Dear Miriam

I have a wonderful daughter and I’m married to a busy farmer.

My daughter- who randomly says she would love a brother or sister - asked again recently. I had a little chat with her, the same one I have whenever she asks: “Mammy’s body can’t have a baby and aren’t I so lucky to have you and I’m sorry I can’t give you a brother or sister.” But lately she replies, “Mammy, that lady is older than you and she has a baby.”

I asked my husband how he feels about it. His reply floored me. He said I made the choice and he had no say.

I was diagnosed with depressive anxiety after our daughter was born. The following four years I was in a very dark place. Things got so bad I had suicidal thoughts and even thoughts of murder suicide. I was brave and found help by ringing Aware. With the help of my GP, Aware and counselling, I got myself better. I promised myself I’d never go back to those dark times. The thoughts of having another baby terrified me.

It must have been hard for my husband, but he had no idea what I was going through. I am content with my life, but the guilt of failing my daughter and husband breaks my heart.

Regular reader

Dear Regular reader

Thank you for your letter, which I referred to accredited counsellor Claire Lyons Forde, who is in practice in Kerry, but also offers services by Zoom and phone on 087-939-9818. This is Claire’s response:

“I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties you have experienced. In the mid-1980s I experienced post-natal illness, and I would not wish it on anybody. Occasionally, we have to hit rock bottom to get the courage to reach out for help, and it sounds like this was how it was for you. I admire your courage to do just that.

“Gratitude is very important as we go through life. It is good that you can see the positives, as you work your way through your current emotionally difficult experiences. Your daughter is probably too young to understand the importance of gratitude, but you are doing well in telling her how lucky you and your husband are to have such a wonderful little girl.

“Let go of comparisons. So what if some older lady has decided to have a child? This is not a reflection of you as a person/parent. You have been to hell and back. Four years is a long time out of your life to have been denied peace of mind. You owe nobody any apology for not wanting a repeat experience.

“Understandably your husband is disappointed not to have another child. However, this is not your problem. He has a choice to feel grateful for his lovely daughter, and that you are restored to full health. I would also like to point out the importance of acknowledging his grief and disappointment, and it is good that he got to talk about his feelings, even if it came about unexpectedly. Were he to continue suppressing his thoughts, it would eventually manifest as deep resentment. While difficult to hear, it is out in the open now.

“Please forgive yourself for your perceived ‘faults’. You have done nothing wrong in protecting yourself from the risk of further bouts of depressive anxiety. Replace guilt with compassion.

“If a farmer was attacked by a vicious bull, would he/she hold on to that bull and continue to feel safe as they go about their work? I think not. You were ‘attacked’ by a vicious disorder which robbed you of four precious years. Love yourself enough to know that it is ok not to risk this again, and instead choose to embrace each precious day, grateful for all the positives in your life. You have failed nobody. That is simply a negative thought you have been carrying around.

“It may benefit both you and your husband to have a chat about this. It is not a ‘blame game’. It is simply giving each other that space to talk about your feelings. Maybe you could do it with the help of a counsellor if it feels too difficult on your own. You are both grieving in your own way. Grief doesn’t go away: it waits until we are ready to process it.

“You are an amazing person. As your child continues to drop hints about another sibling, just keep doing what you are doing; only without the guilt.

“I hope this has helped you to feel compassion for all you have been through, and know that you have made the decision that best serves your greater good and the good of your precious family.”

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