soon as Dylan returned to work at the end of his paternity leave and it became just Harvey and me, things spiralled downhill quickly.
Everything started changing.
I started changing.
It was almost like he was testing the strength of my character—and found me lacking. From the moment the front door clicked closed behind Dylan in the mornings, after he had showered his precious son with kisses, Harvey became a demanding monster. It didn’t matter what I tried or how much of my own hair I tried pulling out, Harvey would not settle.
He would cry non-stop for hours, and nothing would pacify him. I’d feed, change, and cuddle him, and I’d rock him in my arms until they ached, but his wailing would not stop.
In the early days of post-natal checks, the midwife—and then various other health-care workers—would tell me everything was fine. It would take me a while to learn what my son’s different cries were and I should not fret about things.
That was easier said than done.
The more Harvey cried, the more desperate I became.
First, my feelings were of guilt; why couldn’t I do the simple thing of pacifying my son? We soon found ourselves in a vicious circle of baby crying—mum fretting—baby continuing to cry—mum becoming desperate for some peace.
Next came hopelessness.
I began to feel lost, worthless, not deserving of anything or anyone in my life. I had been given, supposedly, the greatest gift on earth, but I didn’t appreciate him. I couldn’t.
Within days, I found myself withdrawing from my son, and from life. I couldn’t cope. Suddenly, being a wife and mother was too much.
I wasn’t connecting with my son. The bright spark of pride I’d felt straight after his birth, had faded and died. I began despising him, wishing he were anywhere but with me. My relationship with my husband was suffering, too. I could see the concern in his eyes when he came home from work in the evenings and asked how my day had been, but I couldn’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to care.
While I stayed in bed, trying to bury myself in the comfort of my blankets, I would leave Harvey in his bassinet crying for hours until he would eventually drop off to sleep. I couldn’t find the motivation to get washed or dressed. I stopped eating properly and would ignored phone calls and visitors.
I simply withdrew from living.
Eventually, Dylan and our health visitor realised that something was wrong, that I wasn’t just suffering with mild baby blues.
“Georgie,” Dylan said to me one morning, sitting beside me on the edge of the bed as he cuddled a sleeping Harvey. “Sweetheart, we can’t carry on like this. Harvey needs his mum.”
His words were like a knife to my chest. He was right; Harvey did need me, but I didn’t know how to be a mum. I was confused, scared, tired, and I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt that I couldn’t just get on with motherhood like every other new mum did.
My throat clogged up with a football-sized ball of guilt, shame, and emotion, and tears stung my closed eyes. But I would not cry. I refused to. I could not admit to Dylan how low I was feeling, how utterly useless I was. I was his wife, the mother of his child. I was supposed to be strong, caring, and nurturing his child whilst he was off providing for us financially.
Dylan’s gentle hand swept greasy hair away from my face, and I felt his eyes on me.
I will not cry. I will not cry.
I kept repeating it to myself over and over, willing myself back into the darkness that was slowly engulfing me.
“You have to snap out of this, babe. Harvey needs you… I need you.”
Despite my best efforts, a whimper that resembled a squeak abraded my throat, and the tears I had been trying so hard to repress finally started falling. I screwed my eyes together tight and prayed no more would fall. But it was no use. The dam had breached, and before I knew it, I was sobbing, burying my face into the pillow, unable to control my shaking body.
“Let me help you. We need to get you help so you can feel like you again. I need my wife, and Harvey needs his mum. We can’t lose you, Georgie.”
Dylan’s emotion-filled voice and words took me by surprise. What did he mean by ‘lose me’? I wasn’t going anywhere, well, other than the black hole I was steadily falling into.
I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and wiggled under the crumple of blankets until I was facing Dylan. For the first time in several weeks, I actually took note of my husband. His usual bright-blue eyes were dull and haunted, dark circles swirled underneath, and a concerned frown drew in his brows.
My husband was seriously worried. About me?
As tears continued to spill from my eyes, Dylan reached forward to wipe them away.
“I’ve been speaking to Evelyn, and she thinks you have Postnatal Depression.” I shuddered again, not wanting to acknowledge what we both knew was the truth. “I’ve made you an appointment with the doctor. It’s time we got you the support you need to help you get back to your old self.”
