I appear to have acquired a tiny, shouty, curly blond-haired shadow. Whether I'm on the phone or on the loo, there's this constant presence. I can't be sure, but I think it's trying to tell me something very important. Something about a car and what I think I've deciphered as being a pineapple ('pineapample').
It's an extremely determined shadow - if I attempt to sidle past or sometimes even lose my temper with it, it's still there, somewhere between my knees and my ankles, sometimes clinging on to both. Weirdly though, despite this feeling of never being alone, I sometimes still feel lonely. I think it's because there are still so many unanswered questions about my new addition and I often feel I have no idea what it's doing here or how I'm supposed to react to it. Is it actually an alien from another world? It appears to be changing daily, morphing into something more human and often I'm the only one who's there to witness these fascinating, incredible, scary and beguiling transformations. If I try to share these experiences, who would listen? Would they just think I was mad?
The other day, when a friend of mine was chatting to me about her second child which is due next year, she said - 'I've got a plan this time. My mum and my mother-in-law will be here on and off for the first 6 months. I just don't want to be left so alone again.' I remember that feeling well - it's evolved now my son's older, but it's still there. That inability to leave the house, out of tiredness or the volume of crap you've got to organise into the smallest bags possible, or the difficulty of working out when's the 'right' time to venture out baby schedule-wise. All those emotions buzzing about that you're too afraid to share, questions without clear-cut answers. That feeling of losing yourself and your old life, being stranded in a desolate, foreign landscape. You're never alone, but often lonely.
I know it did help to drag myself and my baby out of the house - to see that the world as I knew it still existed. I also know that NCT helped a lot. You may have to tolerate being taught to breastfeed via a knitted boob and a couple of teachers who insinuate drugs during childbirth are baaaaaaad, kidz (my GOD are they WRONG), but the other mums you meet through the groups are essential companions on your hike up the foggy mountain of motherhood. There are also some brilliant support groups out there. Have a look at http://www.pni-uk.com/ - one of the best sites I've found. There's lots of info there on how to get professional help. I found mine through my GP who referred me to my local Perinatal Mental Health Services - they're groups of medical professionals who deal with motherhood associated issues. I wasn't even aware of their existence. Some GPs are a bit crap at knowing how to help you, but some aren't. Do not be put off. Ask to see a different doctor until you find someone who will take you seriously. Giving you a pill and telling you to 'be on with you' may not be the help you need. Counselling and advice is often as or more important than an antidepressant. Your Health Visitor could also be a good resource - remember that they're on your side. Their job is to keep families together, not take your baby away. You are not alone. 'Professional' or otherwise, help is out there.
The more time I spend with my Unidentified Friendly Object, the more I think we understand each other. I'm slowly working out that he's been trying to tell me something about this loneliness thing - it's that no matter what, I am now loved in a way I've never been before. That the tricky times are worth it. That we’re in this together. Yes, my little alien appears to be from Planet Cheese of Galaxy Schmaltz. In fact, today, I received an unexpected, slobbery smacker right on the face whilst swearing at some velcro straps. It's taken what feels like light years to get here, but I reckon that's message received, loud and clear.