Ross Hunt shares his journey with postnatal depression OPENING UP
FOR A FEW MONTHS NOW MY wife and I have been trying for our second baby. When we decided to start, I didn’t really give it much thought. I know deep down that we want more than one child, so the obvious answer would be to try for our second. But when I actually think about the idea of my wife getting pregnant again, I feel terrified. When my wife was pregnant with our first child I cried because I was that happy. Becoming a father was everything that I ever wanted to be and I was so excited for the moment to finally arrive. But shortly after the birth I was struggling to cope, and I quickly started to suffer from postnatal depression. After wanting a baby for so long, I suddenly found myself taken in by depression and I hated the fact I had become a father. Despite my every effort, I couldn’t bond with my own daughter. I was jealous of the time she took from my wife, I regretted her birth and I effectively felt like my life had been ruined. The depression continued to worsen and eventually I felt so guilty over my emotions I thought that my family would be better off without me. As terrible as it is to admit, there was a part of me that just wanted to leave everything behind and run away. Of course, I didn’t run away. I kept working at my bond with my daughter and with the unwavering support of my wife I got better. It was a long struggle to get from where I was then to where I am now. But those feelings, despite the fact they have long gone, will always stick with me. When I think back to those early months, I still get upset.
If I see someone holding a newborn baby, all the fear and anxiety of reliving those feelings come flooding back. My stomach drops and I feel terrified. Yet I’m actively trying to put myself back in that position.
SEEING LIGHT Right now I’m in the best place I have ever been with my mental health. After suffering with depression on and off for the past nine years, that’s an amazing thing to be able to say. Being a father means the world to me. Every single day my daughter gives me a reason to live, which was something I never really had before becoming a father. Looking back at those early months of her life feels like I’m looking at someone else. That’s not me anymore. But having a history of depression makes you constantly fearful of its potential return. It always feels like depression is lurking in the shadows, waiting for a chance to pounce. What if having another baby causes me to waiver just enough to get caught again? Having another baby could bring just enough stress into my life to give depression a chance to get hold of me. If I struggled having one child, I have to realistically ask myself whether I can cope with two. I don’t know that I can. I’m not really the strongest person when it comes to mental health and I’m worried that my weakness will get the best of me. But maybe I’m thinking of this all wrong. When I picture my wife and I back in the delivery room I almost start to cry at the idea of it. But that’s because I’m picturing someone else. I’m picturing the naive boy who had no idea what to expect or what he was doing. I picture the traumatic birth my wife went through that instilled me with the fear of losing my wife and daughter. I was someone too scared of opening myself up enough to love someone as fragile as a baby. Maybe I’m not afraid of becoming a father for fear of the stress they bring, I’m just afraid of having someone else to truly love. BEING VULNERABLE When I was a teenager I witnessed the traumatic death of my friend. After that moment I learned that if you attach yourself to someone, you’re simply opening yourself up to be hurt. So I shut down emotionally as much as I possibly could. I even tried doing it at times with my then-girlfriend-
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019 www.thegreenparent.co.uk