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My name is Natalie AKA The Spoonie Mummy. My blog (www.thespooniemummy.com) is all about life and parenting with chronic illness. I want to encourage other young people and parents, who suffer from the same conditions as me, to see that life can still be meaningful and happy, and that you can be a fantastic mum or dad.
I recently read a book and one of the characters was suffering from post-natal depression. It was an audio book, so as I listened (mostly on long car journeys), I found myself shouting at the other characters, willing them to notice that she was struggling. One of the things the character kept saying was that she did not feel love towards her baby. She cared for him, met his needs and to the outside world seemed a perfect mother and housewife, but inside she was struggling to bond.
This made me think about my own experiences. You are built up to expect this amazing, all consuming and instant love when you have a baby. And with my first, that was pretty much how it happened. Everything about him amazed me, his tiny fingers and toes, his smattering of blonde hair and his beautiful blue eyes.
I lived three hours away from my family so me and Leo spent all our time together. My friends were other mums that I had met in baby groups. I did go back to work part time, and Leo came to the nursery I worked in to be cared for while I was there. I absolutely adored being a mum and everything that came with it. My husband worked long hours so I did the majority of the ‘house stuff’ and me and Leo formed a close bond.
I found out I was pregnant again around Leo’s second birthday. Unfortunately, this pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at twelve weeks. This deeply devastated me, as you can imagine, but Leo was there to carry on for. I had to have surgery but was lucky enough to fall pregnant just two months after we were allowed to start trying again. The pregnancy wasn’t easy, my arthritis flared and we found out the baby had a kidney condition, hydronephrosis, which added more worry.
Riley was born and fortunately (and to this day) remains healthy and his kidney condition is well controlled. I loved Riley but can remember it not being the same feeling I had with Leo. I always felt like I wasn’t giving one or the other the attention they needed or deserved, and with my husband still out of the house for over twelve hours every day, was dealing with the lion’s share of childcare and housework myself. I didn’t know how to separate the love I had for both the boys and if I could love Riley as much as I did Leo.
Riley was a pretty easy baby, very chilled and we soon got into a good routine. I didn’t return to work this time and Leo started a local church playgroup, first for two mornings, then three a week. Riley, as opposed to Leo, was much more independent and happy to play alone. I would try and play games with him, but he never seemed bothered. I worried more that it was because I wasn’t or hadn’t given them both the right attention.
Over the next few years I noticed issues with Riley’s speech and development but the health visitor’s were quick to dismiss them, saying to see how things went as he got older. It wasn’t till his first ‘parent’s evening’ at his school nursery when he had just turned four, that things started to fall into place. His teacher had picked up on the same things that I had. His speech by then, had come on more but his understanding was not catching up. He wasn’t overly sociable and preferred to play alone. He liked routine and struggled immensely with change. He had a brilliant memory, but would get obsessed and fixated on certain things.
Although the last thing you want to hear is that they may be something wrong with your child, the relief was immense. Someone else saw what I saw, I wasn’t going crazy. Now we might be able to move forward with some professional help.
The pieces of the puzzle finally came together, everything fell into place. I felt a new surge of love, adoration and understanding for my special little boy. Now, with some help, I could get inside his mind a bit easier, understand his ways and help him to develop, grow, achieve and enjoy life.
Riley is now six and still undergoing assessments. I don’t see him as if there is something ‘wrong’, I don’t feel he has a ‘problem’ or label him. He is Riley and it is just his way. I enjoy spending time with him, in his bubble, and would often like to stay there a lot longer. He isn’t worried about what other people think, he is amazingly intelligent and the conversations we have are brilliant, he likes what he likes and always likes to finish a task before moving on.
I think there are two messages I want to get across by sharing my story. The first is that the rush of love is sometimes not automatic. Don’t worry if you don’t feel it straight away, especially if it isn’t your first. The jump from having one to two children is supposedly the hardest to deal with and that is definitely true in my case. A baby is their own little person and we have to learn about them, observe their quirks and understand their personality. If you are really struggling, and I cant stress this enough, please talk to someone. Your partner, a family member, a friend, your GP or health visitor. It is normal to struggle with such a huge adjustment and you should not be ashamed.
Secondly, mother’s instinct is a real thing. You tune into your children, it is natural and unstoppable. Trust your gut and follow your instincts. Sometimes it will provide the breakthrough you need.