LET HER HOLD HER BABY ...
"Well done Emma, you did it ... a beautiful little girl. Now, you're too exhausted so I'm just going to swaddle her and pass her to your Mum to give her a cuddle and keep her warm ..."
In my head I was screaming out through exhausted cries that wouldn't come.
"Please don't do that, please don't take that moment away from me and give it to her. She's my baby ... I want to hold her. I'll never be too tired. Please, just let me hold my baby ..."
Motherhood. It's something that we are never fully prepared for are we? I mean, we think we are. We've done all our reading, we know about supporting our baby's neck and how to swaddle. We've picked names (and we've all turned down plenty because we all know someone with that name that we didn't like.) The cot is readily assembled, the smell of fresh linen fills the room as we take one last glance at the new outfits. Piles of tiny nappies are stacked amongst the never ending bottles of lotions and potions you bought because they were on offer, and for a moment you wonder if you went a little over the top on the 3 for 2 deals! But then you notice your hospital bag in the corner that you've no doubt packed ten times already and you'll probably re-pack again just to make sure you've not forgotten a thing. You're ready, aren't you? Everything is sorted. Everything is fine. You just want to hold your baby.
To the young, vulnerable Mum I once was,
I'm in the room with you now. You're tired, overwhelmed and confused. There are doctors and midwives talking at you. Legs still wide and you can't ignore that burning sensation. David is on the phone to his Mum breaking the news that her first Grandchild has been born and you can hear her excited screams all the way from your bed. There's a baby in the room yet your arms are empty ... waiting, wanting, yearning.
The voices are still talking at you and there's a pulling sensation but you don't know what. It hurts and it burns and you don't know why. You hold out your arms and nothing comes ... they're still empty ... you cry silent tears but nobody gets it.
"It's just the placenta" they tell you "You can have a bath now and clean yourself up." Everything is fine. Let her hold her baby.
You look to the right and he's sound asleep. You look to the left and there she is, swaddled in a blanket, nestled in your Mother's cardigan ... but she's not in your arms, she's in hers. She's yours Emma, take your baby. Whisper her name and let her tiny fingers curl around yours. Let her know who you are and kiss her wrinkled face. She's yours Emma and I get it, I get those tears. Everything is fine. Let her hold her baby.
It's the strangest mixture of emotions isn't it Emma, those first ten minutes. The rush of love is like something you can never explain. It's like everything you once knew has been lost, and everything you were has disappeared. It's replaced by a love you have waited for your whole life; this is your new life now and it's going to be amazing isn't it?! You're a Mum now Emma, everything is fine. Let her hold her baby.
You're looking down at your baby, now safe in her Mother's arms yet she's still to let out the first cry. It's been half an hour and nothing comes, but you aren't worried, it'll come when she's ready. For now, she's safe and right where she needs to be. You're taking her all in. The almond shape of her eyes, the darkness of her hair, the way her nose forms a perfect button, the bow of her lips. Her fingers are tightly curled around your thumb and then ... she's gone. They've got your baby in their arms and they're jabbing at her heels to make her cry. There it comes, it's shrill and it's high pitched. It's a cry for her Mother, her safe place ... and you cry those silent tears again as they take your baby away. Everything is fine. Let her hold her baby.
You wake from slumber to the sound of a piercing cry, but it's not the one you know. There are lights and they're bright, she's sleeping under them soundly, her yellow skin glowing under the rays. She's safe Emma, she has no clue. Get the rest, take the sleep, use the time, take a bite to eat. It's been twenty four hours and you just want to feel her warmth. The midwives sit by your side but they don't acknowledge the tears that come. They prop you up, tell you to drink, you turn your head and see the others holding their babies. Smiling, laughing, singing lullabies. Everything is fine. Let her hold her baby.
It's been five weeks Emma, you're tired, exhausted and emotional. She cries, but the house is full of people who all want to comfort your baby, she cries some more, you know what she wants but they don't listen. You want to be alone, just the two of you but they won't go. There is mess on the floor and a toddler running around. They're poking, prodding, cooing and passing her around like a doll.
"Watch the baby" you cry ... yet nobody listens ... "I think she's hungry, she needs ..."
And there it is ... the silence, the stares. Did they hear you? Why do they look at you like that? And you feel it, the two round circles forming across your breasts, the scent of a Mothers milk, the dampness of your t-shirt, the redness of your face, the pain in your arms as you reach out for your baby ... the shame. And you cry once more. Everything really isn't fine. Let her hold her baby.
I could so easily have written about my life with Beth as it is today - my baby is now fifteen, we are still learning together and our relationship is solid, but just as nothing prepared me for the teenage years, nothing prepared me for those first hours, days, weeks or months.
Why didn't I write about life as it is now? Because somewhere inside is still that young Mother who feels she won't be heard. The Mother who just wants to hold her baby. My postnatal depression began with those moments ... I couldn't voice it, couldn't control it, couldn't stop it.
I don't think people ever realise the full impact it has on a new Mother as they take those moments away. They're so swept up in the moment, embracing a new life, they don't realise there is often a Mother crying silent tears because it is she who needs that moment with her baby. So, I guess that is why I chose to write this post, to let Mothers know that you don't have to tell yourself that everything is fine, you don't have to let them hold your baby. The other reason for this post was also to highlight to all the friends and family, to the midwives and the next door neighbours ... let her hold her baby. Let her be a Mother. I wish I could submit of photograph of a young Emma and her baby, but postnatal depression wouldn't let me. It wouldn't let me hold my baby. So instead, here we are now, and one day my daughter will perhaps become a Mother, and what will I do? I will let her hold her baby.