Changes

The only permanent thing in life is, change.

The first time I read this statement, I found it ironical, because changes are transient, yet the element of things changing is one of life’s permanent fixtures. The thing about change is that it upsets our norm, it gets us out of our comfort zones and projects us into the unknown. This is scary, but my friend Carol always tells me scary is good.

We are creatures of habit, who fall in love with routine and familiar places, familiar people and familiar territory. Anything that threatens to upset this balance is frowned upon, and certainly rubs us the wrong way. But, as I am realizing, there in the scare of change lies the opportunity to grow afresh. It is a chance to grow as an individual as well.

The past few weeks have been an incredible number of days, for many reasons, which I will not divulge on here, at least not now. It is a phase of transition that will upset our normal routine, for the better, thankfully. I am scared, I am uncertain, I am unsure – but what I know is that this is an answered prayer.

Read More: I remember

Looking back and realizing, depression, Postpartum depression included, takes away the ability to see life in all its fullness. It makes us doubt who we really are, how dare you dream that big? How dare you believe you deserve *that*? Who are you to ask as much of life? So what do we do, we stay masked, hidden behind a façade of IG posts and flowery FB updates while struggling to come to terms. It is dawning on me that, actually, who am I not to ask so much of life? Who am I not to dream big? Who am I not to be all that?

And so, in this, I am swimming with the waves of change, not against them, taking every ebb and flow in stride, because change is scary, but change is also good. I am incredibly grateful for the support system I have had in the past couple of days, the amazing friends who kept in touch and checked up on how we are holding up after that depressive episode, and to W for been an amazing pillar in our lives lately.

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My self-care toolbox

These past few weeks have been, hard. Not as hard as the days when I had postpartum depression, but they were a challenge, which I blogged about here and here. I have been processing the events of those days, admitting I am struggling with parenting, and just slowly getting out of that fog. This week, we have been good, and we have been coping. We have been squeezing in the laughter and letting go of the doubts (as to whether I am doing parenting right). We have danced, and we have delighted in these moments. We have colored and we have cooked.

And all these made me take a step back to process everything and actually define the tools in my self-care toolbox. Practical pointers, a toolbox contains different tools that will help keep your house stable. And so it is with a self-care toolbox – its essence is to keep you together, keep you grounded when everything feels like a whirlwind and ultimately to help focus on the issues at hand. I realized that these tools helped prevent me from  very ‘high highs’ and from ‘soul-crushing, mind-numbing lows’.

  1. Physical tools

Physical tools, just like the name suggests, are tools that involve some physical activity of sorts. In my toolbox, morning runs rank first. There is something about a 5:45am run that does good for my soul, long before the whole world is awake, blaring horns, loud noises and all, there is a tranquillity that envelopes a runner’s mind, and that absolutely helps me put things in perspective.

If, for whatever reason I cannot hack a morning run, evening walks are my next favorite tool. Sometimes, sitting and watching the sun set does morethan make for a scenic view from my balcony. In addition to all these ‘natural’ elements, I also love to journal. Journaling means pouring out all my thoughts on paper, whether they are coherent or not – especially those that are not coherent. It is a wonderful way to decompress and for posterity’s sake, an amazing way to look back.

Read More: This is what Postpartum Depression Feels Like

  1. Relational tools

When the mental fog strikes, one of the things that I have found to be really helpful is getting on phone and sharing with a close friend on the issues at hand and my zigzagged thoughts. Granted, they may not help me in that particular situation, but listening does more than enough to make lighter my soul’s burdens. Sometimes, calls just don’t cut it because it is a tear-fest, and texts become my go-to tool. Other times, when parenting is not at the crux of my struggles, I love to bond with my son, watch his favourite animation movies together, make some art or just sit and listen to his boundless imagination in his stories.

