When you write about something like Post-Natal Depression, then take the nerve-wracking step of pressing “Publish”, you hope to help anyone out there who feels alone. You hope to reach them in the dark and show them that it is possible to feel better, because this is what you wish you had found back then.
But then there is also a weight, a risk. Because other people will read this – people who don’t understand, who only want to criticise, and you feel apprehensive of how easily people can judge.
Even more importantly, however, is the risk that other people, people important to you could be stung, their hearts hurt by the words you have written. So I wrote this letter to my daughter.
You are three years and ten months old. I am 35. I’m supposed to be teaching you, guiding you and helping you find your way, instead you have taught me more than I ever knew there was to learn.
You know all of the letters of the alphabet and can write your own name. You shine when you dance and sing, draw and paint and when you grow up, you want to be a decorator. This, simplicity…
You still can’t say your ls, vs, and rs in the right places and every time you shout, “Let’s go to the yilling yoom and watch teyelision” my heart skips, then swells with a love that no words can wrap themselves around.
You are a brilliant big sister who makes her little brother feel he is the most important person in the room. You laugh at his jokes, and involve him in everything you do. His first word was your name and he lights up when you are around. You are his hero.
You are sweet, you are caring, you tell me I am the best mummy in the world. I cry when you say this and although you are clueless as to why, one day you will find that, for so long, I wasn’t even close to the mother that I wanted to be.
To hear those words prickles me with the guilt that I let you down in those early days. But they also fill me to spilling over with the knowledge that you are here, you are mine, and there is nothing I would do to change any of it.
I’m writing to you now as I imagine you one day discovering what I have written. Like in a secret diary, hidden under the mattress, or in a shoe box at the bottom of the wardrobe, I have given voice to the most intimate of thoughts, and the bleakest of feelings. But in public. For other people to read, find hopeful resonance in, and one day, for you to find.
I imagine you finding it in your teenage years, alone in your bedroom, and I wonder whether you will be uncertain whether this discovery is something you should admit. Admit it, keep it secret, that decision is your’s, but one thing I want to say for certain is that it was never about you.
But how could that be? I imagine you thinking. How could it not be my fault? It was my birth that tore you down. It was me who left you flattened and hopeless. It was me.
But it wasn’t you, my sweet girl. That was illness. And that wasn’t me either. I thought I was gone, but you showed me there was a new way, a new me, that I was always meant to be. But most importantly, the darkness was never about you.
You will have read how I struggled for months to feel how I thought a mother should feel, how I didn’t feel I could do you justice. But please trust me, no responsibility is yours.
Call it chance, circumstance, fate, it makes no odds. The stars were aligned, the Gods had spoken, and your birth was just not supposed to be smooth. It was sent to test me, to prove to me how strong I could be but it took time for me to see this, embrace it, rejoice in the lessons I could learn from it.
And in amidst a swirling storm of blackness and scarlet and the dark deep emerald envy, I lost myself for a while, but you? You were the light. You are my light.
Your arrival heralded a new time, new lessons, in empathy, patience, understanding and forgiveness. I have learned to be humble, to not suppose or assume, to think about the path others may have walked before, and honour their survival.
You have showed me my strength and ability, and your arrival has sent me on new adventures of the mind and heart that without you would never have happened.
Every day I envelop your hand in mine, and for a moment forget the duties and performances demanded by life. I look down at you and there is a squeeze in my chest, a momentary stop to my centre. How can you be so small, and yet, in my mind, in my heart, so huge?
Know that you are loved. Know that I am grateful for what you have shown me. Know that I wouldn’t change a thing.
Not. One. Thing.
Because out of all that, came you.
Thank you, my magic.
If you are struggling with PND or even low mood after having children, then please seek help. PANDAS Foundation are an amazing charity who offer support and advice on seeking treatment via a helpline, email and other support groups. Check out their website for more information.