When the doctor first diagnosed me with postnatal depression 2 months ago – I was literally knocked sideways. I had just given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby, had an amazing man by my side, and had nothing to be unhappy about! I only went to the doctors as I had separation anxiety when Dexter and I were apart and was I hugely self-conscious about it.
Since that day, things got progressively more difficult in our home. I found myself analysing my relationships even more; with both Dexter and Craig. I was so consumed with parenting, poor Craig didn’t get too much of a look-in. A typical day would involve Craig going to work, returning home and cooking dinner with Dex, whilst I had some hands-free time. We’d eat in silence as the television was on, bath Dex, feed him, and settle him down. With all the practical bits of running a home, Craig and I would rarely get any quality time together. I’d go to bed first, and would often be asleep by the time Craig finished up downstairs.
It’s always been in the back of my mind that Craig and I need more ‘alone’ time – but until this weekend I just couldn’t seem to put it right. We’d just got so used to our routines. I was constantly tired and our little bundle of joy just seemed to need me more than Craig did.
The by-product of all this obsessing meant it got to the point where all our conversations were about Dexter and we rarely laughed together or had a kiss and a cuddle. I mistakenly thought that Dexter was the centre of our world and that it would be our achievements as parents that would make us stronger as a couple. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Craig and I were ever in danger of falling out of love with each other – I just lost track of what was important.
Reading Festival – 2011 – Life before Dexter
The realisation came for me when we watched American Pie: The Reunion this weekend. Craig got home on the Friday with a bottle of wine and a dine-in-for-two type affair. I was bored of I’m a Celebrity (shock – horror!) and was fed up of staring at the laptop, so suggested we pop on the latest offering from Lovefilm.
The film wasn’t great. It was typical American Pie humour; cringeworthy and ridiculous. But ironically there was something I could actually relate to this time round. Michele and Jim had had a baby and were struggling to make ‘time’ for each other. This was the overrunning theme the whole way through – at first it was their son that got in the way, then their friends; they were both out of sync and concerned about the impact on their relationship.
It wasn’t lost on me that Craig kept glancing at me. He’s tried to talk to me about it before but I’ve always quickly changed the subject. I must admit that there are parallels between their relationship and ours – but (for me) these aren’t the obvious ones. What struck me most was what worked about their relationship are the same things that work in ours. The reason Craig and I got together in the first place was because we were able to make each other laugh. Somehow, along the way, I’d forgotten this – but Craig hasn’t and he’s been missing me.
So many times we’ve discussed how “We’ve changed” as a result of having Dexter. We’ve quite rightly “grown up” and have new “responsibilities” – all the old clichés. I think I took this a million steps too far though and fell into the trap of thinking Craig would be impressed if I was the ‘perfect parent’ and would love me more for it. What I’ve realised is that being a good parent is one thing, but it’s also important to be a good girlfriend. Both need equal amounts of my energy and time.
I always found it a little strange that some mothers blog so candidly about their experience with postnatal depression and their relationships. I couldn’t stand the thought of Dexter ever reading that I was sad, or that his mummy ever ‘struggled’. I grew up in a household blighted by my own mothers depression, and desperately didn’t want Dexter to experience the same thing. My friends and family also read this blog and I honestly believe that some things should remain private. So what’s changed now?
This blog is all about our family; Craig and I are just as much protagonists as Dexter is! I’m just as likely to feel compelled to write about Dexter’s little achievements as I am about ours. This week I smashed the hell out of PND – and that’s a pretty big deal.
I just feel differently about depression now. It doesn’t define me and it’s not like I’ve done something wrong. PND is simply a result of my post-baby hormones and isn’t any more than that. I’m not going to give it anymore thought or attention – I’ve got more important things to do with my life – like play with Dex and Craig.
I don’t have to worry that Dexter won’t understand why I’ve decided to write this post. All he’ll know is that he has a fun-filled house with a mummy and daddy who are human and do their best. There’ll be plenty of stories behind our success as a family – this is simply one of them.