This is Day 10 of my 30 day writing challenge. A third of the challenge done *insert the Sauti Sol lipala dance here*. It is as exciting as it is eye-opening. I have met and connected with so many other strong moms online. I am grateful, humbled that my PPD journey would encourage a mom, and let them know they are not alone.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and this brought to memory my struggle with feeling suicidal at a time when everything felt so overwhelming. Anyone who has felt suicidal before knows too well the hopelessness that comes with this choice; the utter darkness that engulfs one’s world, so that day and night cease to be different. Below I share my experience.
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That Monday began like any other, only that as the hours progressed (snail paced if you asked me), I figured this is how heavy pregnant bloated elephants must feel. EDD was just two days away, and all I wanted was the baby out, ouutt, outtttt! So, aside from my super cravings and 6 miles-a-day walks, I’d done all I could to ensure pregnancy went well, especially after that threatened miscarriage 8 weeks into my pregnancy.
The contractions came, first at intervals, then seemingly every second. The night seemed so so long, I knew the hour was near. Hauled my bag into the car and got to hospital about 7am, wheeled into the labour ward. At this point, unprintables coursed through my head because there really are no words to explain that pain. Physically though, I broke into singing wakorino songs, I could even hear the drum beats in my head.
45 minutes after I got wheeled into the ward, my son was born weighing about 6.5lbs. I couldn’t believe this was done. It was a beautiful moment, and as I was wheeled to the recovery room, I couldn’t help but envision the start of a new chapter. Motherhood was right here. It was beautiful to hold him in my hands, his then-light skin (he has since plastered enough dust on his face and turned to mocha brown) creating a sharp contrast with my dark ebony glowing post-pregnancy skin. His tiny hands, his hair, his eyes… everything about him was beautiful.
Sitting barely able to sit in the recovery ward, and I envisioned how perfect my imperfect life would be. The next day I got home (it was a normal delivery) and the reality of motherhood sunk. See, you just can’t wake up and decide you putting been a mom on hold. You remain one to the end.
The thing which I perhaps overlooked was the change of sleeping patterns. One day you are barely able to sleep because the elephantine belly has a life of its own nudging your bladder and giving your stomach a hi-5; the next day you can’t sleep because baby deems it fit to sleep during the day and stare blankly in the dead of the night.
My son, in his first month or so, slept at intervals of 15 minutes. 15 freaking minutes, he is snoring, the next two hours he is awake, only to sleep for another half hour. I figured I might as well sit on the couch, I’d never sleep at that rate. Only then did I learn that sleep deprivation has the subtle capacity to make one go nuts, least of all a new mom.
He’d cry a lot ( I was stressed during my pregnancy, in retrospect, it may have affected his first few weeks of life), and many times, I’d cry with him, out of frustration, out of anger, out of just-what-the-hell-is-this? Aren’t-moms-meant-to-get=their-act-together? Those bouts of tears, hot tears that create a lump in the throat, the kind of tears that make you choke… those tears. Many times I did not know what to do when I’d burped him, changed his diaper, breastfed him, yet he would still cry incessantly.
This bit brings tears to my eyes. One particular instance is etched in my memory. As was with many days, the memories of my son’s first few weeks are hazy, like peering through sea water with your eyes open and you can’t quite see clearly… He’d cried for hours on end. I was home alone, I changed his diaper and fed him. Then burped him and rubbed his tummy. And he just wouldn’t stopped crying. I rocked him, God, I rocked him for hours, and nothing changed.
I could feel that all-so-familiar bitterness and frustration welling inside my heart. It shot from the deepest part of my heart, right through to my tear ducts. And the torrential tears came down, landing on my son’s shawl. This angst I couldn’t bear. I looked at him, no, he didn’t deserve a (bad) mommy like me who couldn’t get her stuff together. He deserved better, but why couldn’t I just be that mom? I was trying so hard but these bouts of incessant shrill sharp cries were driving me crazy. I knew I needed help, I just didn’t know what this ugly dark, dreary, desolate phase was (later learnt it was PostPartum Depression, PPD).
I took off his shawl, stared at him in the face, shouted something I can’t remember, and beat him. At five months. His fragile diapered bottom bore the brunt of my frustrations. No one could understand me, what I was going through, the bitterness, the anger, the frustration. The more I beat him, the more he cried, the more I cried. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I closed my eyes for a moment. In that moment, I walked to the kitchen. The knife on the window sill glistened in the mid-morning sun. My son’s cucu had sharpened it a few days ago. It would be ideal, quick, and it would end this silent torment. I picked it and walked to my son, still swaddled in the beautiful shawl grandma had bought for him. This would be real fast, I’d slide it into his fragile 3-week old back. I could feel blood in my hands, fresh, warm and scarlet. But how’d i live with my actions? I wouldn’t live, suicide would be the answer. I opened my eyes, and in that moment, I knew I wanted life to be over, for both of us.
My son is now 5, and I count myself blessed, because when I was on the edge, my fam’s presence and support (unknowingly) kept me hanging on. That, coupled with a vibrant online community of warrior moms who had made it through and ultimately, God’s grace (even when I couldn’t see it or feel it) kept me. It is why I am passionate about PPD, so that if by been vocal one mommy out there can know they are never alone, then let me talk about it. Grateful for now, for healing, for the miracle that my son is in my life.
PS: This post was inspired by the need to create awareness about PPD and suicide. So much stigma is associated with people who have had suicidal thoughts/ those who have died from suicide. It is time we stopped the stigma, one post at a time. My good friend Kimberly Zapata shares her journey too at Sunshine Spoils Milk. Yall should also check out Sitawa Wafula’s work too on #openspaces this weekend at the Sondeka Festival.