  1. Foodie tools

This is a little tricky to include here, because food can be a destructive coping mechanism (read unhealthy eating habits, adding weight and of course the health conditions that come as a result thereof). But I realized, what works for me in my toolbox is whipping up a meal that will actually take some effort (like that pineapple marinated Teriyaki chicken from Kaluhi’s Kitchen) and  time. There is something about putting ingredients together to make a not-so everyday meal that helps re-channel my thoughts to a better place.

Read More: We are now 5!!

Lately, I have been working on reducing my daily carbohydrate intake, spurred by the realization that I have carbohydrates at just about every meal of the day – think, sandwiches for breakfast, rice for lunch, chapatti for dinner, not forgetting those mandazis at tea time and biscuits bought just before heading home from errands… you get the picture. Then add the fact that these carbs are mostly refined carbs and it is easy to see why there’s need to eat consciously. I am going with oats *milk *cinnamon * peanut butter for a protein fix at breakfast to see how that goes. Thinking I will work through this bit by bit. I have a feeling if I just say no more refined carbs all at once, it will only intensify the mad cravings for the same. Let’s see how this goes.

That’s what is in my self-care toolbox. What’s in yours?

 

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Burn Out

It has been a while since I posted anything on here, not because I didn’t want to, or didn’t have anything to say… Truth is, I have been struggling these past four weeks. For whatever reason, it has been an incredibly hard season with parenting. I have stumbled, waddled, and fought through these past couple of weeks. And you know what is so scary about it? The fact that I could feel myself losing a grip on me; it is that all-so familiar feeling when things are about to spin out of control.

Having suffered Postpartum Depression before, this is one of the scariest things as far as my mental health is concerned. There is always that lingering thought at the back of my mind, “could it be depression, again? What am I not doing right? What am I missing? OR perhaps I have let go of my self-care toolbox and I am paying a mighty price for it…”

It is almost cliché, parenting does not come with a manual, you learn on the go – always learning. And yes, I know I have written that 5 was the best year yet… and it was. Until this depressive episode knocked me off my feet. (NOTE: Not depression, depressive episode, it is temporary, it will lift off, it is lifting off). The realization that my son is growing up way faster than I am probably adjusting hit home hard. And with it comes the independence, the ability to structure thoughts and articulate himself, and of course, the need to push boundaries and limits.

Read More: Why I kept my Postpartum Depression A Secret

And these, admittedly got to me. These parenting struggles. ( I am a single mom, and we recently moved away from home to live on our own. Needless to say, while it seemed like my son had settled well in school and in our new neighborhood, the upsetting of family structure as he knew it started to unravel in a myriad of ways, among them epic meltdowns and legend tantrums. I am talking punch-you-back-because-you-are-not-getting-me-this-snack-and-so-i-will throw-food-in-the-bin – doesn’t help kid takes tae-kwondo classes at school…)

A good part of me could not reconcile the lessons I learned during my therapy sessions with what I was going through. For many reasons, this child seemed not to take any correction from me, and at the time, no one could step in seeing as we were in a new hood. And I started to feel that all-so familiar sense of overwhelm, the one that starts to gather small clouds of haze in true depressive-style.

There were all the red flags: I stopped going for my morning walks, I stopped journaling, early mornings became a thing of the past and the food cravings hit hard and proper. I have struggled with emotional eating before, so the moment I fall back, off early morning runs, off conscious eating, I know I am teetering on the edges of a depressive episode. Add to these the pressures of working from home and I was a proper mess.

Read More: Planning to visit a new mom? Here are 8 things to remember

I am slowly coming out of this depressive episode. I am finding myself, first as an individual, then as a mother – because you cannot pour from an empty cup. I am looking at my selfcare toolbox once again. It is a work in progress. I am easing off pressure with work. I am looking at options on how to get help with parenting – grateful to have a support system around me. I am grateful the people I never thought would come through, and understand this phase I am in, showed up for me. I am doing something about it, and that is what matters.

Why am I sharing this? I am doing this to remind myself that a depressive episode is not a relapse and to keep in mind that I am not a bad mother. This is to remind myself that it is okay not to be okay, but it is not okay to build a home there. That kicking PPD in the butt does not mean I will not struggle with parenting some days. And to let moms know, it is okay to ask for help. It matters.

