It is 2004 and I am not a single mum, yet…
However, I am a new mother to a baby girl who is 9 weeks old mashallah but who I feel is a stranger to me and who I feel doesn’t like me and whose needs I cannot meet. I feel like I can identify with single mothers because I am in a new area, alone and depressed with no-one to confide in, struggling to cope. Is this really my life?
I have no friends in my area and have no experience of babies so I feel overwhelmed as to how I should behave and even talk to a baby. The midwives at the hospital taught me nothing of how to change let alone bathe a baby and I didn’t know to ask either as naive as it sounds. My family rarely visit as everyone is busy at work and I don’t confide in them because I have a reputation for being “tough” which simply translates as: I keep to myself.
I potter around the flat aimlessly: cleaning takes no more than an hour because I keep everything pristine and because I clean up every day. Even the tv ends up becoming boring: I just have no idea what to do with myself. I seldom take the baby out, where we live there are just small shops and I would have to take a bus to get to the main shopping centre and I’m terrified of taking her alone on the bus, terrified of getting lost; actually, I’m just terrified. I have been told to join groups but I see now that after being in an abusive relationship and having my confidence broken down completely that I have no faith in myself that I have anything to offer anyone in any way let alone conversation.
I crave for conversation: my husband comes home from work late and then gets ready to go to his course he attends and so he barely has a minute to spare. He tells me quite unhelpfully to “go and get some exercise and think positively”. I feel like screaming: I can feel it building up inside me threatening to explode out of me with such a force that I fear the whole street would hear me. However, I just nod silently – accepting that he won’t ever understand me nor try to.
As I flick aimlessly through the channels I see an advert asking people to donate money to children dying of starvation and I thank Allah that I don’t have to watch my child dying of hunger in my arms but SubhanAllah it still does not ease my depression. I feel isolated from the world; I feel like I will be told to just be happy – that I have more than most and should be grateful. My husband has said it to me on many an occasion. I don’t know how to begin telling the world that depression is not born from being ungrateful, for me it came from feeling different like I wasn’t normal. I knew I should feel some other way than I did but I still couldn’t change it. Keeping to myself, pushing my family away and being lost in fantasies that were unrealistic – I ended up losing myself too.
I feel like I cannot be helped, feel trapped, think of running away and leaving the baby with her dad. He seems to be a natural parent: knowing all the right ways to soothe her and what to say and enjoying her. It makes me jealous and it makes me bitter and resentful even towards my baby. Why doesn’t she love me or need me? I quickly try to shun these thoughts away: good parents do not think things like this or think bad thoughts about their babies. Babies are a gift and a blessing I keep chanting to myself as the baby screams and wails with colic pain. I feel like tearing my hair out, I feel like screaming at the world: WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT ME, WHY CAN’T YOU SEE I’M FALLING APART?!! I want to beg my mum to come over and stay to keep me company but she already told me it was too far and that she can’t take me and my husband screaming at each other. My family told me I rely on her too much and so I’m trying to wean myself off her, because I don’t know the difference between asking for help and depending on someone so utterly that I then feel I cannot manage without them.
I never thought I would be a bad mum: I had hoped it would come naturally to me and I would be wonderful and all full of smiles and magic words, taking my baby to feed the ducks and the playground. But sadly I admit to myself secretly that I am a rubbish mother and all I can think about is having a cigarette which I gave up long ago. Something to make me FEEL again, something familiar to prove I haven’t lost who I am and I AM still me. Unfortunately it’s a disgusting habit and I don’t quite have the bottle to go out and buy cigarettes in a hijab and so I leave it. I feel like a fraud even now: I should not do it for the sake of Allah, but I don’t do it because I’m scared of what people will think. I should do this and that; I should, I should, I should.
One rare day my husband is home with a day off and offers to look after the baby whilst I go to my GP appointment. The sense of elation I feel as I step out the house is amazing: I remember how carefree and happy I used to be. I remember how I was always giggling and bubbly and full of hope. I wonder where that girl has gone and when she was replaced by a bitter old hag and I have to force myself to return home afterwards because I am so so tempted to walk away and just keep walking. My GP talks to me about anti-depressants but I remember the scare stories told to me about my family: that it will turn me into a zombie who feels nothing, that it will affect my baby who I feel is already traumatised that she has me for a mum and so I smile and say I will be ok and nod saying I do get help and yes I am talking to my husband about things and he is very supportive and caring. I lie through my teeth.
I question my sanity as I walk home: they say you can’t be crazy if you feel insane but what if you know something isn’t right inside? Maybe it’s the opposite of fitrah, that the same way you are born upon the fitrah and know instinctively what’s right that you can also know instinctively what is wrong and when you FEEL wrong inside. I feel like a storm is brewing inside me and it turns out that I was correct because a while later I had a breakdown.
I can’t bring myself to go out of the house with the baby: I feel like all the energy has been sucked out of me. My husband says I am always stressed out and nicknames me ‘stressy’. I think to myself there are plenty of names I would like to call him by too but unless I want another slap I had better keep my mouth shut. He says I never have a smile on my face when he comes home and I peer into his eyes unable to fathom how he could be so utterly clueless. The same woman he slaps around and verbally abuses and throws out on a constant basis, should have a SMILE on her face when he comes home?!! A smile for what reason? Because she knows he will treat her like a dog again? Because he has broken her heart one too many times and now she finds it devastatingly hard to cope or even show love to her baby? Is he really stupid or is this a joke?
Turns out it wasn’t a joke and a few years later I’m glad to say we divorced. Life is too short to spend it miserable with a man who has no respect for you: get out of it, get over it and move on; for your OWN sake.