Here is how I am teaching my son about consent

Teaching my son consent

Consent – talking to my son about it

The other day, my seven-year-old-son came home after school and told me that a few kids in his class had refused to play with him. Naturally, I was curious about why that’d happen. Turns out, it’s the girls in his class who didn’t want to play with some of the boys, a group of which he was a part of. I prodded further and he said,

“The girls felt our games were too rough and that we often got too much into their space. We touched them even when it was not intentional…”

Translated from his Swahili response: Girls walisema games zetu ni rough sana, tunawaingilia sana na tukicheza tunawagusa hata kama hatutaki na ni game.

For a split second, I was dumbfounded – not because this is an unusual thing, but because I didn’t think we would have this conversation so soon. More importantly, I figured the need to teach consent early. Lately, social media has been abuzz with talk on consent, particularly following an increase in the number of rape cases reported (and an accompanying worrisome trend on young women been raped and murdered).

I am teaching my son about CONSENT

Consent has little to do with sex, and everything to do with boundaries!

I have been reading about consent and reflecting on my personal experiences. I realized something: Consent has very little to do with sex. It revolves about boundaries – creating them and the need to respect these boundaries. As a parent, I know the need to model the same for my son.

Read More: Struggling with parenting

I honestly did not think I would need to have this talk so soon, and when I began to respond, I found myself questioning whether it was the right time.

“He is only 7 years, isn’t it too early?” I’d think to myself.

“But if not now, when is the time?” I’d reply to myself.

Too early to teach him about consent?

The notion that consent is to be learnt at a later stage in life, perhaps the teen years, comes off the idea that sex education should wait as well. But we live in a digital and super-connected world, which means that kids are getting more information earlier in their lives than ever before. Isn’t it then, the right time for me to talk to my son about consent?

In retrospect, I had already started to talk to my son about body autonomy a little earlier – by letting him know that no one ought to touch them without their permission. No one was allowed to touch their private parts, and that a ‘No’ means a ‘No’. That included been ‘forced’ to embrace or to hug someone as a form of greeting. I made sure to emphasize that this was an important part of creating boundaries. In addition, if he ever felt uncomfortable with someone, he had permission to let them know they were uncomfortable and to leave that space.

In the same breath, he was not allowed to touch anyone without their permission. If someone told him they were uncomfortable, they needed to respect that – even if he did not think there was reason for someone to be uncomfortable.

Read More: Can I get Postpartum Depression after the first year?

When it comes to consent, a ‘No’ means NO

This brings me to this conversation we had recently. The girls in his grade felt uncomfortable playing with my son’s group of friends. My son needed to understand that he had to respect the girls’ decisions and boundaries. Granted, he may not have seen the ‘roughness’ of their games, but if the girls said No to that, they had to stop it.

I could see that he still didn’t think it was a ‘big deal’. So I flipped the conversation and asked him how it would feel if he had to keep telling someone that he didn’t want to play, even after he said ‘No’. Then it started to sink in. I saw his nonchalance turn to empathy – of course, he would hate for someone to do that. He is still learning. I know this provides a great chance to teach more about consent. I am aware that it gets more complicated as he approaches pre-teen and teen years. When all is said and done, the underlying lesson is the need to respect others and to create boundaries. This is not a one-day conversation – it is something I hope my son will keep in mind as he interacts with different people.

Practical ways to teach your child about consent

I got these handy nuggets from the Fatherly website, on practical ways to teach young children about consent:

  • Teaching a child about consent means teaching them about boundaries. So establish boundaries in the home and natural consequences when those boundaries are crossed.
  • Explicit lessons about physical boundaries can begin as soon as children are becoming curious about bodies, around 4-years old.
  • Lessons around physical boundaries start simple with reinforcing the idea that no means no. It also means that children are not allowed to touch another person without permission.
  • Parents need to respect their children’s boundaries, too. Model consent by not tickling, hugging, kissing or wrestling children when they say no.
  • If children are struggling to understand couch the lesson in the idea of asking permission. This may be easier for some kids to understand.

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The Invisibleness of Stay-At-Home Motherhood

The invisbleness of stay-at-home motherhood

And finding meaning as a Stay-At-Home Mom

I have blogged severally about my Stay-At-Home Motherhood experience here and here. This past week I found myself reflecting on it (yet again). Been a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) means I have also been away from the typical 8-to-5 routine. I will be honest and say, sometimes I miss it. This became more pronounced in the past few weeks I have been out of work. Granted, it is not an easy experience. But looking back it has afforded me more time to just take a step back, reflect and truly define what success looks like for me.

Helping moms with Postpartum Depression is where my heart truly is

My heart’s passion is to provide psychosocial support for moms with Postpartum Depression (PPD) through the organization I started, the Postpartum Depression CBO (click this link to go to the website). I have been there as the 1 out of 7 moms who got Postpartum Depression. As a survivor, I know what it feels like to be a new mom and not to feel the bliss that comes with motherhood. There is also the hopelessness that a new mom feels when she cannot bond with her child. I have had suicidal ideation and struggled with intrusive thoughts. But, I got help.

Read More: Can I get Postpartum Depression After the First Year?

My dear friend Carol noticed I was battling with depression due to my anger outbursts. She recommended a therapist who took me through my sessions. This is what spurred me to start Postpartum Depression CBO. I am paying it forward. It also gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment, certainly not monetarily.

Stay-At-Home Moms will often hear, “What have you been doing all day?”

