Resilient kids and recovery

Even 8 years on from my first episode of PP I have regular moments of worry about the impact of my illness, and especially the gruelling times of depression on my two girls. Often though, out of the blue my kids will bowl me over with little things they do that completely reassure me of their wellbeing, and their love for me, and our unshakable bond. This evening at dinner we were chatting about spending mothers day with some friends and how the blokes are going to organise a surprise treat for the mums. My eldest was so excited and straight away wanted to take daddy upstairs to plan mission mother's day!

I think back to the tears of rage and shame I shed when after baby #2 I had to go back into psychiatric hospital and be separated from them both, and how I convinced myself that they'd never recover from having such a damaged mum. But they have recovered, they are recovering and each proud moment at parent's evening, each card with a drawing of a happy mummy, daddy and girls, each cuddle when we read a book has power to heal my heart, to heal my doubts and fears. I really believe there is always hope for bonds to be mended, for cracks to be smoothed out.

Hope this resonates with some of you, and offers hope to others who may be struggling with bonding right now or trudging through a time of depression. Somehow in the end, love wins.

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  • Thank you for such a beautifully written post which brought a tear to my eye and some hope to my heart.

  • Thank you bluestarlady. I think there's so much worry for those of us who have been through postnatal illness but it's amazing how our kids soak up all the drops of love and time we can give them even when we are struggling. May your sense of hope continue to grow

    Naomi x

  • :-( think I'm still coming to grips with how this has impacted my kids, and how much fear I still have relating to them, that I will fail again. I enjoy other peoples kids so much more easily. And think its something to do with not believing myself capable and being afraid of failing them again.

  • Aw Sofie, the fact that you're worrying about the effect on your kids & fear failing them shows just how much you love them & want the best for them. I understand the fear; you are capable, it just takes time. Little by little, day by day your confidence will improve & the bonds will come naturally, all on their own, they really will.

  • Hi sofie

    I think you're so right - it can take ever such a long time to come to grips with guilt and lack of confidence with our kids. I'm really sorry to hear that it feels quite a fearful thing for you at the moment, and yes, believing in yourself and forgiving yourself for the times that feel 'lost' is so important. I know it's hard to believe but you didn't fail them by being unwell - it wasn't your fault in any way. The fact you do worry and want things to be better shows how strong your love for them is, and offers hope for the future.

    I wondered whether you have had the opportunity for any counselling to help rebuild your confidence and reassure you that the times of illness weren't your fault? If you're in the UK your local children's centre may be able to offer free counselling sessions. Or you can search the BABCP website for local private counsellors in your area. In fact, I'm thinking of having some sessions myself to build up my confidence with my youngest (now 3) and to give myself some space to really grieve for how hard it has been at times.

    Thinking of you, keep holding on to hope that your confidence will build again in time.

    Naomi

  • I definitely do still worry at times about the impact of my episodes of perinatal illness on my kids. The impact on my daughter's development while I was carrying her and unwell, the impact on her when she was 2 and my son was born and I was unwell, the impact on my son of how ill I was for the first few months of his life and my husband basically did all the night time care etc after I fully lost it...It is lovely to have moved on so that most of the time I am confident that both kids are very attached to me, and securely so, and that I don't worry about it any more. But it's very easy to dip back into those worries and the associated guilt.

  • Hi Finacle16

    Yes, I agree the worry and associated guilt can still hit hard at times even when life has moved on from illness and we know in our heads and heart that our kids are secure and love us loads. I think I'm still learning to be kind to myself and sometimes I still need to grieve for the times I couldn't be there. I'm so glad to hear that things have moved on from you especially after two periods of illness quite close together. I'm sure that all through our lives as our kids grow up there will continue to be moments of joy as we realise how the bonds have mended.

    Naomi

  • What a fantastic post Naomi. Thank you.

    I remember a doctor once saying to me "Now you do know, with all mothers, once the baby comes out, a large bag filled with guilt replaces the space the baby occupied!"

    So PP aside, I think one of the conditions of becoming a parent is the constant questioning of whether we are getting it 'right' or not. It is often very reassuring to me to speak to my girlfriends who didn't have PP and know that nearly every mother on the planet suffers from guilt for all sorts of reasons.

    I've often wondered if I am in fact a better mum because I had PP.

    Whilst awful at the time, I learnt so much from the vulnerability of having PP. I am definitely a more compassionate person now and that's such a useful emotion as a mum. I am sure PP taught me a whole new type of gratitude for life too. Having been so poorly, once I recovered, I made a pact I would try and make the most of every single healthy day. Getting PP is no one's fault, we must all try not to blame ourselves and feel guilty about something we had no power to change. Instead, perhaps to see that we have even more to offer our kids as a result.

