Day 5 – Tied Knots

Day 5 – Tied Knots

Day 5 of my 30-day writing challenge. Progressing well, but I am learning that you have to put in effort, many times go the extra mile. This is true especially when faced with a blank MS Word page and the cursor keeps shifting between YouTube and MS Word. That said, currently love listening to Cora Jakes Coleman pray, whew. Check her on her YouTube Channel.

Today’s post was inspired as I was unhanging clothes from the clothes line – yes, I am that person who seeks to learn from everything round about me-. After the clothes were folded, next came the shoes. Jayden’s shoes. Tiny shoes. Since I’d washed them of the red soil he had accumulated as a result of his hurricane running activity, the laces had come off. That is not a problem; they were tangled into small knots, the kind that lack beginning or end. When you are time-strapped, the last thing you want to do is figure out where the end of the tied knot is, an exasperating activity altogether. Needless to say, I still haven’t gotten the knots untied – he wearing loafers to church today :P-

Therein was a lesson for me. Postpartum Depression(PPD) made issues feel tangled up into one insurmountable mess. Some of the most prominent issues and triggers included anger at my son, sleep deprivation and bitterness. At the time, I felt like this was too much to handle. The problem is I was looking at the tied knots and wondering how to straighten the laces all at once, arguably an impossible task. This certainly contributed to the emotional burden of PPD, and the overwhelming nature of everything around.

Naturally, the thing to do is to take the visible end of the knot, and work backwards until you get the start point. Same analogy can be used during PPD healing. Find one issue and look out for occurrences where it manifests the most to get to the core of it all. For instance, sleep deprivation was a MAJOR trigger; I hated the light-headedness and haziness I associated with lack of enough sleep. So I took the time to analyze my sleeping patterns (this was the period after he’d turned 1 year old, or thereabout. I had allowed myself to earn the title ‘night owl’, so this realization perturbed me. I was sleeping late, 2:30AM, and had to be up at 7AM when little energizer battery woke up. Little wonder the day went by in a blur. This was a starting point for me. I made changes, slowly, looking at what would work for my son and I.

With anger issues, I realized it was as though PPD had set a default reply line for any flippant behavior. I knew there was / still is grace for this journey. Today, when faced with such situations aka toddler tantrums, I learnt to count to 10 before reacting. This would give me a brief window period to assess the situation and offer the best response.

A simple but clear lesson. When you are at your wits ends, staring at the phone, be reminded to untie the knots, each one of them one at a time.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Memoirs of a single Dad

Day 4 – Good Enough, Or Not.

This is Day 4 of my 30-day writing challenge. It is a couple of minutes past 4AM as I type this. The stillness of the night blends easily with the darkness of the same. The distant barking of a lone dog. The crowing of the roosters in our chicken coop. I peer through the curtains (no idea why I do that, anyone else in the same boat? 🙂 ), and the dew glistens in the dim outdoor lighting. This peace and quiet is what endears me to morning ‘rituals’, i.e morning devotion, catching up on my reading, journalling and exercise (sometimes). This particular morning however, I hadn’t planned to be up at 4AM, too much fatigue. I am up anyway, thanks to potty chronicles.

My son is fully potty trained (Thank God, who knew pre motherhood that diapers are so damn expensive?), but this does not mean that there aren’t any accidental slips from time to time. And today was one of those days. Heard him whimper in a groggy sleep-filled manner, “Mom, susu” meaning he’d peed on himself. Now, waking up to ammonia-soaked sheets and clothes is not my idea of starting my day. But moms gotta do what she has to do. Thank god for protective plastic sheet cover whihc means the mattress does not reek of pee. That, however, does not absolve me of the task to change him, and his clothing. So I do that, but today something is different.

I am not upset. I will admit, this has, in recent times gotten me pissed (no puns intended :D) off. I mean, there’s nothing exciting about washing sheets in cold water, in the wee hours of the AM. Many times I’d do this grudgingly, muttering under my voice to no one in particular. In retrospect, I realized part of the reason I’d get so disoriented when this happened was because sleep deprivation/ erratic sleeping patterns were a major trigger in my Postpartum Depression (PPD) journey. And so when it happened, I’d get mini flashbacks of my worst moments. I’d wake up at odd times like 2:37AM to change wet sheets, and I’d feel my hair rising, I’d feel my defenses scale up to high heavens, I’d get flashes, sometimes, I’d be shaking trying to hold myself together…

One particular instance stands out at the onset of potty training. Jayden had gotten the gist of day potty training, so he’d alert me when the need to arose. Except this one time he figured, I presume, he might as well find out what it is like to do floor pooping. Now, not systematic floor number 2, say after every two tiles. Nop, small mounds of the brown stuff, in an erratic pattern, like the nuclear energy he is. So when I did show up, I find an amused toddler who just discovered, wait, why is this brown stuff following me? Wait, so if I run to the left, then right, then back, then left again this is what happens?

