Back to work and guilt (Its not what you think…)

Today was my first day back at work.  I took 4 months maternity leave as well as 2 weeks of annual leave before Faith was due.  So all in all I have been away from work for about 17/18 weeks.

The first day was ok, a bit long for someone not used to sitting behind a desk all day.  I came back to a small crisis but that is being handled and I have stayed out of the details of it and am just helping where I can.

Tomorrow is a half day for me (Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays by default as we finish at 2pm anyway) so that makes it a bit easier to be motivated.

Onto the guilt…

I dont feel guilty about leaving Faith to go back to work.  I know I have to work and I know if I dont do something during the day I will go nuts.  Im glad that I work 3 half days, it definitely makes going back to work easier.

In order to explain my guilt I have to give you a little back story.  As you may or may not know I suffered from PND after having Aaron.  When my 4 months maternity leave was over I could not wait to get back to work.  It wasnt that I didnt love my baby, I did.  It was more about getting away from a place that I was not in control of and going to a place that I was in control of, a place I felt was ‘safe’ I suppose.

*Please note that its only now, almost 3 years later that I can articulate these feelings, at the time I just felt a fantastic sense of relief at being at work and not at home*

My guilt back then wasnt that I was leaving baby at home, it was about the fact that I didnt feel guilty for leaving him.  The fact that I felt I was running away from him to go to work.

This time I am not running away, yes I miss Faith but I know she is happy and well looked after and that its not full day every day.  This time there is no guilt that I am not feeling quilty.

This time the guilt comes from the fact that I am petrified that the difference in how I have handled going back to work after Aaron and after Faith will effect my relationship with them in the future, especially with Aaron.

I know that it wasnt my fault, I know that even though I was depressed it wasnt for lack of love for my son.  But the cold hard truth is that it took me a long time to bond with Aaron, a long time for me to not want to run away to work.  I just hope that as he grows older and more aware he doesn’t feel like I love him less than his sister.  I hope he understands, even if its never said, that it wasnt really him I was running away from.  That it was my own demons.

I hope that even though it wasnt ‘me’ that one day I can forgive myself.

I didn’t know…

…how badly depressed I was after Aaron was born until I had Faith.

Looking back Im not sure how I survived that first year after he was born.

The biggest manifestation of my depression was anxiety.  Even the smallest things were enough to set me off.  What clothes should I put him in? Would he be too hot/cold?  Would I have enough changes of clothes for him if we went out?  I walked around with a nappy bag so full and heavy because I never trusted myself to have packed the right stuff.  If Paul or my mom or anyone for that matter told me that I was stressing for nothing or that whatever I had would be fine I would immediately assume I was a bad mother for doing it wrong.  I would get so stressed and anxious about these small things I would eventually find myself sobbing or screaming in tears on the floor, literally pulling my hair out in chunks.

I put on a happy face when we were with other people, no one would have guessed how miserable and bleak I was at home.  The only person besides Paul who ever saw me at my worst was my mom, she often got hysterical phone calls because the baby was crying and nothing I did was working and I was ruining him for life and he would never forgive me and would need therapy etc…  In fact she even came over a few times and made me go sleep or have a bath or go outside while she calmed Aaron down for me.

Dont get me wrong, there were good days, days where I could not imagine my life being any better but they were few and far between.  Then I started going for therapy and went to see a psychiatrist who prescribed an anti anxiety med called Cipralex and slowly I started becoming more the old me.  That was two years ago and over those two years I have often thought to myself that maybe my memory of that first year was wrong, maybe it wasn’t as bad as all that.  Sure I was depressed and anxious but look at how well Im doing now, it cant have been THAT bad.

Then I had Faith.  Let me tell you, the first 5 weeks of having her in our life was nothing compared to the first 5 weeks with Aaron.  Yes, I still get anxious, yes, there are times at 3am when she wont sleep and all I want to do is climb back into bed and I think to myself, what the hell have I done?  I cant carry on like this.  But those moments, and they truly are just moments, are very few and far between.  I look forward to waking up in the middle of the night to feed her, her crying doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out, I still over pack her bag but so what, its just how I roll!

I really didnt realise just how dark those dark days were until I saw how light these last few weeks have been.

I really wish I could go back and redo Aaron’s first year without being depressed.  I wish I could have enjoyed that time with him like Im enjoying this time with Faith.  It doesnt mean I love him any less.  Even through all those dark days I would still fight to the death for my son.  I loved him fiercely  and with all my heart from the moment he was born.  And maybe that was part of the anxiety, wanting to be perfect for my perfect child.

When we decided to start trying for a 2nd baby, I consulted my psychiatrist, my therapist, my GP and my OBGYN about continuing my medication.  They were all for it and insisted I continue taking it right through my pregnancy.  I cant tell you if I would have slipped back into a depression if I wasn’t taking the meds but what I can tell you is that I wouldn’t even want to try.  That single pill once a day keeps me sane.  It allows me to enjoy both my children, even when they are both crying and need my attention and my tea is getting cold and supper s burning and the beds are still unmade from the morning.

I hope that reading this makes a difference to someone who needs it.  I hope they know they are not alone.

Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.  ~Norman B. Rice