It comes in the night, like everything else. Teeth, nappies, vomit, milky feeds. And a black dog.
Like a fog, it smothers you. Suffocates you. Tells you what a bad job you’re doing. Tells you you’re useless. Tells you you are alone.
“Why did you bother having a child?”
“You know, she’d be better of without you as her mother.”
“Nobody wants to spend time with you. You’re so boring. Nobody wants to hear you cry.”
It makes you paranoid. So so paranoid. In fact, on one occasion I was a little late to an afternoon gathering of fellow mums and babes. They didn’t hear me knock… but the dog told me otherwise.
“They’re ignoring you. They don’t want you to be a part of their laughter. They don’t like you.”
And I listened. Slowly I returned to the car, to sob down the phone to my patient husband who spoke ration into my anxious paranoia.
“Do you really think they’re sat on the floor, telling each other to ignore you at the door?”
And when it is said like that, it does sound rather silly. But that’s the black dog of motherhood for you.
He lies. He steals. He takes and takes and takes… And then he is gone.
As quickly as he came.
Clarity returns. You smile and laugh out loud. You shake your head at how silly you’ve been, and you get up off the floor. Once more, your extroverted spirit returns and you no longer avoid groups of people. You start to reach out to friends again. You tell yourself that maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it wasn’t the black dog of motherhood after all.
Still lurking, though, in the background, like an unwanted Mormon on the doorstep, he waits. The paranoia lingers. Is he asleep? Will he return? Will I ever really be rid of him?
And people tell you all along how natural you are. How wonderful your child is. How you are lucky to have such a ‘good baby’. I mean, what even is a good baby?! Because when she was waking every other hour and not napping in the day, I didn’t feel lucky. When she wouldn’t take a bottle ever, so I could never have a break from the hourly feeds, I didn’t feel lucky. When the black dog was there all I felt was worthless. And
So even the positive affirmation from others doesn’t help. Only time. And your amazing health visitor.
The black dog stole my sanity, my sex drive and my energy. Worst of all, it stole the joy from my first year of motherhood.
No more though.
God tells me I am worthy. I am loved. I am never alone. I am precious. Worth dying for, in fact.
Today, the black dog is gone.