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“You want that mom, huh?” Toasty Baby

I cringed when I saw him, complete with blotches of you-know-what on his feet, face and hands. Then I lost it. Who’s gonna clean this shit? (of course me, I just mean, who was gonna collect little Mount Sinais scattered across the living room?) Before I knew it, I was whacking him, I pulled his ears, I smacked him, I was outraged. It’s what depression does to you when baby does something that’s a little off, but perfectly fine for their age. He was shocked, he cried wailed, because he didn’t see it coming. His eyes were so damn swollen by the time I finished cleaning him up.

When he slept, the guilt came flooding in. My heart scrambled. This was all too familiar. Toddler Act/tantrum – Thwacking – Teary sessions – Guilt. These flashbacks are what I got changing bed sheets at random times in the night. During healing, I made strides, not instantaneous ones, slow, sometimes invisible strides. Over the past year, I noticed a stultifying pattern I was slipping in: making the love for my son dependent on conditions. Conditional love. When he did something ‘good’, I’d applaud him, go into celebratory mood and shout it from the roof tops. When he did something ‘bad’ (which was often typical of toddlers in the terrible twos, tryna push boundaries), this celebratory mood was supplanted by an alchemy of manic behavior. I’d shout at and to him, I’d thwack him so bad I feared for myself, the mom I was becoming, I’d lose it, and when he cried himself to sleep, my own torrential tears would come in floods.

Early this year, I read James Dobson’s book, Bringing Up Boys and his words would leap from the book to my eyes! I was creating conditional love for my son, he’d eventually learn to seek for approval because that’s what he saw. When I celebrated his ‘good’ behaviors, and punished him for what was flippant in my eyes, I was entrenching in him that I only loved him at his best, and detested him on any other day – conditional love-. Sooner or later, I’d have a belligerent pre-teen son in my hands. Even in my depression, I knew this was not what I wanted for my son, I just wasn’t sure how I’d get out of that place.

Over the months, I made a choice to do away with conditional love. Not easy because healing from PPD is not instant, or at the click of a button. On many days, I did slip, fall off, but it did not escape my mind that I needed to get to a place where my son could feel secure in mama’s love. Doing my morning devotion the other day brought to remembrance God’s love for me. An unconditional kind of love that is present, at my best, and at my worst; in my strengths and in my weaknesses, at my mountaintop experience, and in the shadow of the valleys. II Timothy 2:9 is a gentle reminder of this, that it ain by my works or good deeds that God has called us and loves us, it is by grace, unconditional grace:

He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

So today, as I did the whole changing sheets thing, this gentle reminder helped me NOT complain. I hugged the little guy, and kissed him goodnight, a second time. Because even in 4AM changing sessions, he is still good enough for mama’s love.

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Good Enough? Yes.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Olga S.

Day 3 – Postpartum Depression Therapy

This is the third day of my 30 day writing challenge, and today I wanted to highlight therapy options available for those suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). Please not that this post, and any other on the blog does not reflect a professional angle to this mental health condition, and is simply a platform for me to help other moms who may be going through what I did, as well as create awareness for the same. Do have a look at the Medical Disclaimer page on this blog if you have any concerns.

This post would be a follow up of sorts to one I wrote on the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression which you can check out here. Looking out for these symptoms is an effective way to gain clarity into this condition for the simple reason that there is not a single specific test that diagnoses the presence of PPD. Consequently, for therapy to begin, health practitioners are tasked with collecting extensive information as pertains to an individual’s medical past, their health history as well as the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy; generally a background check into their life.

Once this is complete, a health professional can then outline the ideal form of treatment. Typically, therapy for moms and dads usually starts off from non-medication before proceeding to medication (Yes, dads suffer PPD too!! You may want to read this entry on Huffington Post, written by Mark Williams to get some insight. This amazing account on Rosey’s blog is also an eye opener). Below are brief descriptions of some of the treatment options available.