Image credits

 

More than enough

I am more than enough,

More than adequate,

More than effective for this journey.

Who am I not to do THAT?

Not to go THERE?

Not to dream BIG?

I am more than enough,

I have what it takes,

I am sufficient, in His sufficiency.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Onwards

Just one year ago I started this blog as a space to express myself, to share my experience and ultimately to help a mom who may be suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). In just one year, it has grown to be a great space, both for me and for the moms I get to interact with on here as well as on my social pages. I see growth on here, I see strides made forward, and while there is still so much groundwork to cover in terms of awareness, I am hopeful that we can change this narrative, one story, one tweet, one post at a time.

Looking back and seeing how far we have come, and are still going had me in introspection mode. Then, chatting a friend recently, he asked me whether I was scared of getting PPD second time around. I paused, I sipped my tea and let that thought sink in. Scary? Yes of course, for the simple reason that if one has had PPD, they are at risk of getting it after subsequent births. At risk – that is the key word. This is not a guarantee that one will sink into depression, but certainly warrants a thought.

Read More: To Those I Hurt

Barring the circumstances that surrounded the birth of my son, I am hopeful actually, that I shall not battle the demons of PPD with baby #2. Let me make it clear, however, that a lot of work goes into this progress. Knowing some of the risk factors associated with PPD, and working to eliminate them is a good place to start. Putting deliberate effort in the following goes a long way in reducing the risk of PPD –  a planned pregnancy, getting a baby whilst financially stable as well as surrounding myself with positive support systems are some of the things I would do differently.

Secondly, I am hopeful and excited l that the coping skills I learnt during my therapy sessions will come in handy. This is a constant work in progress. There are some tough days when I question whether I am slowly sliding to those dark days, then I remind myself that the aim of therapy was not to make me a perfect mom, but to help me be the best version of myself.

Read  More: Takeaway lessons from therapy session II

I would also like to add that the growth in my spiritual walk has made a huge difference. Knowing that, even while I couldn’t see it, God was working behind the scenes so I could be in a position to help moms struggling to cope with motherhood and PPD. Meditation, prayer and Bible Study are some of the things in my coping toolbox. Ultimately, PPD has stretched me a whole lot. I like to think I am a better person and mom than I was before therapy kicked off.

PS:  Do click on the ‘Follow’ button to the right of this post 🙂  Do not be afraid to drop by in the comment section below as well and let me know your thoughts. If you need help, or someone to talk to, drop me a line at ppdisland@gmail.com

 

The other day, while shopping for groceries at the market, I overheard two moms converse and it got me thinking (I know they must have been moms because of the nature of conversation). It went something like:

Mom A: So the August holidays are here *insert shrug*

Mom B: Oh, I do not need a reminder. They are coming home for a couple of weeks.

Mom A: They eat so much, and are generally a pain in the house…

Mom B: You can say that again… I can’t wait for the weeks to whizz by so they get back to school…

Mom A: Me too *insert facial expression to complete the statement*

Then the topic changed to something else, but I was stuck at this conversation for many days to come. I asked myself, why is it so easy to want the kids to stay in school as opposed to spending time with them once they are home, which incidentally, is very few months. Consider this: Kids, on average, start Kindergarten at about 3 years. They will be in school till they are 18. During this period, ¾ of the year is spent in school with just 3 months for holiday. For the 15 years the child is in school – from Kindergarten to High school- , they will only be home for 45 months. For a whopping 135 months, they will be away from home.

Read More: Feeling Like A Mom

For those 45 months, we need to remember all the visits to grandma’s, uncles, aunts, school trips, church programs… are not accounted for. The point is, a critical look at the amount of time the kids are actually home reveals so much more. Yet even in this limited time, the general notion is that kids are bothersome, they are a handful, they are annoying, they spike the budget (hello moms with boys!), they interrupt our daily schedules…

That conversation challenged me to take an introspective look and see what my attitude as regards my son’s holiday is. I am not painting a perfect-got-it-all-together front. I know I am guilty as charged in letting these very statements come out of my mouth, and sometimes whispered in the heat of the tantrum. But, this holiday, I want it to be different.

