Moments lost….and found

Last Friday night I had a gorgeous dinner and too many glasses of wine with two lovely friends. One of them mentioned that next week was post natal depression awareness week and then the conversation moved on. But I found myself thinking about it later that night, and the next day and the next. It is a subject that sits uncomfortably close to my heart.

I had planned this week to write a blog post about Eli, my sweet, gentle, heaven-sent second born son. And suddenly the timing of that brief conversation on Friday night seemed so much more than a coincidence. My memory of the joy of Eli’s first two years is clouded by the sadness of knowing how much I missed of those moment thanks to a post natal depression diagnosis that didn’t come until he was 15 months old. My fault.  A kind-hearted friend had gently pushed a flyer into my hand a few months after he was born but I brushed it off with ‘I’m not depressed, I’m just exhausted. He screams all the time, he has colic, he doesn’t sleep. I’m just tired, I’m so tired. Anyone would feel like this. Doesn’t everyone judge their days by how many times they are in tears?’

No it turns out, they don’t.

But on it went. It was my constant, heavy companion weighing me down from London where the boys were born, on every adventure, from Thailand to Melbourne where we settled when Eli was 9 months old, only it was worse, so much worse here. In leaving London, we left behind my Mothers Group, every support, every friend, every routine, every everything that had been holding me together and keeping me functioning at some level of normal. Until a day, six months or so after we arrived, that I just ceased to be able to function at all. I put the boys into their double pram and walked out of the house, down to Sandringham village and called Nick to tell him that we were fine, the boys were safe but he needed to come and get me, now. It was the rock bottom moment.

And from then things started to turn around. The next day there was the doctor, the counsellor, the homeopath, the naturopath the everything to get it, me, sorted out. I started to feel better, started building fledging friendships, our little business, a new life. Slowly, gently, steadily I started to return to some semblance of who I’d been before. The fog was lifting and as it faded, I turned around to see a beautiful two year old boy, and my heart broke. I’d missed it. I hadn’t been there. I didn’t know him.

I just saw what I thought I had created in him. His extreme shyness, the way he clung to me yet preferred Nick, his self-consiousness, his anxiety, his insecurity. The way he cried inconsolably and was so angry when he woke up from his daytime sleeps, every day. The way he couldn’t cope with crèche, couldn’t be apart from me.  Oscar’s start in life had been so different, so idyllic and I couldn’t help but feel Eli had been robbed of that, that something had been broken in him, that I had let him down.

It’s a sadness I have felt so often when I look at him, when I wonder if he’s ok, when I wonder if he remembers. Until last night, when I went looking for some photos of him to put in his blog post and found myself immersed in images from a time I had so wanted to forget. But this time, somehow, I saw something different and something extraordinary happened. I found different memories. Happy moments. Moments where I can see and feel how loved he was, how happy he was and how connected we were. Even if they were fleeting they were there. I was there.

I started to remember a million different, precious, wonderful things. I remembered how sweet he was, how intensely he would just gaze at us. I remembered my sister in law calling him a cuddle thief because the only place he was happy was in our arms. I remembered the funny little way he used to hold his fingers and crumple up his nose, I remembered how he would hold his hand out for us to kiss it, like a prince. I remembered how I loved him in all-in-one pyjamas. I remembered he used to walk around with his hands behind his back, thinking. Our little professor. I remembered how he loved the Wiggles. I remembered helping him put his first ever Christmas decoration on the tree and dressing him for his Naming Day. I remembered blowing out the candles on his first birthday cake. I remembered that he felt safe enough to fall asleep in my arms on an elephant’s back in Thailand. I remembered being there. I remembered the moments of joy, of breathing him in, of saving whatever light I could salvage on the darkest of days for him, for them, for these memories, preserved in precious, priceless photographs for me to stumble across on a day like today and be healed.

And now? He’s 7 and he’s extraordinary. I see him now. I see every gentle, beautiful, soft, wise, clever, funny part of him. Every day. His favourite place to be is climbing the trees in our front garden and on the reserve at the back of our house. He is happiest doing tricks on the trampoline and begging me to watch ‘just one more, it’s a really quick one’. He is a quiet achiever, astounding us regularly with his intelligence and the quiet understated way he goes about it. He is stickler for rules and fairness and amazes us with his sensitivity to other people. He wants to prove he is grown up enough to stay up late but still completely falls apart when he’s over tired. School has been the making of him. He loves it. He loves any kind of sports and is the polar opposite of the brother he adores. Willow hero worships him. He is quiet and self assured and sure of his place in this world and I pray he holds on to those feelings. He is loved. And he knows it. And we’re ok. And we are building new memories all the time. And I am so grateful.

I’m not really sure what happens during Post Natal Depression Awareness Week. But to anyone, everyone who has walked this path, you are not alone. Just knowing that has brought me more comfort over the years than words can express.  xoxox