I hold my baby in my arms, watching the perfection of his sleeping face, listening to the steady peace of his breathing, feeling his warmth, smelling the sweet scent of my milk on his breath. It is 4am. My eyes are heavy, so heavy. This is the seventh time I have gotten him back to sleep tonight and I know that when I put him back in bed, I am only buying myself another thirty minutes. Would it be easier to just hold him? I feel the all-consuming weariness of month after month of shattered sleep.
This is your fault. No one else's baby wakes up eight times a night. You have done something wrong. You must have done something wrong to cause his sleeping issues. It's all your fault.
I sit in the shade of a tree with a group of new friends and their babies. We talk, we laugh, we watch our babies interact, we share trials and tribulations from this journey called motherhood. I manage to laugh, to smile, to enjoy myself. I share that things are still hard.
Shut up. You talk about the problems you are having too much. Surely everyone is sick of hearing about how many times he wakes up and how tired you are. If they aren't tired of you yet, they will be soon.
The baby naps in his bed, mid morning, after a forty minute battle to settle him. I sit on the couch and close my eyes. I try to rest.
Shouldn't you be doing the things you never have time for? Shouldn't you be folding the washing, dusting the bookshelves, tidying that cupboard? Do you want people to think your house is messy? Keep it perfect, please.
The baby drifts off in my arms after his midday feed. I sit on the couch and hold him, letting him sleep, wanting a respite from the battle of getting him to settle in his own bed. Wanting the closeness, the comfort.
You're making it worse! He will never learn to sleep in his own bed if you let him nap in your arms!
The words of my harshest critic echo throughout my soul. I know who they are now. They have been named and identified.
I am the voice of Post-Natal Depression. I am not a logical voice. I am not a rational voice. But I am a loud voice, and I will be heard. You will hear me, you will heed me, you will feel me consume you with despair.
I know you now. I know why I have been feeling like the waters are closing over my head. I know why I have felt in the depths of despair, unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps, unable to deal with any extra stress or change. I know you want to take hold of me. Your voice is loud.
But mine is stronger. My voice endures. My voice is buried under yours for now, but I have done this before and I will do it again. I will fight off the darkness and my voice will be the loudest. I will ask for help. I will take my baby out in the fresh air and breathe in the springtime. I will accept that he is a difficult baby with settling issues that are not my fault. I will spend time with friends, old and new, and accept support. I will marvel in the changes I see as my baby grows day by day. I will feel joy as he smiles, an uncomplicated smile of pure delight and unconditional love, when he sees me. I will cry, and cry, and be held by those who love me, and know that the clouds will part. The sun will shine. My baby will sleep one day and I will feel this dark passenger leave. This too shall pass.
This too shall pass.