Read More: 3 Reasons I Was An Angry Mom

I want this holiday to be one during which we will learn the essence of each other, and not just for my little to remember the mom who was constantly working her butt off but had no time to play with him….

I want this holiday to be one during which we will bond in new ways; over coloring books, or pancake recipes or mounds of wet mud…

I want this holiday to be one during which we will put into practice what we have picked up during our therapy sessions in the month of August…

I want this to be the last holiday I ever look at through the lenses of ‘what a bothersome period the holidays are going to be’.

It is off to a good start.

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 Adult coloring x child coloring

Every June…

Every June, I have a silent anniversary of sorts.

This June was no different.

It doesn’t help much the fact that this blurry anniversary coincides with my birthday.

* * *

I have vivid memories of that day back in June 2011. In the months that had passed, I lived in a bubble of sorts; reality still hadn’t dawned on me. How’d I been drinking Famous Grouse & Malibu all along without knowing it. It never crossed my mind, at least not at 22. I had these lofty dreams, my career was on an upward trajectory, and there were all the signs of a well-heeled lifestyle. The realization that life as I knew it was going to change had me floating in a palpable fog.

I’d had nightmares every so often since I saw those two lines—piercing screams in the dead of the night, a bloodied mess on my hands, an obsessive worry-packed train of thought that seemed to amplify my incapability to transcend life’s hurdles, and the very nagging thought that I probably wouldn’t pull through alive. I was scared. With every new day that drew me closer to one of my life’s most changing turning points, I grieved at the life I had left behind yet couldn’t embrace with gusto what lay ahead.

Read More: Triggers…

It was a yo-yo of sorts. I was going to be a mom—totally unprepared, and completely flustered by life as I knew it. As the days whizzed by, I felt like a puppet in life’s hands; going through the motions, pretending to be unfazed, but really squirming on the inside.

* * *

That Wednesday morning began like any other…

This post first appeared on Postpartum Progress. Read the rest of the post here.

Love in unlikely quarters

A bouquet of roses, white roses perhaps? Because red is too mainstream,

Decadent chocolate that melts in your mouth,

Exotic getaway, somewhere where the horizon meets the waters creating the perfect sunset,

A Michael Kors handbag, or a Daniel Wellington timepiece, or a sexy pair of Louboutin heels, or…

For the longest time, these were the things in my list of the perfect Valentine gifts. Oh the days of my youth. And while there is nothing wrong with getting or giving these gifts, I learnt something big this past Valentines holiday. This post was birthed, in part, by a friend’s message on Whatsapp (peppered with subtle sarcasm), perhaps buoyed on by the assumption that singles do not get to enjoy this love-all-around holiday, something to the tune of, “So your Valentine? Where were you and your son taken?” (Taken??! )

I thought for a second, whether to reply in jest, complete with a double serving of sarcasm or just to downplay it. I opted to tell her as it was. “I spent my Valentines in Mathare slum in Ngong.”

“Huh, in a slum?” “Yeah, in a slum for a love project to reach out to single moms.”

This took my friend aback, for obvious reasons. Perhaps the expected answer was we were taken to some swanky hotel, and got XYZ… I have no regrets about how I spent my Valentines. See, I was once part of a Bible Study Group, Wives in Waiting-Nairobi Chapter lead by Sitawa Wafula (and no, this is not a group that searches for husbands :D). For the month of February, part of the group’s activities was to reach out through a love project. At the core of this project was the fact that love need not be associated with the flowers and chocolate alone, but that we can share the love we have within.

Spending time with the young single moms, some in their teens, put so much in perspective for me. Sometimes, we fuss over ‘small stuff’, sweating over things which we will not remember in a month’s time, yet all someone somewhere needs is a meal for the day, a pair of shoes for their baby, even just a hug.

