A promise to my baby

The nurse woke me up at 5am and said he had his first cry and asked me if I wanted to feed him. I went down to the baby ward and held him for the time, 20 hours after he was born. But I was in so much pain, I couldn’t hold him for more than a few minutes. 


After two days he moved into the postnatal ward with me. I remember vividly feeling that I hadn’t yet met or seen him properly. After the nurse left him in his crib, I picked him up later and held him in my arms whilst sitting on my bed.

His head was on my left arm, the sun was shining on his tiny face from the window behind him. He was wearing a blue and white hat which was so big for him, folded from the sides to make it fit. A sky-blue jumper sent from his grandparents. His eyebrows were like drawn on with a pencil – so sharp and neat. His eyelashes were curved and long. He had the smallest mouth I had ever seen. His skin was yellowish. His eyes were dark black and so big. 

I looked at him properly for the first time and said, “They took you away so quickly and no one introduced us, let's meet properly again… I’m your mum, and you’re my son”.

I hadn’t finished speaking when he opened his eyes gently, then suddenly as wide as he could, looking at me as if he was trying to recollect his memory. I had a strong sense that he was listening to me and as if he knew I was his mum and he had to take a good look at me so he remembers me. I felt special. But a little freaked out as well, to be honest. I wondered how a two-day-old baby could look at his mum like that, as if he knew who I was. 

My mum told me when I was pregnant that babies recognise voices from the time they have spent in the womb, especially their mothers. Maybe he recognised my voice and looked at me? I hadn’t seen anything so tiny and delicate yet with such an ability to make me feel such intense emotion. 

Something inside me was damaged and I wondered if I would be able to love him as he deserves. I asked myself, “How does a young, emotionally broken mother learn to love a little baby boy?” I didn’t know. I had no answers except in that moment to leave it to time. That sense of responsibility was very strong and scary. 

Minutes before he was born, I asked the midwife to put the baby on my chest after he’s born. I always saw that on television and heard stories about how wonderful that first skin-to-skin contact is for babies and mothers – I was so drawn to this idea and loved it. I waited anxiously for the midwife to put him on my chest. 

Saif was born with multiple infections, his lungs were not functioning properly and he struggled to breathe. The umbilical cord was stuck around his neck which made the labour harder. The doctors held him up in the air for half a second saying ‘There you go, that’s your baby, and it’s a boy,’ and took him away instantly. I didn’t see him properly, I didn’t touch him. I couldn’t see due to medical reasons and all I remember is they held something up which looked blueish. His skin was quite blue due to multiple infections. 

Saif spent five days in the incubator where he was treated. He is now tall and healthy.

We didn’t know what we were having, girl or boy – we decided to keep it a surprise. We had one girl and one boy name shortlisted – the boy name just didn’t feel like his name to me after I saw him. It just didn’t suit him and I wanted to search for a different one. Even though we didn’t find out if we were having a girl or boy – I had very strong instincts that it was a boy, I didn't have a preference but that moment when the doctor checked and said ‘its boy’ was the best surprise I have ever had. 

I wondered what we will call him? It felt like a responsibility to do everything right from choosing a name to looking after him all life. 

Holding him the first time, I made a promise to myself that he will not go through the hardships and sufferings I went through. I promised myself to look after him and always put him first. I knew he will always be my priority and because he should be. I wanted to guide him, support him, be there for him when he needed to, and listen when he wanted to talk. I promised him he will not be alone during any hardships. 

Saif was the first baby I ever had any interaction with. I knew nothing about babies, not even how to change a nappy or feed him. If he was hungry, I couldn’t tell, if he was in pain, I couldn’t tell and I wished he came with a manual. But I liked looking after him regardless, even if I didn’t do it right – I kept trying. 

Once I was changing his nappy while he was asleep, he was about six days old and his belly button was still fresh and the clip was still on. I accidentally got the velcro of the nappy stuck to the clip and without realising I pulled the nappy away. Naturally, it started to bleed. 

I couldn’t tell if he was outgrowing his clothes, or if he was uncomfortable. Ideally, a newborn baby shouldn’t be wearing thick jeans with a button that leaves a mark on their tummy. I now know that these are basic things, common sense which doesn’t require any prior experience of looking after a baby – but I was different. I was on medication and had many other health issues, I suffered from depression, anxiety- my physical and emotional health meant that I wasn’t quite myself for a very long time. Especially after giving birth my brain always felt numb. I couldn’t do the most basic things and I struggled 24/7. 

I struggle to remember one day or night when I rested to recover from giving birth. The day I was back from the hospital, I was back to normal life.

Until Saif was one, he was unnoticeable, always asleep, very quiet – no trouble at all. I think he was still recovering from some birth complications. But after Saif turned one, he was a different child. He would never sit still – he would touch everything he could to explore, so fast that I could never keep up with him, never listened and if he did, he chose to ignore – always. I wasn’t only unwell, but always tired because I was always on my toes. 

Living with family in a shared accommodation didn’t quite work out to be as planned and didn’t work too well for me. I struggled to keep up with everything and Saif was extremely physically demanding.

I had some health conditions which meant that going out with a child alone wasn’t safe anymore. I could faint anywhere, so my doctor suggested that I avoid going out alone, especially with Saif. This, unfortunately, affected Saif in ways I had never imagined and it upsets me even today that not once Saif was taken out in weeks to a park which was yards away from our house.

