The birth lasted 18 hours. It was as if my daughter didn’t want to come out. After a C-section the midwives asked me if I wanted to hold her, but my arms felt numb from the anaesthetic, so I said no. I had an overwhelming fear that I’d drop her. They insisted and held out my arms for me. She became the first baby I’d ever held.
I have never liked kids. I’m an only child, I never babysat as a teenager and back when I was working as a trauma surgeon – before a car accident in my twenties caused me to develop epilepsy – I would routinely trade shifts to make sure I never had to work on the paediatric ward.
So to say my child was unplanned is an understatement. In my early 20s, I was told by doctors that I couldn’t physically have children and my reaction was simple: ‘Great! I can stop taking birth control.’ My fiancé, being 20 years older than me and having experienced a messy parental situation with his ex-wife, was just as happy. We were in agreement that, in no shape or form, did we want kids.
But when I became miraculously pregnant a couple of years later everything changed.
I discovered I was pregnant after checking myself into hospital for having bouts of random rage which far exceeded being pre-menstrual. It was not long after my epilepsy diagnosis, so I feared there had been a complication. But when the doctor told me I was two months pregnant, I was beyond disbelief. I couldn’t fathom it.
I met my husband for dinner to tell him the news and I assumed we’d be simply picking a date for the abortion. To my surprise, he convinced me that there was no reason not to have it; we were getting married, we were old enough, we were financially stable.
When I explained my reservations, he convinced me that I’d love the child because it would be my own and that he was prepared to be the main carer and provider. Still in shock, I figured that if it was what he really wanted and I would be the ‘back up’ parent, I was willing to do it.
The whole pregnancy felt like when a friend talks you into skydiving: how did I say yes to this? I was completely terrified, in a constant state of fear. My fiancé was great, buying every food I could ever crave and taking care of me, but as I was an epileptic, I was encouraged to stay home for the full nine months for fear of a seizure that could hurt the baby.
After the long and traumatic birth, I held my daughter and I did love her. But that feeling that you hear mums experience of ‘she’s my whole life’ never came.
When I came home, my husband did everything. I was clueless and everything to do with babies was alien to me. My mum, aunts and cousins were there every day, teaching me how to put on a nappy. They were like a little army baby-proofing the house. I would hold her intermittently in-between everyone else and she was cute, like a beautiful little eskimo.
I took leave from work to deal with postnatal depression, which was partly down to the fact I’d gained 100lbs since having the baby. I was always a slim person naturally and I just couldn’t shift it. I’d pick up my old clothes and sob in my bedroom. This lasted months and when I was finally ready to work again, it fell in line with my husband’s retirement. He took over everything. He did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, everything to the point where we had to let go of our housekeeper because there was nothing left to do.
Then, last November, my world collapsed when my husband passed away. The anxiety I had over being the sole carer for my seven-year-old daughter was suffocating, so my daughter and I moved in with my mum. We stayed there for a month or so, but I stopped going into work and needed my own space. I decided to move back to our home, but being there turned out to be too traumatising for Arabella*. We moved into a new apartment around the corner from my mum and she effectively took on the role of being the second parent. I hired a nanny to pick Arabella up from school and it was starting to get slightly more manageable, until Covid hit.
My worst fear became my reality: I was locked in an apartment with my child. We are both still grieving and obviously, universal advice for grief is to get out, see people, keep active and don’t sit for a long period of time, but we haven’t been allowed. We are both still doing counselling over the phone but I’m not able to truly express my emotions for fear that she’ll burst in at any moment. I want to explain how she’s driving me insane, that I don’t want to be a mother anymore, but I don’t want her overhearing that.
The way I deal with stress is to lock myself in my room, whereas Arabella wants me to play. She’s constantly around, asking me for stuff, making me watch her spin and I can’t handle it. I can’t help but feel that I didn’t sign up for this.
When things got really bad, I began feeling suicidal but I told myself I can’t let Arabella lose another parent. I keep thinking back to the night I agreed to keep her, and I feel so bitter and angry. Why did I agree? I knew I couldn’t handle it. Why did I give in?
Since lockdown has lifted, Arabella has moved in with my mum. I go over there now and then, she’s been allowed here twice to see her dogs. I know she wants to spend the night more often but I can’t deal with that right now.
I have to come to terms with the fact that I regret keeping my child. I wouldn’t regret her if my husband was still here, but now I’m in a situation that I can’t get out of. The hardest part is I worry about the effect all of this must be having on her. It can’t be good for her, but the feelings of regret have become so strong I can’t ignore them. I’m at breaking point, but saying the words out loud to family or friends would just make it harder. What would be the use of admitting I’m living in regret? This is something I have to carry on my own.
*Names have been changed
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