Psychotherapy – This form of therapy revolves around hand in hand with health professionals to analyze and attempt to solve factors that contribute to PPD. For the most part, this is an incredible form of intervention. Severe PPD may require more intense psychotherapy sessions, and this will usually take months, up to a year to show results. It has the advantage of eliminating medication so that moms who are breastfeeding are able to do so without any pharmcological intervention. Therapists develop programs to help patients get through PPD so that they do not relapse. This form of therapy also involves support-based therapy that may include home visits and Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy

Medication – Medication therapy consists of antidepressants prescriptions. Various medicines are available in the market, a good number of which the preferred mode of action is the tweaking of the concentration of brain chemicals which are known to affect levels of depression.The period of time it takes for PPD healing through medication varies from one person to another.

In many instances, a combination of the two is offered. It is recommended that moms and dads affected by PPD see a health professional to ascertain the preferred mode of therapy.

PS: If you would like a more academic angle to the prevalence of PPD in Kenya, and more specifically at Kenyatta National Hospital (the country’s biggest referral hospital), this paper by Dr. Mwikali Musau may interest you.

Featured Image photo credits: Postpartum Progress

Day 2 – Masked.

In the recent month or so following my blog’s publication, I have had people asking me, “Were you really depressed? How?” “You didn’t look like it!! I’d never have guessed!” “So sorry I could not be there for you”…

This did not come as a surprise per se, so I’d reply, courteously, I didn’t know how to break it to them that I couldn’t love the handsome boy whose photos I loved to post on Facebook, like this one when he was just a few weeks old, and this one too. Why I couldn’t just relate to all the love moms felt, and why it was distant, very hazy for me. To put this in perspective with today’s entry of my 30 day writing challenge, I will explain why I did not open up to many people, and this is inclusive of family too.

So, Facebook has this thing where they post up your memories of years gone by. One particular memory lept at me today as I was scrolling down my Newsfeed. In the post, which you can check out here, the caption is simple, and my friend Morris certainly had no idea the weight of the words in the pic. My reply was typical, but in real sense, I was depressed to the core. Forget those status updates posted in the moment when depression hadn’t reared its ugly head.

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Image: Solace Services

I shelved away sharing the pain and anguish of Post Partum Depression (PPD) for many reasons. First, I did not know any other mommy locally who had gone through this. Weren’t moms supposed to be excited at the birth of their bundles of joy? Didn’t moms bond immediately with their little ones? and c’mon, who slaps a kid less than 6 months? There was something wrong with me, yes, I knew that. I just couldn’t define it. In that haze, when asked how we, baby and I were doing, my response was ‘Fine’. Truth is, that was a fallacy. Hidden well under the smiles, filtered photos and timely words, with absolutely no nuances of a mother who was wrecked.

With no point of reference for what I was going through, how could I start to explain to another person all these? The heartache of a mother’s love for her child waxed cold? They’d never understand, at all. Where do you start to tell the struggles when the person you are conversing with will be a mom in a fortnight? Wouldn’t that discourage her/ dishearten her? I didn’t want to be *that* mother for a soon-to-be-mom. it would be worse to explain that to most of my guy friends too. Don’t even get me started on the relatives section. The few I am close to probably wouldn’t get it, I mean, they had happy families, plus this would be a first.

And so I caved in with the walls that had long stood for inner fortitude. Everything I knew about strength came tumbling down like a house of cards. While at it, I wore the mask, pretty well. But my immediate family can attest to the fact that the ,mask did slip off from time to time. When it did, they were astounded, flabbergasted is more like it. “Why do you beat him so much? Can’t you love him? What’s wrong with you?” A conversation I had with my mom then altered my life’s trajectory. She said it in vernacular, I will try to translate it: “Why do you harbor such intense hatred for your child? YOUR child? You are a single mom, if you don’t love him, who is gonna love him? Who will accept him?…” After those words, everything else she said was drowned by my tears. Hot tears.

That conversation, I will never forget. It drove a knife into my heart, because it was true, but especially because I didn’t know how to pull myself from that place of hatred, an uncontrollable feeling of jus existing. She would not understand, evidently. And so the mask became my best friend. Around people, I was this bubbly mommy, taking photos and all, smiling, eating, and for much of the first 6 months, shoving nyonyo in my son’s mouth for breastfeeding. When they went, I got rid of the mask, and yelled, screamt, cried my heart out. Ever cried so much, you can swear your pillow has saline deposits? Yup, that was me, the real me, the depressed mom who couldn’t admit to the fact that something was wrong.

