/> What Would Ripley Do: May 2023

Friday, 12 May 2023

Creative Corner 3 - It's Just The Baby Blues

I wanted to really challenge myself with this next creative writing post, so purposely chose something I know nothing about and cannot relate to, being a mother!

Prompt – “It is just the baby blues they said - postpartum depression in the 1950s”  #triggerwarning suicidal thoughts

I cannot remember the day when we stopped being happy.  Together for two years, then married for two years.  Two years yesterday to be exact.

I remember that glow I used to feel when I was around him.  It felt like that the sun had come up when he walked into a room and everything was just that bit brighter.  He said that he felt the same. 

We were so in love.  We wanted the same things.  Marriage, a family, a wonderful life together.  We shared an interest in current affairs, books, films.  We both knew that the other was “the one”. 

I was 19 when got married, Michael was 22 and an insurance agent.

I had always been raised to be a stay at home wife.  This was expected not only by my family, and Michael; but also was and is still the done thing in the society we live in.  But Michael always knew that I wanted more than just that.  My interests took me to places far from the stove and the bathroom floor.  I wanted to know, learn, do, be.

We talked before we were married about my doing a correspondence course.  We planned on having a library of sorts that we could read from and discuss.  He was proud of me he said.  My clever girl he called me.   We were perfect for each other.

We decided that when we married, we would hold off a few years before we started a family.  To have a time that was just us.  We were still young after all.  Children were absolutely wanted, just not yet.

We both walked into this marriage so excited for our future together.  Now, today, I am walking out of it.  He doesn’t know.  No one will remember me fondly or kindly when they realise I’m gone.  Not only leaving my husband of two years, but also my child, Lucy.  The child that I thought that I wanted so much.  That I had always planned to have.  Knew I would love.  Except, I didn’t. 

For the first six months of our marriage, everything was perfect.  Although I struggled at first with settling into the stay at home wife role, I soon found that I loved it.  My house was my show piece, the meals I cooked showed my love to Michael and how hard he worked for us.  He encouraged me to start the correspondence course we had talked about and I was already enjoying it.  We still went on dates and talked about everything, from politics to travel to what was on at the movies that week that we might like to see.  Life was good.

Then, I missed my period.  I didn’t think too much about it as I had not always been perfectly regular, but when the second one was missed; I went to the doctors and took a pregnancy test.  We had been being careful as children was not on the cards just yet, so I was sure that it must be something else.  It wasn’t.  I was pregnant.

We were both shocked but after the initial shock had wore off, Michael was so excited.  We can still live as we have been darling, he told me.  But now there will be three of us.  I was not happy that I fallen pregnant so soon, but fate had decided so I decided to go along with it.  What could I do after all?

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy but was determined to be the best mother that I could be.  I read everything I could about babies.  Decorated the nursery.  Made plans about how to schedule keeping up my home, cooking and the baby.  My course would have to go on the back burner for a while of course, but the baby was more important.

We decided on names.  George, after Michael’s father if it were a boy and Lucy, after my favourite aunt if it was a girl.  I felt that I was as prepared as I could be and waved after offers from my family to come and help after the baby was born.  I could do it all.  My mother had.  With four of us.  Michael was not really involved in any of the planning or baby talk but why should he?  I would be looking after it.  Michael had his job.  I had mine.  The house and now the baby.

Lucy arrived at 6.15pm on stormy night on the 15th October 1953.  I could hear the torrential rain and lightening bolts bang and crash outside as I delivered her.  It felt strange, wrong.  Surely the world should be calm and peaceful for the arrival of my baby?

I don’t know what I expected to feel when the doctor told me that we had had a girl and put the baby to my chest.  Love, elation.  But I felt, nothing.  She looked alien to me.  Like she was not even from me.  A part of me.  She was a screaming bright red creature, a demon that seemed to have come from hell itself.  I felt terrified.  I said nothing.  All others in the room were saying how beautiful she was.  They didn’t see what I did.

Soon I was moved back into my room and after being cleaned up, washed and dressed more appropriately, Michael was let in to see me and meet his daughter.  See me first though I thought, make sure I was alright, but yet he ran straight to her.  I didn’t get a second look.  It was excitement of course, joy at his newborn daughter, a completely normal reaction yet I had never felt more alone in my life than I did in that moment.

