Kiwi dad opens up about post-natal depression in touching letter to his daughter
It's not just mums who suffer from post-natal depression. Here, one Kiwi dad shares his experience by writing a touching letter to his daughter.
My darling girl,
What I'm about to tell you doesn't come easily, but it's important to know in case one day, hopefully well down the line, you have children of your own. Hopefully it will help you, and perhaps your partner, find light when everything seems dark.
It was about four weeks after your birth that I sat down with a psychologist and blurted out, amid lots of tears: "Colleagues and friends talk about the birth of their children as the best days of their lives, but I don't feel that. Am I a terrible father?"
I went on to say how I'd loved my life before you were born. I'd lived by the motto 'no lunch too far, no drink too small, no company unacceptable on a Boeing 747'. My time was my own. My money was my own. Life seemed to have become one big mess and struggle since you were born.
Rotten, broken sleep for your mum and I. You did not cry that much, but when you did I felt my heartbeat quicken and edginess seeping through my body. And dreadfully tired as I was, I'd lie awake at night, worrying about distant things, like how you'd do at school, whether you'd find happiness, and what would happen to you if I suddenly died.
I'd been so carefree all my life, surrounded by friends and doing lots of travelling. And suddenly, severely, my life revolved almost solely around you. You were not even five kilograms, but I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. All I wanted to do was cry and run away.
Anger or violence were never my way, but I did become deeply withdrawn. I yearned for solitude and quiet, and the laughter seemed sucked from my life. The only time I can really recall laughing out loudly in the first few weeks - wryly and longingly, mind you - was when I walked past a condom vending machine with graffiti scrawled on it: "Insert baby for refund."
It took several weeks of counselling to fully come to terms with my new life. But one thing I learnt immediately - in the first hour of pouring my heart out to a stranger - is that I was not a bad father. In fact, the very fact that I had sought professional help - and not run away, as some do - made me a good father ... A good father simply struggling with the momentous change that the birth of any child brings about.
And as we talked and probed and visualised and worked on coping techniques, a few beautiful truths became brilliantly clear… just how very, very much I loved you, how deeply I cared for you, how lucky I'd been in life thus far. And, most importantly of all, how lucky I was to have you in the second chapter of my life.
It's now more than seven years since those days. And how things have changed. I still get to travel, for work and on my own, but rather than savour being solo, I miss you terribly when I'm away, even on two-day trips. I still hang out with friends, and sometime it's only the lads, but I always love to tell a poignant or humorous tale about you. I spend silly amounts of money on all your needs, but every kiss and smile gives me a tenfold return.
In the early days I feared having you in my life. Now my only worries are the days that you might not be. I love you.