I opened up to a couple of friends, one, my guy friend (with dreadlocks, Thank you Jesus) who stood by me for pretty much the whole journey. Granted, he didn’t understand what all this was, but he was there. And the fact that he was present meant the world to me. He listened to my whiny, sobby, screamy self, and never once judged. Looking back, it made a HUGE difference, I am forever indebted to him (I miss you!). My second pal, a lady I schooled with in High School, who offered that shoulder to lean on, the shoulder that didn’t mind getting drenched from tears; she called for hours on end, and let me pour myself out, much as she was not a mom (but she is gonna be one soon, Congrats honey). She continues to encourage, inspire and challenge me.

My point, staying masked was not out of choice as such. It was a way to survive the scrutiny that’d result if I opened up. Scrutiny and Judgment. As a result, I try as much as possible to be in  a state of quiescence when interacting with a friend who is going through the motions. I learnt, first hand, that been present, sometimes, is all that one can do, and all that may make the difference.

Know a mom who is suffering in silence? Or one who is depressed post-partum? Would you make a point to reach out, gently? To let them know that while you may not understand or ‘feel’ what they are going through, that at the very least, you will be there? Above all, that there is a friend who is closer than a brother, one who will never leave you nor forsake you? His name is Jesus. He is alive.

Featured Photo Credits: Ashley Barnes

Day 1 – (Lost) Identity.

The other day Jayden (my son) and my friend were playing with Lego blocks, building shapes, and structures, and laughing. I was in the other room, listening in on their chit-chat. My friend, let’s call her Sandra, told Jayden that, matter of fact, I was mommy to both of them. Jayden gives her this puzzled look, like, ‘What do you mean my mom has two children?’ ‘Where have you been all this time?’ ‘How Now?’ So after a minute or two, my son tells her, ‘No, my mom is not your mom. She is my mom’ Sandra: She is my mom. Jayden: Noo *insert shrieks* back and forth, until Lego blocks had to be built again.

I listened in surreptitiously, a conversation that probably none of them recall. But it left an impression in my heart and mind. On the identity we relate to, the identity accorded to us, who we are, whose we are. Looking at this through the lens of Post Partum Depression (PPD), I couldn’t help but heave a sigh, not a sigh of relief. a sigh of reflection, if there is something like that. Here’s why: For the longest time during PPD, I felt like I had lost my identity. Like the core of who I really am was warped in an alchemy of confused, depressed suicidal thoughts.

See, here is the thing about depression: It changes how you view yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and even experiences. It is harder when it is compounded with the challenges that come with been a new mom. Prior to motherhood, I was the kind of person with an extremely bubbly personality, the girl talking volubly at the bar counter, the one dancing the night away before retiring to the covers in the wee hours of the morning. Carefree, go-getter, loving life and the curves it threw, curves which look diminished now. I’d embraced a lifestyle of profligacy, carefully veiled as ‘living in the present’. Looking back, this may not have been the perfect way to live, but it showed who I was at the core, a vivacious girl.

Enter motherhood, enter sleepless nights, enter dozens of bibs and diaper counter higher than the number of medals belonging to Kenya’s hotbed of athlete championships. This was new, foreign, strange even. The change from bubbly to bitter was not drastic. I slipped away, slowly but surely. I stopped enjoying life. Suddenly, all the hopes I had for motherhood became a distant memory, fading into a foggy space. Instead of looking at life with hope and excitement for untrammeled possibilities, all I had were erratic thoughts, capricious words to my-then infant, and a hazy idea of who I really was.

My identity was gone, completely. I’d struggle to simply get through the day, elbow-deep in baby poop and drool, only to stare blankly at night when all else was silent. On good days, my son slept say 4 hours in a row, on bad nights, we’d count down to the rooster crowing at the break of dawn, and when the sun shone, all I saw was its glow on my half-baked hopes of ‘good’ mom.

