In my last post, I told you how I spent the summer after my second daughter’s birth in my husband’s family’s village on Corfu. I think that summer was the lowest point of my life. It was made worse my the fact that I expected it to be the highest. In that, I had set myself up for a fall. I’d expected an ‘easy’ baby like my first – eats every three hours, naps easily, sleeps all night, and is content and smiles when she’s awake. I’d expected to feel amazing and blessed. Instead I had a hungry baby who couldn’t feed, barely napped at all, woke up all through the night, and wanted to be held constantly (by me). I wasn’t grateful that she was healthy, that she was here, that she was mine. It was all wrong.
The only bright light in that darkness was my friend Kate. She flew over from the UK, apparently to have a holiday in the sun. But she knew I wasn’t right, and I know she came for me. I felt guilty all the time that I couldn’t show her the island, that we couldn’t go out for drinks and dinner, that all we did was go to the beach with my kids. She insisted that she didn’t want to do anything else – sun, sea and sand were all she desired. I don’t remember much, but I do remember she made me feel safer, she even made me laugh. She held my grumpy, whinging baby and told me how cute and sweet she was, that she was fine, that her cousins had been much more whiney when they were babies. She gave my oldest child the attention that I couldn’t. She was absolutely amazing.
I carry so much guilt because, when her mum died the year before, I wasn’t there for her. My close friend. I was worried I would say something insensitive if I called or, worse, that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to say at all. So I just sent her carefully-worded text messages like the world’s most useless friend. But she didn’t hold it against me. When I needed her, without me even telling her that I needed her, she got on a bloody plane and flew to see me. I don’t even have words to describe what that means to me.
Kate didn’t try to get me to discuss what I was going through. She didn’t try to be a therapist or help me to overcome my depression. Probably because she’s smart and she knows it doesn’t work like that. What she did was act completely normally – no pussy-footing around or being extra-jovial – she just treated me like she always has. God knows, I’m sure I didn’t act like I normally do in return, but it was exactly the right thing to do.
If you know someone who is experiencing post-natal depression, reach out to them. Don’t worry that you don’t understand what’s happening to them, or you don’t know how to behave. Just act like you always do around them, treat them like the person they still are underneath layers and layers of negative emotion. Just having Kate around for a little while that summer – knowing she had my back and that she understood me – was the greatest comfort in the world.
Image from Pixabay.