I remember vividly the first time my baby boy laughed.
He was 6 months old and as I reached in to pick him up from his cot,
He made me chase him and his giggle,
This new, beautiful and rare sound,
Washed over me the coolest, most soothing water I had ever felt.
Instantly, it turned my heavy, burdened soul into a well spring of hope and joy.
The sound of his laugh broke one of the most intense seasons of grief and hopelessness I had ever experienced.
Kristian means 'light of Christ.'
Babies are meant to be all smooth sailing and goos and gahs and dressing up nurseries and talcum powder smells....
No, it wasn't like that for me.
I plummeted into a fairly scary bout of post natal depression straight after he was born.
He wouldn't stop crying.
From the moment he was born,
And not cried, like little weak cries,
He had a cry that sounded panicked,
Tears would literally stream down his face.
And there was nothing I could do to console him.
The nurses would come in at the hospital and ask me if I'd fed him,
If I'd changed his nappy,
If there was something hurting him,
Maybe it was a nappy on too tight,
From the moment he was born his cry would pierce my day around 12 times,
For the next 6 months.
And there was nothing I could do.
I remember the car rides.
He would scream every time I put him in his car seat.
A familiar dread would come over me when I would get in the car to go anywhere.
But particularly when I had to go to church,
As it was a gruelling 45 minute drive.
I would drive myself, my 2 year old toddler and my baby,
And I still remember the surge of panic and helplessness that came when he started crying,
Because he wouldn't stop.
He would cry and cry and scream and scream,
For almost an hour there,
And almost an hour back.
I remember getting very little sleep,
Not going anywhere,
And trying to look after my 2 year old toddler at the same time.
I had done this before,
Quite successfully I thought.
My other boy was a breeze and did all the right things.
This little light, did not.
He didn't fit my boxes of what Babywise told me he had to fit.
He was in a category all of his own.
And for someone who liked to know what I was doing and how it was supposed to be done,
My life went into a dark, steady, downward spiral for close to a year.
I remember those days so clearly,
Lying exhausted on the rug on the floor,
Trying to catch a few moments sleep before he woke.
On edge, waiting for his frantic little cry to pierce the stillness.
Well meaning friends would come and try to find out what I was doing wrong,
Offering me their sympathies,
I remember those looks of pity...
But sometimes you aren't doing anything wrong.
Sometimes things just don't go the way you want them to,
And it's painful and isolating and dark.
What do you do in your darkness?
Very often we just survive the dark,
Waiting for the light to break.
My little light.
What did I learn?
I learned not to judge.
You don't get to be the person who has opinions to offer anyone when they are in their darkness.
You get to be the listener and the quiet strength, but never the judge.
I learned that sometimes there are patches in life where you simply need to tread water.
You're not going to get your head above the waves until the time is up.
So whilst there,
You do your best to keep swimming,
Against the tide,
Against the relentless smash of the waves over your head.
You do your best to keep going.
Sometimes that's all you can do.
Take the short naps on the rug on the floor.
Take the car rides whilst holding your breath and then congratulate yourself that you got to the other side without having an accident.
You don't have to be strong for anyone else but yourself in those times.
I learned to be kind,
To myself and to others.
I became aware of how easy it is to reach a depth you never knew you were capable of,
And this holds me in good stead today.
I never judge anyone else in their darkness,
Because I know how easy it is to get there.
That was 9 years ago now.
Today, I have one of the most beautiful boys I believe to be alive.
His laugh broke my desperation and caused hope to come alive in me.
In an instant, I went from a depressed, hopeless woman,
Desperate, alone and grieving,
To a young mother, in love with her gift,
Thriving in my environment with a renewed sense of calm and peace.
Versed in the depths that depression can wreak,
Never a judge because of the compassion I learned,
Aware of my own frailty as a human, mother and woman,
And having learned that I am utterly dependent on the grace of God in every waking moment.
*For help or more information about postnatal depression, visit the COPE website.