In retrospect, I am learning that depression, whether post-partum or otherwise, seeks to shake us at the core of who we are, our identity, who we perceive ourselves to be. It is not a one-off thing like one would have on a single day. It is persistent, hanging around, stifling any joyous moments, getting rid of all hopes for a better day. Today, I am learning that PPD is a condition, it is not who I am, neither is it who I want to be. I will not say it gets better overnight, or in a week, or a year. I will say hanging on is good enough, hanging on to hope, and knowing you are never alone in the journey of motherhood.It is the first step in loosening the grip that depression has on moms. This, often accompanied by the sheer terror of battling this haze alone, wondering whether any other moms feel like you. whether other moms really do not experience the bond that breastfeeding is purported to foster, whether other moms dislike their kids… truth is, one is never alone, even though it feels like that 90% of the time.

Speaking of been alone and lost identity, during my 5AM morning devotion, I read Isaiah 43 which puts it succinctly that I am never alone. Verses 2 & 4 lept at me:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you,

When you walk through fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you…  

Because you are precious in my sight, and honored…

What reassurance to know that I am watched over by The One, that God cares for me, and even amid life’s tempest, I am Never alone. Here’s to letting other moms know, you are not alone in the darkness that PPD is. There’s a way out.You may lose your identity, but don’t let go, hang on. Hang on to His words, if you may.

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Simple joys that transform my days <3

Feautured Image Credits: Abigail Rylance

30 day writing challenge

I had taken a brief hiatus from blogging, to gain clarity and perspective for the new month. I love the newness of another month, the realization that it is a clean slate, a chance to live to the fullest. It is exactly 120 days to the end of the year, can you believe that?! Wow! the year whizzed by too much, about to get those New Year resolutions, not. I believe in taking steps to change now, now is all we really have. Suffice to say, this is one of the challenges that I have taken up for this month. a 30-day writing challenge, 30 freaking days! Does it scare me? Somewhat, feels daunting to take up a challenge so publicly.

Wondering where I got the inspiration? My online abode. Reading through Medium (yall should head on there, a resourceful site IMO), one link led to another, and I finally landed on Greig’s website where he talks about a 30-day writing challenge / teach about everything you know. The idea behind this is, we consume so much information with little or no outlet. Logically, this is not healthy. So, Greig opined that it was time to reverse the trend.

He set himself up to do a 1000 words daily on a topic he is informed about, for 30 days in a row. Yup, a whole month!! It gets better because he held himself accountable by setting up a system where if no posts are up by midnight, he gets to donate 100 sterling pounds to charity. What’s fascinating is that, like any of us, there’s all the self doubt: I am afraid, I have nothing important to say, I need time off on weekends… So he published that article and set himself up for the challenge. In the end, he had only come up 2 days short.

This got me thinking, with so little information on Post Partum Depression (PPD) especially in Kenya, perhaps this could be a good start to get conversation going on about this silent but dreadful mental health condition. I am doing the same, setting myself up for a 30-day writing challenge starting today (no, this article does not count). When I come up short, I get to donate Ksh 1000 to MyMindMyFunk, a mental health organization run by Sitawa Wafula. (She does an amazing job in mental health advocacy, Be sure to check out her current project on Open Spaces. This is a #suicide project that aims to collect narratives from people who have been suicidal/ have lost a loved one through suicide.)

Let’s meet here tomorrow, and the day after..

Featured image credits: The Telegraph

The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts, not the person who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

These words were spoken by Theodore Roosevelt. I’d read them before but today, I got a totally new perspective (Thanks to one of the blogs that’s growing on me lately, Girl on Fire by Tessy Maritim, a bold, vivacious 21 year old who will inspire you). The Man in the Arena. The doer, the man who takes action, that is he who gets credit.

No, not the guys on the sidelines criticizing your every move. No, not the guys in the background pointing out every fault, every shortcoming, every reason why you cannot make it. And get me right, I am not talking about positive criticism because this is, in fact, very integral for one to move forward. I am referring to the naysayers, the ones who tell you you don’t even have a glass to start with, let alone whether it is full or empty.

See, whatever you do on the face of this good earth, not every one will support you, practically, not everyone can. So you just have to ignore the negative energy and do you. Always wanted to do something? Get your masters? Travel the world? Start a fashion line? Write a blog/ book? Quit your day job to raise your kids? Start saving for the purposes of investing? Just go ahead and do it.

