When the Roses aren’t Red and the Violets aren’t Blue…

Last weekend was Valentine’s Day, I’m sure that fact can’t have passed you by. If not simply because the shops were full of merchandise, for the past few weeks, to help us ‘celebrate’ it.

We don’t make a big deal of it – in fact, this is the first year I got a card from Gavin and a chocolate rose from Reuben! I’m okay with not making a big deal of it, even when I was single it felt like forced sentimentalism, and a day that brought more awkwardness and sadness to many. We don’t make a big deal of the 14th February because it’s only a day. In reality, it’s only one day of 364/365 others. I reckon what you do on those 364/365 others, is much more important and defining of your love, than one commercialised day on the calendar. But that’s just me and I know others who enjoy celebrating it, which is lovely!

This year, when buying a birthday card, I passed the valentines selection and noticed “For My Son on Valentine’s day!”. Oh cringe!! Sorry if you bought one, it’s just ‘not me’ at all! But as I left it got me thinking… what about when ‘the roses aren’t red and the violets aren’t blue’? What about when you don’t ‘feel’ love, lovely or loved? What about when you don’t give or receive a card or gift?  What about when the days are dark, lonely and a constant struggle? We could easily be fooled into thinking that love is hearts, flowers, chocolates, champagne, sparkly things and lovely, romantic words and gestures. But I don’t believe that is what love is at all. Equally, I don’t believe that love is ‘mushy’ feeling, butterflies in your tummy, getting nervousness when you see someone, or any other phrase that might sum up the romance of ‘falling in love’. Don’t get me wrong – falling in love is great. I fell in love with Gavin. But love is so much more than that ‘falling’ feeling. That can soon go, or maybe never really appear. But love is still present and true.

I have honestly admitted, that when Reuben was born I was not filled with the feelings I had expected. I was not full of the ‘love’ and the ‘bond’ all the books promised and my own instincts told me I’d experience. I know now, that was due to Postnatal Depression. But during those weeks and months, as I wept over my ‘non-feelings’, I reminded myself that I do not believe that love is all about mushy feelings – it’s a choice, an act of will, so I would ‘choose to love Reuben’ no matter how I felt. (Read more about that here.)

So what does love really look like when the roses aren’t red and the violets aren’t blue? What does my love for Reuben look like, DESPITE PND? Thinking back, right to the very early days until present day, here’s a few things I’d put on the list…

  • Doing the night-feed every night, even though I was too exhausted and emotionally raw to feed myself during the day.
  • Changing 10 explosive nappies each day – remaining calm even when the pop always ended up over my clothes and body. Is there anything more gross?!
  • Cuddling on the sofa for hours, as being close to was so important for him, even though I’d of loved someone to cuddle me instead.
  • Batch pre-preparing healthy weaning meals, to make sure Reuben had the best diet and start on solids.
  • Researching hundreds of baby forums for ideas and tips for my little one.
  • Doing mountains of laundry and ironing – just so others can have fresh clothes. Seriously, when did I last get to wash myself, never mind my clothes!? And not to mention the 100’s of white baby grows I scrubbed to get those dreading pop stains out!
  • Going to bed early, missing favourite programmes and time with hubby, just so I could cope with night feeds and early morning wake-up calls, and be half alive when Reuben believed it was time to start the day!
  • Not going out, of or having anywhere near the same social life, as I used to – there are other things that claim my time and attention now and I’ve come to accept that.
  • Allowing Gavin the freedom, to do what he needs to, away from home – giving up a lot of my ‘life’, for now, so that one of us is with Reuben more often than not. He needs me, this way, in this season, so I’m doing it for him.
  • Repeating (over and over) games, songs TV programmes until I’m blue in the face and could actually audition for ALL the parts of the Postman Pat movie!
  • Keeping calm, drying tears, providing calpol, administering hugs, and soothing tantrums.
  • Facing PND, being willing to talk in therapy, take the medication and deal with the illness head on, determined that it will not have the last word and damage me or my family forever.
  • Being willing to give up my life, for Reuben’s, in a heartbeat.

These things are not exclusive to someone with PND – mums and dads do these, and more, every day – faithfully and without much notice. But too often I, because of this illness, have assumed my love isn’t real or good enough because of how PND has fooled me into feeling. The good news is, real love is not just about how you feel, I think it’s even more about what you do – not matter how you feel. The great news is that my love for Reuben is now even deeper that I could of imagined, PND does not need to have the last words on my feelings either, and now that I am recovering my emotions are returning to ‘normal’.

You won’t find my list, or my sentiments, on a Valentine’s card. You can’t buy any of them as a gift. They are not attractive to look like flowers or as tasty like chocolate and champagne. But I believe they are what love is really all about – I’d take that, over the others, any day.

That’s what love looks like, when the roses aren’t red and the violets aren’t blue! What else would you add to the list? I’d love to hear!