On this day, 7 years ago, at this time, I was celebrating the birth of my son. He came in at 7:34, head full of hair and with the sweetest eyes I have ever seen. I will never forget the emotions that I felt when he was placed on my chest for skin-to-skin care. I was grateful that the delivery process went well, albeit with a couple of stitches. Hello episiotomy! His birth made me feel a sense of relief because it was finally over – where it is the experience of labour and delivery.
But I will also admit I felt somewhat unprepared for my new role as a mom. Here’s this tiny babe who would be looking up to me for literally EVERYTHING. The uncertainty of life and parenting alone cast a dark shadow on what was a beautiful series of moments with his arrival. As I was wheeled to the maternity wing to get him to nurse, I did not imagine the journey as it would unfold, and my experience with Postpartum Depression.
7 lessons in 7 years
Today as I journaled and reflected on this past 7 years, my heart is filled with awe and pride, mostly awe. Here are 7 lessons learned in 7 years of my motherhood journey. They are by no means exhaustive, but they represent some of my most defining moments.
There is no shame ought not be shame with the process of child birth
I will be honest and say that childbirth is downright raw, and messy, and beautiful. Before becoming a mom, I was mostly acquainted with the beautiful – photos of the newborn snuggled in a cozy blanket and mommy tired but smiling, sometimes with makeup. Not that there is a problem with this, but the truth is that it doesn’t represent all that there is to the birth process. There is fluids and blood, lots of it. And poop, and sore tissues, and stitches and salt baths just to name a few.
It is raw, it is messy and it is beautiful.
Read More: 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy
I learned that I did not have control over everything
One of my earliest motherhood lessons was that I did not have control over everything. Right from how my birth experience would look like to adjusting to breastfeeding and taking care of myself. I quickly learnt that whilst I could not control these aspects of my life’s new chapter, my response to them mattered a great deal. And the most important part of my response was directly related to how I was doing mentally. Which brings me to my third lesson.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is real and can affect anyone.
I remember vividly the expectations I had of motherhood. The thought that it would be a magical and blissful experience, buoyed by the beautiful pictures I had seen from some of my friends. But as it turns out, I was the 1 out of 7 new moms who got Postpartum Depression.
A number of risk factors accelerated my depression. Looking back however, what stood out the most was that I had pregnancy depression. Pregnancy depression, also known as antenatal depression, is a maternal mental illness that affects expectant women. If it is not diagnosed early, it typically leads to PPD, as was the case for me.
Mental illness does not care, and can affect any mom regardless of their social status, religion, education level or marital status. You could be married or in a stable relationship and still get PPD. You could be Christian, Muslim , Hindu or atheist and still get PPD. We have also had celebrities sharing openly about their experiences. So if you are a new mom with PPD, please remember you are not alone.
Motherhood is a lifetime journey.
A friend recently asked me if, looking back, there was anything I would tell the 21-year old I was before becoming a mom. I thought about it, and what stood out was the need to go into motherhood whilst prepared. And that’s because it is a lifetime journey. Unless you would love to give up the baby for adoption, motherhood is a life journey. There is no trial period, there is no opting out – you are simply in it. And while you cannot be 100% prepared, it helps a great deal when one is in a good place mentally, emotionally and financially.
Every child is unique
Right from the onset, it was clear that my son would be a loud, lively and energetic kid. It was evident, at least to me and those around me, where he got these traits from. It was easy to notice his unique personality. He was, and still is growing to be his own person. He easily articulates his thoughts, he is firm with what he wants (or doesn’t want) and has his own opinion. As a mom, it is easy to want to change certain aspects of his personality to meet my unspoken expectations, but I am learning to let him be his own person. This video explains it best in ways I never could.
Selfcare is important
I cannot overemphasize the importance of selfcare. I got around to learn this, albeit the hard way as a Stay-At-Home Mom (SAHM). In his early days, I poured all of me into taking care of his needs round the clock – making sure he was fed, changed, vaccinated, bathed and getting him to sleep. Over the days, doing that without taking care of myself only led to burnout and I started to resent the whole idea of motherhood. It made bonding with him difficult, and my Postpartum Depression did not help. Going for therapy, however, helped me find selfcare tools that I could use to ensure my mental wellness, and ultimately improve my ability to care for him.
Selfcare is NOT selfish. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Read More: Here’s what is in my selfcare toolbox
Motherhood is an evolving journey
As he grows up, I am also realizing I am changing. As I enter my thirties this year, I realize I have grown in tremendous ways in the past 7 years. I am not the mom I was in 2012. It has been an amazing journey, one that has had its own challenges. But today, I sit here, grateful. For these seven years, for my son and for the opportunity to help other moms with PPD through PPDKenya.
What would you say are the most defining lessons of your motherhood journey? Share in the comment box below and let us encourage each other.