Dylan offered a small, weary smile and continued stroking my hair with one hand while cuddling our son to his chest with the other.
The realisation of the seriousness of my condition hit me full on. I wasn’t just feeling down or tired; I was depressed.
I turned my head, not able to look at my husband or son, as a new emotion swept through me… shame.
“Hey.” Dylan quickly slipped his gentle hand beneath my cheek, encouraging me to look at him again. “Don’t hide from me. You have nothing to be ashamed of, okay? Lots of new mothers suffer with Postnatal Depression.”
“I’m so sorry,” I cried, bringing my hand to my mouth, trying to control my hysterics. “I’m so, so sorry, Dylan.”
With his free arm, Dylan pulled my against his chest, holding his family close.
“Shh, you have nothing to be sorry for. You hear me? Nothing.”
I cried and snuggled into Dylan’s white cotton shirt for what felt like hours until Harvey started wriggling and getting grumpy.
“Why don’t you go shower while I feed this little monster, then we’ll go talk to the doctor.” Dylan planted a kiss to my forehead and began to ease away. Not wanting him to go, I quickly grabbed handfuls of his shirt and buried my face into his chest.
“I love you,” I whispered.
I felt his smile against my skin as he kissed me again.
“And I love you, too… We’ll get through this, baby. I promise we will.”
After a chat with our family doctor, he confirmed that I was experiencing Postnatal Depression. We spoke about various treatment options and support that would help me cope, and eventually decided against antidepressants, opting for a more therapeutic approach through counselling and support groups.
When we returned home from the doctors, together, Dylan and I fed and changed Harvey and settled him down for a nap, then we sat and searched the Internet for information and advice. The Mind website was a fantastic resource that helped me further understand my condition and put me in contact with a local support group.
Within days, I’d attended a one-to-one counselling session with a lovely lady who didn’t judge and encouraged me to open up. I also had further plans to join a local group of other women who were also struggling following the birth of a child. I was still buried in a black hole, but for the first time in weeks, I felt hopeful.
Talking to people who understood and could relate to how I was feeling was my greatest motivation. I finally accepted that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a freak of nature, or a bad mother, and my fears, anxieties, and emotions were all normal.
My thoughts came back to the present by the sound of a happy child shouting behind me.
Slowly, I pulled my gaze from the darkness of the lake and turned in my seat. The sight that greeted me made my chest ache and spread a wide smile across my face. It was the most beautiful sight in the world.
Harvey, who was now walking, was heading toward me on his unsteady, chubby legs, a bright smile lighting up his face.
“Mumma, Mumma,” he babbled over and over, making me laugh.
“Hey, baby boy,” I cooed, scooping him into my arms. “Did Daddy take you to the swings?”
“Swin, swin, swin” he chanted over and over, excited to have mastered—in his baby way—another new word.
I felt Dylan step up behind me and wrap his arms around my waist, settling his hands over my stomach.
The warmth of his breath fluttering across the sensitive skin of my neck, and the husky tones of his voice, sent my body into overdrive.
“Hello to you, too, handsome.”
“How is my family doing?” He rubbed gentle circles over the tiny swell of my belly.
“We’re all doing great.” I beamed, turning in Dylan’s arms and offering him my lips that he was only too willing to smother with his own.
We stood together for several minutes, kissing each other and cuddling our son, until Harvey became restless and wanted to get down.
“I guess it’s time to go home, then,” Dylan said, taking Harvey from my arms and securing him in his stroller.
As we walked back through the park toward our car, I couldn’t be more thankful for my life. I had a wonderful son, a fantastic husband, an amazing support group surrounding me, and another, unexpected, child on the way.
Things weren’t always perfect; I still had the occasional struggle, and I couldn’t deny being a little afraid of becoming a mother again. But, as they said, I was doing well and getting better and more confident every day.
With my family and friends beside me, I knew everything would be okay.
“You will love it.”
“There is no better feeling in the world.”
“They complete you.”
It was all the truth, every last word.
EJ Shortall © 2016