Let the sunshine in

By Melody Thomas

Featured in Capital #36
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I am a summer baby. Born in summer, raised barefoot and sun-bleached, with nearly all of my fondest memories set in and around stuffy tents, on hot-sand beaches and with an arm making waves out the car window on the way to the beach. To me, there is no such thing as too hot, or too sandy, or too salty. 

My siblings, too, were all born in summer. And my first-born. I thought I had seen all the joy the season had to offer until my first summer was with a new baby – the smell of sunscreen on soft new skin, cleaning sand from roly-poly creases, gummy smiles shining out from under floppy-brimmed hats.

So it was with some anxiety that I realised my second was going to be born in winter. I am not a happy person when the weather leaves me housebound, plus the few things I do love about the season – lying in bed with rain on the roof, drinking mulled wine, sitting in front of a fire – are all things I don’t get to do very much anymore. Add my already intense weather imposed claustrophobia to a small child with energy to be spent and a newborn too fragile to brave Wellington southerly, and you’ve a recipe for tears all round. 

But not all of my concerns were so reasonable. I was also convinced that a baby born in this freezing, sunless time of year could only be depressive and clingy. We are a product of our environments and so my hormone-addled brain told me, as our summer babe had been a ray of sunshine in our lives, so would our winter one be a wet blanket hanging heavy on a sagging washing line. I hoped that my anxieties would lessen over time, but the further into my pregnancy I got, the more sure I became that things were not going so well. I found myself cursing the day I became pregnant, only to be consumed with guilt as I remembered our previous miscarriage, and how much we had wanted this baby. On top of everything else, I was convinced the baby was picking up on all of my stress, that the foundations of its life were toxic, and that I had failed as its mother before I even had a chance to start.

In retrospect, I was almost certainly suffering from something close to antenatal depression, and while I did look into it at the time, I couldn’t definitively say that I was feeling worse more than I was feeling good, and so I just continued to teeter along on the brink, relying heavily on the support systems around me to get through. And luckily for me, these symptoms didn’t last. When our little guy finally arrived on a wet day in the middle of May,  I sat in my room at Wellington Hospital watching the rain hit the window as tears streamed down my cheeks. But they were tears of relief; he was just so perfect.

Those first six weeks were not easy. Our newest addition was a shocking sleeper. He was generally unsettled when he was awake and threw up huge amounts after nearly every feed. With his sister, I remembered the hugeness of our new existence coming on slowly, like a fog rolling in off the sea – but this time the earth seemed to fall away suddenly. As one monotonous, exhausting day rolled into the next, I mourned for the job I had had to leave, and the friends I never got to see, and the bloated, exhausted stranger I saw in the mirror. There were times I thought I might not make it through another night of relentless waking. But it was different from when I was pregnant in that all of my concerns and fears were grounded in reality. 

And then, after about eight weeks, we woke one morning to discover we were caring for a baby who didn’t need so much from us any more. From there things slowly got easier and easier – and now, with summer just around the corner, I felt I’d hit my stride. I was ready to take this little person out into the world and to delight in all of my favourite things anew as he delights in them for the very first time. They warn you about how difficult the adjustment is from one child to two, and in my experience it’s even harder than they say. But what you can’t prepare yourself for is how the joy and love that already fills you up increases tenfold. That if you can just make it through that first cold, lonely winter, the love and warmth that fills your house will be more than enough to get you through all the winters ahead.

Note: If any of the issues raised are familiar to you or you think you might need help, please reach out to your midwife or GP, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.


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