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For WiW- Nairobi. Photo Credits: Michelle K.

Reaching out to these young moms, sharing with them and getting to hear their stories reminded me of love in unlikely quarters. It reminded me of the love we all have deep within, sometimes covered by layers of worry and anxiety. It brought to mind how a simple act of love can change someone’s life. It brought to life the fact that while I whine and complain about not having somewhere to go for Valentines, someone somewhere would simply love to have the option of going somewhere and not having to engage in hard labor.

And therein lies the beauty. That we all have the capacity to reach out and be a blessing, sometimes in the simplest of ways. We need not wait for someone to ask us out on a date, or be taken (hehehe) someplace exquisite in order to share the love we have. Sometimes, even simply showing up and sharing with these moms is an act of love. This love project was as humbling as it was powerful, a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This was love in unlikely quarters. This was the best Valentines ever.

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4 Tips that help(ed) me as a Stay-at-home Mom

4 Tips that help(ed) me as a Stay-at-home Mom

I enjoyed been a Stay-at-home Mom, I love being a Work-at-home Mom.

While this has been one of the hardest things I have had to go through because of my Postpartum Depression (PPD) which you can read about here, it has also been incredibly rewarding, especially in recent months as I have come to a place of healing and been truly present for my son. Do I miss the corporate scene and yearn to climb the proverbial career ladder? Yes, on some days (though I am now realizing it is so much better to actually own the ladder, not just climb it 😀 ). Then I am reminded, these kids grow up fast, and before you know it, they are out of the nest. In light of this, I opt to be a SAHM for a couple more years.

One of the most incredulous things I have come to find out is the perception that Stay-at-home moms (abbreviated SAHM) have it all chocolates-strawberries-Netlflix and smiles. While this happens on some days, there are difficult days; mundane days when the routine revolves around potty-training, crayons, power blackouts and crankiness. The beauty about it is that over and above all, as a SAHM I get the chance to raise my son, to spend quality time with him, and lay the foundation I’d want him to have in life.

Despite the tough days, I am grateful for this chance. I would not trade it for anything else in my motherhood journey. Having been a SAHM and WAHM since the birth of my son in 2012- I have gleaned tips that help me maintain my sanity when I get to stay home for more than 5 days in a row. Here are some of the tips that have worked for me alongside the lessons I have picked on the way.

  1. Clear the to-do list for some Me-time every so often

It is easy for life to be wrapped around your little bundle of joy at the onset, but sooner or later you realize burn out is real. I cannot over-emphasize the need to create some Me-time, even if you are a stay at home mom.

The purpose of this me-time is to decompress, to recharge and just simply to replenish your energy levels. Watching over your kid(s) 24/7 is very taxing, and one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take some time off.

Now, it need not be a luxurious cruise trip to Mauritius (but how cool would that be!) Sometimes it can be as simple as going to the supermarket, ALONE. Or taking an evening walk. Or pampering sessions at the spa. The essence is to get away from your Little One(s) – LOs- and focus on yourself. Think about it as ‘touching base with yourself’. It is extremely important because this way, once you are back, you are refreshed enough to wear the mommy hat.

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Because I gotta work too.

  1. Link up with other parents

This is important for some much-needed adult interactions. I share with some of my friends how, when all your talk is drool-inspired goo-goo-gah-gigi, sometimes what you need is a coherent adult conversation, Not that you despise baby talk, but after a few days, you realize how much this does not stimulate you mentally.

In short, call another mom, share your experiences, catch up over latte, schedule for play dates and spend some time as you watch the kids play or even host a get-together to gather your high school friends. Whatever works for you, just make sure you shift your attention from your LO, albeit for a short while.

  1. Do not be afraid to ask for and receive help.

I remember with nostalgia how, whenever my sister offered to babysit, I’d jump at the idea and look for ways to incorporate me-time. I have never had a domestic manager since my son’s birth, so such help was very welcome. I learnt the hard way that you cannot be super mom, no matter how much you would want. Well, you can, for a day or two, then it takes a tremendous toll on you and you realize you are slowly ebbing away from truly living. So, snap up every opportunity when help is offered.

