I owe my daughter an apology for her first year – I was paralysed by grief & wish I’d been a better mum

THIS Mother's Day, I owe my daughter an apology. 

I wasn’t there for her in her first year as I was forced to deal with the sudden death of my dad.

She was the one who sustained me when I should have been sustaining her.

My dad, Colin, 62, had taken my five-month-old daughter Everleigh for a walk when he suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack.

When his heart stopped he collapsed onto her pram and knocked it over, sending her bounding onto a concrete path.

Her padded pink all-in-one meant she luckily escaped without a scratch.

But all this I, and my husband, John, were oblivious to for hours.

We were at home working when we received a call that a friend of a friend had seen an ambulance at my dad’s house in Kenilworth, Warks.

But confusingly his neighbour insisted they’d not seen anything.

Dad wasn’t answering his mobile phone – he wasn’t at home and neither was our daughter.

Where were they?

A messy trail of phone calls to hospitals and police stations eventually laid bare the heartbreaking truth.

He had collapsed in the park – the air ambulance had even flown out.

His body was in a hospital 10 miles away – they'd worked on him for two hours but nothing could be done.

I had to comprehend the incomprehensible that my dad, who I’d seen that very morning, was never coming home again.

I also had to feed a starving baby that a policewoman passed over – seconds after breaking the devastating news.

I breastfed on autopilot – numb and dazed that my dad was dead. I remember looking at the specks of his blood on the pram in disbelief.

After that day every part of me wanted to lie in bed and hide.

I felt sheer exhaustion from the non-stop crying and could barely summon the energy to wash my hair, let alone tend to the needs of a baby discovering the wonders of the world.

And here I was, her grief-stricken mother supposed to be showing her the way

Three years on, I owe my daughter an apology this Mother’s Day.

She was the one who sustained me when I should have been sustaining her.
I should be used to being emotionally tested.

In 2016, I found myself jilted at the altar and sold everything I owned and set off to travel the world.

I was nicknamed the ‘The Backpacking Bridget Jones’ – and people championed my bravery and strength.

But unexpected grief knocked me to the ground and I just wasn't there for her.

Maternity leave should be about planning playdates not planning funerals.
I forced myself to go to baby groups as a reason to escape the closing walls of my messy house.

But sitting on the edge of the circle of tired but elated new mums I felt like an alien compared to them.

We would wind the bobbin up and sing familiar nursery rhymes but it was a real effort, an act. I was playing a role I hadn’t learnt my lines for.

According to the NHS, around one in 10 new mums experience postnatal depression within a year of giving birth.

The NSPCC put that figure as high as one in five. I was never formally diagnosed with post-natal depression but I ticked a lot of the boxes.

When Everleigh was eleven months old I fell pregnant again.

Terrified of slipping into another dark place I went to bereavement counselling and actively chose to manage my emotions.

I remember looking at my swollen belly and promising that I would be a better mum this time around. I now had the tools to cope.

I’ve always used writing as a way to untangle the thoughts in my head and try to make sense of what has happened in my life.

Deciding to base my newest novel, The Best Is Yet To Come, around a struggling new mum, – isolated and out of her depth – was no coincidence.

We still don’t talk enough about maternal mental health.

As dark as those early days were there was also a lot of light. Thanks to my daughter she made me focus on the here and now.

I couldn’t live in the past when I had a million and one things to do to keep moving forward.

Every milestone was tinged with regret but also awe.

I’ve learnt that I’ll never be the perfect mum but I will be the best mum I can be to my two children.

Thankfully my daughter doesn’t remember any of that time.

The incident itself or the grief-stricken months that followed.

She’s now three years old and has a photo of my dad in her bedroom. I try to talk about him whenever I can. I’d never seen a fierce love as I did between the pair of them.

Of course I miss him every single day. My main focus is to make him proud.

We are bringing up Everleigh in his memory and as soon as she’s old enough to understand we will tell her about what happened.

It brings me a lot of comfort knowing he wasn’t alone at the end.

Katy Colins’ latest novel, The Best Is Yet To Come, is out on Thursday, March 18, published by HQ Stories. It is available on Amazon and through all good booksellers.

Meanwhile this mum said she was ashamed to be a single mum of six, but now she's pregnant with baby number 12.

While this mum admitted she's lazy but still wants to be waited on hand & foot on Mother’s Day.

And this woman has spent £1m copying Kim Kardashian, buying £30k Rolexes & had Botox.

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