Many of us spend time wishing, wondering what ‘they’ will say, thinking we are not ready. Truth is, ‘they’ will always say something, many things. And you will never truly feel ready. Quit wishing and, just do it. Take action. So many wishing, so few doing. Which explains in part why, doing attracts criticism (both good and bad). As long as you are committed to your cause, running your race tirelessly, those guys on the sidelines mocking you, jeering you… those guys are irrelevant. And that’s because, you are the man in the arena.

That’s because you are the one who is actually trying, doing something. It does not hurt to try. If you succeed, you get to achieve what you set to do. If you fail at it, you learn something new, you take on the courage of a challenge that will see you grow and get out of your comfort zone, you get new perspective. There is something fulfilling about immersing one’s self into a worthy cause, one that you believe in, one that, even when marred by sweat and tears, is still worth channeling one’s energy to.  Whatever arena you are in, seize the moment to savor victory and cherish the lessons of failure.

PS: Relating this to my life, I had always wanted to start a blog that creates a platform to share my story on Post-Partum Depression (PPD), the silent struggles, the hushed cries for help, the long and lone nights of lullabies that did not lull my son to sleep, the frustration of the flinty life ahead… but there was always a reason an excuse not to do it. I am not prepared, I lack content, I am not active on social media, Lord, what do I have to say, Others have harder struggles… till I realized, for as long as I do not share my story, there is simply no way to reach out. I shelved those doubts and thoughts to the back of my bald head and just, plunged. I hope, pray, a mom, even one mom, will find inspiration here to know that they are never alone in the haze that PPD is. It feels like an island, alone, lonely, like no one understands, but truth is, someone somewhere can hold another mom’s hand.

Blessed Sunday good people.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Karoly Lorentey

Taking Stock 01

For a long time I have been wondering how to really sit and live in the present on the blog, and practically. Not in the past, that is gone, Not in the future, that is not yet here. In the now. Stumbled on Taking Stock on This is Ess blog (undoubtedly one of Kenya’s best fashion stars, gotta love how passionate she is about what she does), who was inspired by the template on Sydney Poulton’s blog, who lifted the idea from Pip’s blog! What a long chain – feel free to keep the chain going-. It certainly is a great way to stay in the present, in a frenetic-paced world, what with the constant buzzing of our tabs, popping of our Facebook notifications, ringing of our phones…

So here goes. Would love to look back at this one year from now and marvel at the changes made, the strides made, and any adjustments if need be.

Making: a pencil holder from used tissue rolls with my son, a DIY project of sorts. Check this website out if you’d be interested 🙂

Cooking (tonight): cornmeal crusted fish fingers with ugali and kale. Been craving fish lately, my son’s roots manifesting perhaps?

Drinking: Lots and lots of tea. And to think I’d tell mum taking copious amounts of tea was for aging ladies, see my life Momma!!

Reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama.

Wanting: The night potty training phase to be over… hello 2AM alarms!

Wasting: no opportunities to connect with my little man!

Enjoying: Connecting with other moms on different platforms, talking about Post-Partum Depression (PPD).

Liking:Loving Jaye Thomas’s song, We Love Your Name.

Marveling: At how strong Sitawa Wafula is, such an amazing lady.

Smelling: Mandazi. How apt when I am working on eating healthy…

Wearing: Jeans, old school rubber shoes, and hooded sweater. This hair though, need to get the baldie look back.

Knowing: That I am never alone, in my PPD journey, in my struggles, in life.

Bookmarking: Fish recipes.

Giggling: at a conversation my son had with my pal yesterday.

Pal: What is the name of your Sunday School Pastor?

Jay: Pasta?

Pal: Yeah, Pastor.

Jay: Pasta is in the food thermos 😀 😀 😀

Thinking: About someone who used to be special, and a littu teary-eyed about it.

Feeling: Hopeful. It’s been one of those days…

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Been staring at this throwback pic or a while, wondering what this little girl’s dreams were…

**Featured Image Photo Credits: Courtney Fitzgerald of Our Small Moments.**

Memories…

The past few days I have been on a go-slow of sorts (work-related) simply because the past two weeks have been crazy busy, to the point it got unnerving, disturbingly distracting enough to cause me to miss out on sunrises, the fog-covered Ngong hills on a chilly Monday morning even the distant heehaw of the donkeys rummaging through mounds of garbage uncollected by the county council. This period was best captured by my good friend who pens at Letters from a scribe in her latest post (She has amazing insights, y’all check her out).

