INADEQUATE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: The Imaginarium


Alan and Lizzie celebrate the birth of their first, and longed for, child, but Lizzie finds motherhood unexpectedly challenging. While the characters are fictional, the story is based on a real
life situation.

Submitted: August 03, 2018

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Submitted: August 03, 2018

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Lizzie smiled down into the tiny face of her new-born son and could not believe her good fortune. For three years, this was what she and Alan had tried so desperately to achieve. She kissed his soft cheek, breathed in his special baby scent and marvelled at his perfection.

How easy it had been for their friends… oh, the envy she had felt at their growing baby bumps, how she had cuddled their new-borns with a great, yawning ache in her heart. With the hope of every IVF attempt, came crushing failure and disappointment, plunging them into ever increasing depths of despair.

“Liz, how much more can we take?” Alan had asked, raising a glass of wine to his lips.

“Please, Alan, just one last time.”

*****************

 “Have you decided on a name yet?” The Midwife asked, while scribbling notes on a chart.

 Lizzie’s blue eyes shone with pride. “He’s such a precious gift, we’re calling him Noel.”

“Well… you and Noel are doing just fine, so you should be able to take him home shortly.”

When they arrived home, after placing the sleeping baby in his seat on the floor, she sat down and opened all the cards, while Alan made a pot of tea.

As she sipped her tea from the steaming mug, Noel opened his eyes and began to cry, loud and lusty. “What do we do now?” she asked, I feel so, so… inadequate.”

“That makes two us of us,” Alan said, smiling. “This is all new to us. Don’t worry, we’ll soon get the hang of it.”

Lizzie picked up her son and began pacing the room, while Alan prepared his first feed in the family home. Suddenly the enormity of the situation hit her, the responsibility for this tiny human being, his fragility, his insistent demands. For a fleeting moment, she experienced an over-whelming fear of inadequacy so severe, it shocked her. He was her son, she wasn’t supposed to feel like this… she must be unnatural.

“Here you are little man,” Alan said, handing the bottle to Lizzie.

“Can you feed him, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all?”

Alan took Noel from her, and she watched as he sucked greedily at his milk. Alan looked up and grinned. “See… easy.”

As the days went by, her feelings intensified. She feared she would drop him, so became reluctant to pick him up. The thought of being left alone to look after him sent waves of panic coursing through her, and when Alan went back to work, her mother took over from him.

She began to suffer recurring nightmares, that she had suffocated Noel, or dropped him on his head which had smashed like a watermelon on the tiled floor. She would wake up bathed in sweat, her heart hammering.

At other times, she felt completely isolated. Visitors were so taken up with the baby that she felt invisible… that she had served her purpose and was now surplus to requirements.

Lizzie retreated further and further into herself. She lost all zest for life, and became a shadow of her former self. She was pale, her blue eyes had lost their former sparkle, had become clouded in misery and doubt.

What was she to do? If she confessed her feelings to the doctor or health visitor, they would undoubtedly take Noel into care, for fear of his safety. Not that she wanted to hurt him, she was just not up to the job of caring for him, either physically or mentally. She had got what she had yearned for, but it had turned out to be the biggest mistake of her entire life, one that she now regretted with every fibre of her being. The fact was, she was an unsuitable mother.

She considered leaving, but where would she go? She could see concern in her mother’s eyes, and disappointment in Alan’s, and sometimes saw them whispering together in the kitchen.

What had she done? Why had she yearned for this? If only she had known she would be incapable of caring for a child. She went into the kitchen, took out a box of paracetamol tablets from the cupboard, and stared at them long and hard.

“Lizzie, what are you doing?”

She spun round… desperation in her hollow eyes. She threw her arms around her husband and let the tears flow.

“I’m so sorry, I’ve let you down… I’ve let everyone down, most of all Noel. As a mother I’m a complete failure.”

*************

As Lizzie bounced six month old Noel on her lap, she kissed his chubby cheek, and marvelled at his loud, infectious chuckles. With the help of medication and counselling, the black hole of severe post-natal depression that had engulfed her, had lifted. To help other victims, Lizzie became pro-active in raising awareness of the condition… the importance of not enduring in perceived, shameful isolation, but being able to share those innermost destructive thoughts and feelings. The importance of knowing you’re not unnatural, and not alone!

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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