Bunmi Laditan on PostNatal Depression
…No one can prepare you for how it feels to hold a baby and not feel like she’s yours.
When I came home with my little cub, while he was cute as a button, I knew something was missing.
He didn’t feel like mine. I felt like I was taking care of someone’s else’s child. My body felt distinctly postpartum and was leaking from too many places but as I’d change his diapers and gently push his sweet little arms through his yellow and white pajamas, I remember looking my bedroom door, half expecting his real mother to walk in and say, “Excellent work, fräulein, I’ll take it from here.”
In those early days, I’d sit up in the dark of night nursing him looking like the picture of maternal devotion, but there was something missing and one of my greatest fears was that someone would notice.
Once I finally was diagnosed and medicated, my mood began to stabilize, but that connection? God is my witness, it took three solid years.
In that time, I loved my baby boy, took him to play centres, parks, we cuddled, I painted his hands and pushed them into soft clay for keepsakes, and snapped a million photos, but there was a valley between us that I prayed he didn’t feel.
Then one day, or perhaps over several days, or maybe through each day of showing up, his real mother finally walked through the door and it was me. 100% me.
Now I can confidently yell at him to stop standing on the back of the couch because no, I am not going to the emergency room tonight because you think you’re Spider-Man without feeling like I’m stealing someone else’s lines. I wipe up his messy hands after he’s gotten into the poster paint saying, “What am I going to do with you,” a little annoyed, mostly delighted by his mischievousness the way mothers are knowing this moment is mine, all mine.
I am his mother and he is my child with no doubts, no angst, nothing between us except the hoodies I’ll wear 3, 4 days in a row.
So, mother, if you’re going through this today, changing a baby’s diaper or giving a toddler a bath with the shaking fear in your heart that this little one will never feel like your own, please just wait. Keep showing up. Keep rocking them to sleep,searching their little faces for what you need. Keep wiping down that high chair and kissing their pillow-soft cheeks. Every time you do you, the angels throw a handful of sand into the canyon between you. One day it will be full and you’ll walk across it to find you were always there somehow…
Love, Bunmi Laditan