Many moms find it difficult to ask for help, leave alone receiving help. One of the things that I learnt smirk in the fog that depression is, is that it is okay to ask for help. It does not make me less of a mom if I have to tell someone that I am really struggling and would appreciate help. Which brings me to the other point, it also helps to be specific the kind of help you need. Do you need someone to watch your baby when you need to run errands urgently? Would you appreciate it if your friend took your son for a boys’ day out? Or perhaps your neighbor could do grocery shopping for you? Maybe your sister could help you do laundry for the week.

However you look at it, sometimes a little help is all you need to get through your day. Plus, the worst anyone can do is turn down your request!

  1. Make the most of this time

It certainly sounds cliché, but the truth is that kids whiz through the different stages and it is easy to miss all that if you focus on the challenges alone. Enjoy the moments, capture the milestones on camera and savour the different chances to learn from your kid. Take this time to appreciate the fact that you have a chance to raise this little human into an upright member of society. One morning you wake up to a toothless gummy smile, the next you are wondering what to give during weaning, then potty training, then voila, they are in uniform going to school! Cherish the days.

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What are your experiences as a SAHM? What tips worked for you? What would you love to share? Let’s chat in the comment box below.

 

First Position

“Mom, I want to be number one!!”

His shrill cries pierced the afternoon air, bringing to life the otherwise laid back mood that characterizes life at home, miles away from the blaring matatus and glaring graffiti. At first I was perturbed simply because I did not get the gist of what he was alluding to. What did he want to be first in? I was preparing to do laundry and there he was screaming at the top of his lungs as he ran downstairs. We got down and I changed my slip-ons and he still wouldn’t stop screaming he wanted to be first.

I then realized what he meant was he wanted to be first in everything in that short period of time: first to get downstairs, first to change his shoes for the outdoors, first to embrace the humid air… never mind that I was heading to do laundry and he to play. He threw tantrums for a short while, the usual jumping like a Masaai moran, running to the gate and back like a Kipchoge and spinning like a ballerina dancer. With the latter I requested for a dance which he flatly refused, much to my amusement (because moms learn to Press CTRL+IGNORE for those undeserving gimmicks of manipulation by kids).

When the dust settled, quite literally, I sat the kid down for a pep talk, because he is four years heading on fourteen.

Me: So, Jayden, what is all the fuss with been in first place, all the time, in all things, everywhere??

J: Because I gotta be number one.

Me: But why? Does it make you happy? Or are you doing it just because you want to be ahead of everyone else?

J: That aeroplane is huuuuge mom!

Me: Yes it is a big bird. I ask, why are you so insistent on been in first place?

J: *silence* *chirping birds* *roosters crowing*

Me: See, here is the thing Jayden. You cannot always be first in everything, everywhere, every time. Because sometimes, life is not like that. You make the best of everything, that’s what matters…

I am not certain my son had a good grasp of what I meant, but it got me thinking. How often do we compete against people whose lives are on totally different trajectories? How often do we get ourselves thinking, “I must beat person X on this and this front”, yet it is not so much to be a better person as it is to be ‘ahead’ of them? Case in point, Jayden wants to be first to get out and play, All I want to do is to do laundry, get a glass of wine and read a good book. See, different ‘destinations’.

As I approach my thirties (OMG, the big 3-0!! Is just a couple of years away, yikes!), I am slowly learning that to each their own path of life. There is no need to compete with people whose life paths and purposes do not intersect with mine. It will only lead to comparison, and there is no better thief of life’s joys than this. I am learning to charter my life’s path, at my pace, learning from my mistakes, celebrating the successes and ultimately, acknowledging that doing ‘it’ first (whatever it is) does not necessarily mean I did it right.

I love picking life lessons from my motherhood journey, and boy oh boy, how fundamental these lessons are. Enough with been first, how about I make the most of my experiences in getting to be first??

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The calm before the storm 😀

 

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