Every time someone knocked or left the house, Saif would run to the door desperate to go out, each time he was sent back inside. His head down as he would walk towards me and I would hug him saying, “It’s ok Saifi”. But no, it wasn’t OK. 

Things only deteriorated with time. I went back to my part-time job and found myself struggling more. What really hurt was that Saif was unhappy after I returned to work. 

I didn’t want to go to work but we were just starting to find our feet financially. We had plans that we needed to work towards. 

Saif couldn’t speak much at all then, but I could. So why didn’t I use my voice? Why didn’t I say what I needed? I wish I did. I felt I didn’t protect Saif, even though Saif was my priority. I felt I was failing. I ask myself today, why didn’t I ask for help when I needed it most?

Family support is so important, but should one always ask for it? And if they can’t ask or don’t ask, they don’t get the required support? 

I ignored the doctor’s suggestion and occasionally started taking Saif out. I would never go too far, walking distance from home with a tag on the pushchair with my next of kin details. 

It was scary going out but watching Saif in the pushchair stare at the cars and people around him looking so happy, was worth the risk. Even on most freezing days, we had fun going on walks. I would wrap Saif in a blanket and take him out. I still have that blanket. I felt I did something for him. Something very basic and small for others, but for me and him it was a lot. He would look at me and smile, as if he was thanking me for taking him out. 

He loved being out, rain or snow. He was growing fast and remained very hyperactive. My hands were full, and I was always tired but that became normality. I realised that if I wanted certain things done, I had to do them somehow or else I and Saif struggled.

I refused to watch him struggle on my working days. Coming home from work at 11pm and seeing a three-year-old sitting on the sofa, with his head dropped on the sofa arm, waiting to be put to sleep really bothered me. Toddlers need help to fall asleep, a cuddle, a lap, a bedtime story - nothing like that was ever done if I wasn't home. Saif used to stay awake waiting for me to come and take him to his bed. The second I would put him in his bed, he would fall asleep. 

One day I came home from work and told my husband that I was resigning because I want to be a stay-at-home mum for as long as I feel like. That was the best decision I ever made. And I knew my husband would support this decision. 

Moving from living with family to a studio flat on the first floor with a three-year-old child, to me meant failure of some sort – because Saif was already going through the consequences of our financial hardship. There was one small window in the studio flat, blocked by a huge tree, stopping sunlight and view – Saif would sometimes sit on that window sill and stare out – even though he couldn’t see much because the tree blocked everything. Things were a little better by this time, Saif was at nursery, and he was taken out more regularly, but looking at him sitting in the window always hurt me so much as he should have been out in a garden playing – not looking outside through a window. The studio flat was so small that he hardly had any place to move around to play. 

Saif wasn’t aware but I was aware that he struggled as well. I was failing to keep my promise already.

Saif turned 16 this year, a lot taller than me, still hyperactive, still loves being outdoors – rain, snow or sunshine. But the difference is he isn’t dependent on anyone to take him out now – he goes out when he wants and his independence brings me happiness.

Some mornings after he leaves for college, I quietly watch him bike for as long as he is visible. He bikes very fast and I’m always hoping he slows down a little. 

The time toddlers and children need us is very little and goes by in the blink of an eye. It can be an overwhelming time. But I wish I had slowed down or stopped for a while sooner than I did – just to hold Saif a little closer to my heart and for longer while he slept. I wish I hadn’t worried about things which didn't really matter. I wish I let Saif just be and let him explore.

Maybe I had postnatal depression, but I know that I suffered depression for a very long time even before Saif was born, after he was born life changed and without any support system things only got worse. 

Help is available

Raising a child is never easy, there will always be some challenges to deal with - but if a mother/parent is struggling it is important to ask for help. I feel unfortunate that I didn't even know I needed help. 

There are different sources of help available.  A midwife or GP can refer you to NHS-funded Talking Therapy. Or you can refer yourself. 

There is private counselling or psychotherapy available where you can talk to a professional in a safe, confidential, non-judgemental environment. Therapy can help you understand what it is that you are struggling with. 

Some mothers do not understand the intensity of the issue due to societal expectations that mothers are supposed to get it all done and get it right. Speaking to a therapist can help you offload and process your situation, which can make it manageable. 

Some mothers might even benefit from baby/toddler and mother groups - interaction with people is necessary as having a baby can feel isolating. Speaking to mothers who may be in similar situations can be a form of support.

Looking back, I wish I had known that I needed help, I wish I had approached any health professional and asked for direction or guidance. 

It all feels like yesterday but it was 16 years ago. I can’t bring that time back, but I can always do what feels right in the present. Saif is the most wonderful teenager I have known in today’s day and age. He still hugs me, with both arms and sits with me listening to stories about his baby time. I don’t think I could have asked for a better son. 

I made mistakes in the past but I lacked support and guidance and I might not always know what I am doing as a mother, but I will always try my best and I will always be there for him. Saif will always be my priority because he should be and because that's what I promised him the first time I held him. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6
Written by Sana Kamran, MBACP Integrative Counsellor
Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6

I am a Counsellor and work with people from all walks of life. My passion is to support people in their journey of healing and recovery, and raise mental health awareness to a wider community. I enjoy writing about various topics including:
Forced Marriages
Healing and recovery
Mental health
Watch this space for more articles

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