Even then, a mini-break of sorts interspersed with toddler antics is not quite a break, you know… which is why it feels like spa treatment when the little one heads over to stay with grandma (cucu) during the day. So my mini-break is presently characterized by endless cups of tea, blog-reading, tinkering with my blog’s settings, and my current reads: The Goldfinch by Donna Tart and Dreams from my Father, by the only Kenyan President of America ever, Barack Obama.

This past weekend, my friend invited me and my son Jayden (not sure I have mentioned his name in previous posts) for her son’s first birthday. I was only too glad to accept the invitation for reasons that I will divulge towards the end of this post. Initially, I was torn between accepting her gracious invitation and heading home to kick back, relax and, you guessed it, take tea (cinnamon tea, thank you very much). Then I thought to myself, “Her son will be one year, once, forever. I might as well show up and make the most of it.” With that decision, I figured an African print high waist skirt and simple chic black top will do.

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We got off from church and my sister dropped us off close to my friend’s stage. The air was hot, and eerily dry. White clouds floated over the dusty landscapes. Occasionally, a breeze blew over the trees, creating a gentle rustling of the dry leaves. Jayden was hungry, sweaty, and a tad bit cranky. We walked on across the labyrinth of crisscrossing paths using the directions we had been given. Moments like this always got me thinking how cool it would be to slump into the beige leather seats of my Mercedes M-Class…

The narrow roads ensured I brushed shoulders with many more people, even as we trudged on. We went about, lost in our own worlds without as much as a word between my son and I (Hot weather, hungry tummies, and a cranky toddler is a combination that does not offer fodder for verbal engagement). We skipped over a burst sewage line, the putrid smell overwhelming our olfactory cells, and walked on a couple more meters before my friend sent someone to pick us.

The relief of getting into the house, away from the sun’s midday heat was very much welcome. After gulping down copious amounts of water, my son went on to make friends as I helped around the house. Walking around, it was hard to ignore the resplendent aura of this magnificent home. It glowed with a dull haze that reeked of opulence, peppered with the mellowness of modernity before breaking out into a warm, colorful and cozy interior. I couldn’t help but marvel at the architectural masterpiece that this was. There is something about warm cozy houses that always gets me to picture my family.

The kids played, and ran, and wrestled, some dancing to the tunes of popular Naija songs (which I somewhat cringed at). Food was served, tantalizing food whose aroma wafted through the air, completing the perfect family scenario. Eventually, it was time for the birthday boy to blow his candles. The handsome one year old was only too fascinated with the flickering candle light on his cake, totally oblivious to the off-tune ‘happy birthday’ songs that rent the air. It was joyous. Family together, the blessing of one year with its spit-up filled bibs, oops-diaper moments, fevered sleepless nights and infectious toothless grins. I couldn’t help but marvel at this, happy I showed up. Here’s why.

My Post-Partum Depression (PPD) Journey, over my son’s first two years, means I cannot remember much of his milestones in vivid detail. Yes, I snapped them away, Yes I posted them on Facebook, Yes I ‘liked’ comments, and responded, seemingly happily so. But it was hollow, eerie even. I was present, but absent, emotionally excluded from the joys of a first and second birthday. For the better part of those years, I was joyless as a swarm of hornets, lacking inspiration, vigor, and worst of all, lacking hope.

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Jayden at 9 months. Toothy grins.

I lost track of days, it was a constant cycle of sleeplessness, and fatigue, complimented by the shrill cries of a colicky baby in the first few weeks. There was always the lingering theatrical gloom that accompanied my erratic thoughts, especially as pertained to financial obligations. Jobless, single mom reeling from despair I could not put a word on (now I know it was PPD). It became a rather bleak form of existence, or the lack of it (something which spurred a cascade of events that led me short of stabbing my then 3-week old son, and suicide).

For this reason, I do not have many good memories of my son’s first two years. It feels like looking at the sun through over chlorinated pool water in the heat of summer. It is hazy. A hiccup of lost time, a couple of frames unexpectedly snipped off the film of motherhood, the dyspeptic dreariness of disconnection. Yet, standing there, amid the cheers of excited toddlers and towering pre-teens, I couldn’t help but marvel in the beauty of the moment.

The hollowness of PPD means I am learning to hold on to moments like these; fleeting moments that seem irrelevant in the unfolding tapestry of daily life, but which we reminisce about during PPD healing, and ultimately when the kids are older. I am re-learning how to enjoy motherhood. How to snap away the precious moments, while not blaming myself for failing to capture the moments that words cannot express; sometimes, these are the most beautiful.

