Monday. Bringer of new weeks, harbinger of responsibilities beyond my own selfishness and guilt over wasted weekends. You bastard, Monday. I must be tidy and un-drunk now, because it is 'the week'. I must spring out of bed to prove my passion and constantly feign enthusiasm in order to prove my worth. Usually, by Wednesday this will have built into genuine enthusiasm, perhaps bordering on mania.
Weekends can also be challenging. My 14 month old son, who just happens to be not only hilarious, but extraordinarily cute (and you can ask at least ten people who are not related to him to verify this claim) is right in the middle of the phase where he routinely destroys things, in some kind of learning quest. A few weeks ago I made some notes about the course of his day:
"After waking up at least five times during the night with toothache, he got up late and seems in a very good mood considering how little sleep he's (I've) had. Pounded a box of Lego to the floor and into submission, as if it were retribution for some terrible past injustice. Used a calculator as an impromptu roller skate. Cried down a kazoo, probably for greater effect, although one can only guess at the thinking behind this. Fell face first into a table leg."
This week I could also add:
"Escaped from his cot, plunging to the floor over a rail a metre high. Broke the child lock off the cupboard where the toxic cleaning products are kept. Mowed down a defenceless spider with a toy ambulance, reversed back over it several times before driving said ambulance off the balcony, narrowly missing a builder walking on the ground four floors below; Choked on a radish."
I love him. Good grief, do I love him. One doe-eyed look is enough to induce tears.
After he was born and couldn't feed properly for 6 weeks, I fell into a black hole of isolation; looking back, I realise I'd so immersed myself in the whole process of getting pregnant and subsequently being pregnant, that I'd completely neglected my mental health. He was conceived laboriously through IVF and was the only surviving embryo from five eggs who'd all been placed in the wrong solution after they were collected by the clinic. Given that our decision to go down the assisted conception route had come just before our home was burned down in the 2011 London riots, it had started to feel like the drama may never end. I was numbed by the sheer weight of events and unable to allow myself time to process the idea that I was very nearly infertile, that I had been attacked in my home and lost everything, and that some lab technician had just taken away my chance of having any more children. I'll revisit all these things individually in future posts, no doubt, as my brain tends to do at increasingly inconvenient moments.
Post-natal depression is a silent assassin - it can slip in unnoticed, eroding what should be a time of making lifelong memories - it isn't fussy about who you are. It doesn't care that you've already got issues with your mental health that you've learned to deal with. It exists to mess with even the most sane and together women. At the moment he arrived in the birthing pool and I picked him up from under the water and held him for the first time, I expected to feel the rush of emotion I'd heard people talk about. All through my pregnancy I had expected for it to feel real. But even now, I struggle to understand how I am a parent, I'm still detached from the experience. Maybe that's because I don't feel I deserve it, or perhaps I'm just made that way. I'm inclined to believe it's actually the latter.
None of that means that I don't love him. If his dad is pushing him in the buggy a few metres ahead of me I feel a sense of panic over imagined and utterly implausible scenarios. What it does mean is that love is hard. It brings more fear to the fearful; more pain to the pained; more loss to the lost. If one is already experiencing all of the aforementioned feelings to extremes, albeit in a subconscious fashion, it is no wonder becoming a mother is akin to how it might feel to jump off a bridge without a bungee attached. And yes, of course I know that billions of women do it perfectly well the world over. Funnily enough, that makes me feel worse.