I hoped that these feelings would leave me.  No one actually noticed.  Why would they?  Everyone visited the hospital to see our new baby, she was the centre of attention.  As she should be.  Michael showed her off to visitors, the proudest father you have ever seen.  As he should have been.  But me, I was just not, there.  I felt cold, detached, like I was looking at everything from behind a mirror.  I looked at my baby and still felt nothing.

When it was time to leave the hospital I decided to pull myself together.  Lucy's birth had not been easy, and also earlier than expected.  I was not ready.  This was all new to me.  I simply had not found my feet yet I decided and love for Lucy come quickly now I was out of hospital.  I was sure of it.

The problem was, that love never came.

At first I put it down to struggling with keeping the house up to the same standard and making dinner.  Michael would arrive home to a house in disarray and food only half way prepared, or not at all.  Take it easy love he would tell me, this is all new.  You will find your way.  But my world was turning dark and I feared that the path was being hidden from me.

The world seemed to be turning against me.  As soon as I got into some sort of organised mode where the house no longer looked like a tornado had hit and meals were, mostly, on time again; Lucy got colic.  She screamed.  All of the time.  It never ended.  Except when Michael came home and was able to miraculously sooth her.  Something I seemed unable to do.

I thought perhaps that Lucy knew.  Knew that I didn’t love her.  Didn’t even like her.  I could not understand why, but I felt nothing.  Nothing however was turning into dislike.  Why would she settle for Michael but not I? 

Thoughts that I knew to be irrational started to float around in my head.  Michael preferred Lucy to me.  She hates me.  I was never meant to be a mother.  This is wrong.  This is wrong.  This is wrong.  I want to die.

I told no one for a long time.  What could I say?  I didn’t like my child?  I regretted becoming a mother?  I wanted to run away?  I could not say any of that.  Everyone else managed, why couldn’t I?  Everyone else loved their children, why didn’t I?

But then Michael started to notice the difference in me.  The coldness.  The detached way I looked at Lucy.  That I cried at the drop of the hat.  I admitted to him that I was not coping well.  I told him that I didn’t think Lucy liked me.  He didn’t understand.  He tried.  But he didn’t get it.  He got to leave the house, go to work and the baby was much happier when she was with him.  He slept through her screams in the night.  He always slept through everything.  I remembered joking once that he could sleep through a hurricane.  I wasn’t joking any longer.

When Lucy was four months ago I tried to talk to my mother, telling her that I was not doing as well as I had thought.  That Lucy never settled for me.  How the screaming was starting to get to me.  In truth, the screaming was driving me slowly insane.  I had started to hate her.  She insisted that it was just a little of the "baby blues".  I would get over it in no time she said.  Just keep at it she said.  So I tried.

Although the colic thankfully dissipated after a few months, it seems that the damage was done.  This baby, whom I now realised was indeed beautiful and not a demon, was not meant for me.  I was not meant to be a mother.  I was a bad person.  A terrible person.  I didn't deserve her, or Michael.  I wasn't event the same person that he married.

They say that crazy people don't know that they are crazy, but I knew.  I knew that I wasn't normal.  This wasn't normal.  That I alone was the problem.  I tried to keep up a fa├žade to Michael and my family that everything was fine, but it was not fine.  I was drowning.  Michael had started to look at me differently.  Demanded to know why I cried, all the time.  Why couldn't I be happy he said?  We have a wonderful life, a perfect baby.  You want for nothing.  It was true, yet I was dying inside.

That brings us to today.  Michael and I's second wedding anniversary.  The plan was to leave Lucy with my mother, spend the afternoon getting ready and go out for a meal with Michael at night.  I had taken my bath and was supposed to be getting ready.  Yet I had been sat on the bed, with one thought running through my bed.  Run.  Get away.  They will do better without you.  Lucy will be better off without you.  She doesn't like you anyway.

Decided, I got up from the bed and headed towards the front door.  I was leaving.  I didn't realise that I had not packed a bag, or even put on a coat.  I was leaving.  That was all that matters.  All I hoped is that I could run far enough away that I even lost myself.

This was the end, however it turned out.