    I am not a religious person but the words from this serenity prayer always help me find peace with what happened when I had PP....

    "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

    The courage to change the things I can,

    And wisdom to know the difference."

    Warmest,

    JonesieB

  • I love this line JonesieB, "Getting PP is no one's fault, we must all try not to blame ourselves and feel guilty about something we had no power to change. Instead, perhaps to see that we have even more to offer our kids as a result.". Very well said!

  • A beautiful post Naomi & yes it did resonate a lot. Even 7 years on I still get worries occasionally like did the medication I took when breastfeeding cause each ailment/allergy my son has - silly I know! I do think that as time goes on though the guilt & worries to ease up as you come to terms with everything that happened. I guess maternal worry/guilt is common to all mothers but it's probably more exaggerated for PP mums? I can still remember a health visitor saying to me one day in an offhand comment, "well, this could affect your baby's development you know...." & all the guilt & worry that little comment gave me for so long! All I can say is no, it didn't affect him at all. He's a wonderful, loving, well rounded, happy boy & we have an amazing bond now. Yes definitely, '..there is always hope for bonds to be mended, for cracks to be smoothed out.'

  • Oh Andrea that sounds awful what the health visitor said! Along the way that's been one of my biggest fears that I would in some way hinder my kids' development. My second child's speech is quite delayed and I often need a lot of reassurance from the professionals that it's not because I didn't "do enough" in the way of baby talk and reading stories to her when she was tiny. Professionals really need to think so carefully about the impact of their words on vulnerable mums who are doing their absolute best to rebuild bonds with their kids. But yes, there is always hope.

  • Naomi, What a beautiful post.

    I too did struggle in the depression really feeling I was damaging him as I was not giving him the attention and love I thought he needed. Especially as I had read quite a lot about attachment parenting etc and that talks how important the early bond is. But I think I have written on other posts, as he got older (about a year or so) he became more and more able to express emotion etc with his age and became such a mummy's boy and showed me every day that he loved me so much, that I began to see clearly that those thoughts were the horrible depression speaking to me and weren't actually 'real' or true. I think its so true what lots of us have said, including you, that I just appreciate all the small moments with my son in a way I'm not sure I would have done if I hadn't had PP. I love the last bit of your post "somehow, in the end, love wins". As Jonsie said I wonder actually if PP makes us better mum's in the end!! And I am starting to see the PP as some gift to my life...I haven't quite worked out everything yet, but I am beginning to feel that it has changed me for the better, made me a better person, has made me have such gratitude for everything and everyone in my life - I just feel so blessed and lucky now.

    I also agree that I think all mum's are wracked with guilt. I am always thinking "oh no, I should have handled that better, maybe he's internalised that and will be damaged forever" ha ha, all these parenting websites, and theories of how to bring up your kids etc don't help I think!

  • Hi sunnyandwild thanks so much for your response. It's really encouraging and wonderful to hear that you are in a place now in your recovery where you can appreciate the small things, and that you are reflecting on how the experience of PP has changed you and your outlook on life for the better. I'm glad that you and JonesieB have both pointed out that guilt kind of comes wrapped up in the package of motherhood too - maybe a lot of our friends worry about things with their kids and we never realise?

  • That's so lovely Naomi, thanks for writing that!

    Yes my boy astounds me every day with his antics. He is so funny and curious about everything, I can't think he's "damaged" - even after being bottle fed! :)

  • Couldn't agree more - I don't believe any of our kids was put at a disadvantage by being bottle fed (mine seem to get less bugs than breastfed friends!) but I really know what you mean with the pro-breastfeeding brigade and how hard it can be to let that ideal of motherhood go...

  • Thanks for your post which encouraged me to reflect on my relationship with my 2 – now 20 and 16! I used to compare the 2 experiences my daughter born in a birthing pool and breast fed overwhelmed with love for her and my son born at home then both admitted to MBU within days, bottle fed, multiple carers and how I felt I was going through the motions for a long time.

    So where are we now? So although he should be at the awkward age he’s my right hand man. Though I didn’t know it then we had the deepest connection which continues to grow. I feel truly blessed and I recognise it more because I had to fight for it.

    Something I have also learned over time is that it’s not always easy to know what will impact or not. There are different things that have impacted my children (my daughter too) as there often are in life. I think mostly these have been things I have been less aware of at the time.

    When I was poorly a nurse repeated to me ‘this is just a small part of your life, the smallest part compared to the rest’. And yes I do feel like the cat with the cream to have a thoughtful, clever son and a beautiful daughter growing in confidence all the time.

  • Thank you openeyes, it's so encouraging and reassuring to hear about your relationship with your grown up children. I love the quote that your nurse said to you - it is true that PP and even the depression afterwards which I suffered is just a small part of life, and a small part of what will shape my children's lives.

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