Before we got married the love of my life and I had a brief and unorthodox courtship full of wonderful memories. We had our challenges but nothing could have prepared me for the challenges of pregnancy. She had a difficult pregnancy and this being a first child for both of us we had no idea what to do much of the time, thank goodness for our very skilled and caring gynaecologist.
Our baby came over a month early and had to be delivered by caesarian, the doctors had long ago told us my wife couldn't deliver naturally. From birth our baby was rushed to the neonatal ward and so began the most difficult month of our lives. I had not been sleeping much for some time leading up to our baby's birth worried about my wife's health due to the frequent trips to the doctors and hospitalisation on a number of occasions. My job involves a lot of travel so I quit work to take care of her. Whilst this increased financial pressure on us at the worst of times, the money we lost is nothing compared to the peace of mind from being there for her whenever she needed me.
After our baby was born my wife spent about a week in hospital recovering and I pretty much lived at the hospital only going home to sleep, bath and change. At the hospital we shuttled between her bed and the Neo-Natal ward. After my wife was discharged we would visit the hospital at least twice a day. The nurses and doctors were extremely supportive and allayed the fears of first time parents expertly. It seemed like an eternity but the day came when we took our baby home, boy were we scared and excited, I don't know how I drove us home. That night we didn't sleep, jumping up at every sound our baby made in her new cot. I still wasn't sleeping much, now going on five months.
Shortly after our baby's birth I noticed something but initially put it down to stress and nerves. I'm not sure when it started, I can't say what triggered it, but I began to worry my wife was not coping. She struggled to breastfeed and blamed herself for not producing as much milk as other mothers with babies in neonatal. She blamed herself for our baby being premature and having to be on life-support, "If only I had carried for another month" she would say, "I'm already a failure", I would tell her consistently that this was not so. She complained constantly of being tired and in pain. When our baby came home things got worse.
The hospital bills had wiped us out and our medical aid cover was not going to cover any consultations. Money was extremely tight and here I was with a sickly child and a wife in the grips of post natal depression (PND). What was I to do? I was meant to be the rock of my family but I had no idea how to deal with the situation, with no helper and no family I could talk to it was all up to me. I called her doctor and he referred me to a therapist. I told my wife about the therapist and begged her to call for an appointment. The excuses of "It's nothing, I'm ok" were no longer cutting it. She went to the appointment but came back saying the therapist cancelled whilst she was driving there. I will never know if that's really what happened. Now that I was questioning my wife made me worried even more. Still I wasn't sleeping.
There is nothing as painful as seeing the woman you love deteriorate in this way at a time when, according to 'everyone', you're all supposed to be having the time of your life. She would either sleep all day leaving me to take care of our baby or she would be up for hours on end, afraid to miss out on feeding and changing. Afraid if she didn't baby would forget her. Afraid of being a bad mother. I became father, h usband, therapist, nurse, personal trainer, motivational speaker, priest. Whatever she needed I had to be that no matter how I was feeling, whatever I was going through. I was dying inside.
I knew I had to talk to someone but I couldn't afford therapy, I couldn't talk to friends and family because I couldn't trust that they would be honest with me. I must say that my personal family history is not the rosiest so they were not about to step up for me. I would sit with our baby asleep in my arms and my wife asleep in the bed and wonder what the hell was I going to do next?! I couldn't go out drinking and leave my wife and baby alone, neither did I want to. This was my life and I had to fix it. I started walking but that ended the day I came home and my wife told me she couldn't deal with the baby crying so she had just tuned out the noise and slept. I was shocked, I immediately called her mother and asked her to come and stay with us for a while, thankfully she agreed. Still, sleep was a luxury for me.
Having someone around made things a lot easier and my wife also had someone to talk to. I was able to start running again and slowly ease back into work. The thing about PND is you see the person you love disappear in front of you and you do everything you can to bring them back but still they slip away. You crave those brief moments when they are the woman you knew, you pray for them.
You get angry at her, "Why can't she just snap out of it?!"
You get angry at yourself "Why can't I fix this?!"
You suffer in silence, can't show weakness "If people knew what would they say?!"
Some men drink, others cheat, some like me, throw themselves into their work, but all this is not enough. It simply doesn't work. This is your family and this is a time when they are looking to you for absolutely EVERYTHING.
As the time drew near for my wife to go back to work we had to get a nanny because her mother couldn't stay with us forever.
We got someone who came highly recommended by family. Our baby as growing well and most of the visible signs of my wife's PND had subsided.
I worried that she would struggle to leave home let alone concentrate at work. It didn't help either that she hates her job.
In anticipation I adjusted my workload to reduce travelling and be able to work from home.
The day came and went, she said she was fine, a week, two weeks, three, but I knew she wasn't.
The constant tiredness.
The constant inexplicable stomach cramps and pain.
The disinterest, almost disgust, in all matters of intimacy.
The constant worry about this, that and everything.
Again I asked her to seek therapy but she insisted she was fine.
I am now at the point where I feel I must get her to therapy by stealth, an intervention if you will.
I've tried to convince myself that this is temporary and she will bounce back, that it's really not that bad, but I know it is.
I miss my wife, I miss my friend and I will do whatever it takes to get her back. Our baby deserves to be raised in a loving, happy home.