I am learning to enjoy the morning hugs even when the clock is ticking, and we are running late for school. To enjoy a hearty laughter when my son finds humor in a gibberish statement that only he can comprehend. To appreciate the fact that my now-austere lifestyle is a worthy sacrifice. To be grateful for the opportunity to discipline, and model virtuous behaviors for my little man to emulate. To step back every so often and thank God for grace that held me unknowingly when my inner fortitude could not fight against the ravages of depression. To honor a platform such as this, with the hopes that more mums will be reached, more mums will know they are never alone, and ultimately, more mums will conquer PPD.

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Rocking baldies with my favorite human 🙂

Featured Image Photo credits: Mutua Matheka

Triggers…

I write this post, sipping hot tea, oblivious to the fact that today, the sun decided to shine in all its midday glory. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that my little power house has taken a hiatus of sorts from mom, and has opted to stay with cucu, best grandma ever, and who has seemingly defied the idea of getting old. It has been a long while since I was this quiescent (August school holidays are here, and my toddler lives it up every single minute!), and the bliss of the moment got me thinking a lot about events that unfolded in the last weekend. This gave me the impetus for this particular post.

***

I stood there, slightly flummoxed at how fast I was losing it, how fast the world around me, mentally, was spinning. The kids were seemingly uncontrollable. I’d attend to one kid who’d just scraped his knee, only to find his friend doing somersaults and see another eating paper from the corner of my eye while his friend attempted to replicate WWE’s scenes. There is something that happens when kids have excessive energy, and no-where to expend it, yet here I was alone, and nothing I could do about it. To contain the hyper kids in a room only creates the ideal environment for what was unfolding before my eyes. But that was not what was bothering me…

It was the striking similarity of the emotions that I associated with these out-of-control scenarios that had me feeling stifled, like I was getting choked. Overwhelmed, under pressure, and feeling like there is little that I can do for normalcy’s sake. A tear rolled down my cheek, someone asked me what was wrong, and it was as though that was the cue for the torrential burst of tears that followed before I scampered to a lone place, away from the scrutiny of the public. If I explained why this was bothering me, it would seem like I was lulling her into my seemingly apathetic angst, like I wanted to run away from my responsibility of watching over the kids that chilly afternoon. So I hobbled away.

I stood there alone, recollecting what had just happened, and why, even months after healing from self-diagnosed Post-Partum Depression (PPD), this scenario almost always got the better of me. Flashbacks of my son’s first year flooded in, quite fast. Then, I’d cry about almost anything, I’d cry when he cried, I’d cry if he was colicky, I’d cry if he couldn’t latch on my breast properly during feeding, I’d cry when he smiled toothlessly (for thinking how bad of a mom I was for not appreciating him), I’d cry when, sleep-deprived and under the new-born haze, I felt like I’d never be able to deal with this dark cloud hanging over my then shaggy hair (something that resembled the nest where those marabou storks at Nyayo roundabout live).

Looking back, feeling overwhelmed almost always made me lose it. And it was almost always accompanied by the shrill cries in the wee hours of the morning, the decision I faced to either leave baby on his own or smack his 3-month old diapered butt for crying with no apparent reason (because, ain’t you well-fed, freshly diapered and warm??). Sometimes I beat him, sometimes I ignored him, most of the time I cried in desperation, only to wipe those tears away and dab my face with ice-cubes in time for his grandma to return from work. It was hard.

Those very emotions are what I felt standing there alone, the sound of rustling leaves beneath my feet. I realized that, much as I have made strides in healing from PPD, there are still sights and sounds, especially the latter, that will always get me. Today, I don’t smack my son, or slap him like I used to in that frustration. I have learnt am learning to walk away from the situation when it starts to feel like fog is descending on me. To sit alone in silence, even for just five minutes. To remind myself that I have made steps, and while I am not perfect, I am certainly not where I used to be. To breathe, deeply. To catch myself before I fall into the flinty pit of frustration. To stay on shore before I drift into the murky waters of self-destruction. This seemingly small event put so much in perspective about my PPD journey. It made me realize that, while the depression gradually fades when one gets help and support, the triggers do remain, albeit silently.

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Featured Image Photo Credits: Samir Dave