In the mundaneness of Stay-at-home motherhood, the running up and down to care for my son and do chores has had me wondering – wondering if it matters. Domestic chores are at the crux of running a home. They are very time-consuming, but that’s not all. They also feel invisible. How many times do stay-at-home moms get the all-too-familiar,” You have been home all day, what have you been doing?”

To think that a mom may not even have had a chance to rest makes it sad and hilarious at the same time. From cleaning dishes to mopping the house, scrubbing the toilet, preparing meals and ironing, there is always something to be done in the house. Some invisible task that is only noticed when it is not done.

Read More: The Complicated Truth About Stay-at-Home Motherhood

Sometimes it gets to me – the mundaneness and invisibleness of it all. See, while at the office, you clock in the hours. It is easy to quantify the work done. I filed X reports, had a brainstorming meeting, got a new client on board etc. What for the SAHM? Does it matter that the laundry is done for the week? Or that the dishes are washed for the fifth time that day? Or that the week’s meals have been prepared in good time? Does it matter?

Spending moments with my son keeps me going

I struggle a lot with this, to be honest. It feels insignificant. In the large scale of things, what does it matter? In a number of years to come, will it be remembered that the house was sparkling clean? Or that my dish rack was filled with clean dishes? Or even that uniform was well ironed on Saturday evening?

The invisbleness of Stay-at-home Motherhood
Found this caption oh so true and relatable!

I am not so sure. Spending time with Jay is the one thing that keeps me going. The fact that I have the chance to mould him and spend these precious days with him makes the days bearable for the most part.

This feels like rambling now, and I am not sure it even makes sense. But I thought to share, for the stay-at-home who feels alone in these emotions. We are often told to savour these moments because they are fleeting and they will pass. Sometimes, a mom needs that reminder that it is worthwhile and that it counts for something.

PS: This article will be worth your while – This Dad Thought Stay-At-Home Moms Did Nothing All Day. Then, THIS Happened…

Featured Image: Photo by Fancycrave.com from Pexels

 

 

This is what I did not post on Instagram

Black Girl On Vacation

“Do not compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel because of what you see on social media”

This has, for a long time, been a personal mantra. It is something I have been embracing, and a reminder for myself. You might be very familiar with the sinking feeling that you experience when, after scrolling endlessly on social media, starts to creep at the back of your mind. For a while, I opted to deal with it by keeping offline for extended periods of time. Of course that would work for some time, and then I would get back online and experience that sinking feeling.

Scouring the web the other day, I came across this article. The author of the post admits to signing up for a yoga retreat to cope with anxiety. One of the author’s friends made a comment about ‘how she was always on vacation’. For someone struggling with anxiety, that could not be further from the truth. It did, however, cause the author to reflect on how often it is that things look so glamorous from the outside looking in.

#WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram

What I Did Not Post On Instagram

This is so profoundly true for many of us. I know fully well that it is stressful to compare my day-to-day life with everyone’s highlights (because few of us will rarely post the hard days, and that is okay), but sometimes there is that lingering feeling that I could be the only one who hasn’t found their footing. Reading through her post made me realize that those feelings are normal for the most part, and we do get through them (Unless it is a mental illness for which you would need professional treatment).

Looking back, I could not help but realize how it is possible to unintentionally create a façade. In this post, I will be sharing the backstory for some of my Instagram photos. Follow me on Instagram here.

A Mother’s Day Tribute while I was struggling with PPD

Backstory: I was smiling here, grateful to have my mom, but struggling in my own motherhood. I was probably at my heaviest here too, because one of my (negative) coping techniques was eating comfort food. It made me add lots of weight, I was criticizing myself harshly and living with Postpartum Depression. On many days around when this photo was taken, I would cry myself to sleep as he was nursing by my side.

Some parenting days are hard.

Backstory: He was 4 then, I cannot even remember how this meltdown began, but it ended up with him taking my mom’s plates and smashing them to ground. In a moment of utter frustration, I beat him so badly that he slumped and slept on the floor. The all-consuming guilt after he slept meant I cried myself to sleep, because of the frustrations and mostly, because I felt I was never a good mom to start with. PS: This is not something I am proud of, certainly. Therapy has helped me manage my anger better now.

Grief is hard – it is not a destination, it is a journey that changes you forever

I am laughing here, we are. But these are my cousins and we were hanging out the day after grandpa was buried. I am wearing a pink cap to hide my swollen eyes.

Vacationing – but still feeling lost

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A post shared by Sassy'Samoina Rembo Qui (@samoina.k) on

This photo was taken in Nyali, during our annual family vacation. It was an amazing getaway, and full of memories. What it doesn’t capture is the fact that I was feeling lost – jobless and with bills to pay. I contemplated shutting down PPDKenya altogether and going to a far far place where no one knows me.

Glamorous dinner wear and a dose of anxiety

I am smiling in this picture, with my fierce ladies. But what I did not post on IG is that I had a panic attack on that evening. My anxiety was spiralling out of control and I was struggling with intrusive thoughts (what if the car crashes? what if I get kidnapped? What if I never see my family again?) Forever grateful for Christine who came to pick me up from the house that day. <3

 

Birthday cupcakes and a meltdown

My aunt delivered these cupcakes for my son’s 7th birthday. What I did not post is that he had the mother of all meltdowns on this day, and we only got to blow his candles two days after. He was frustrated and angry (he is transitioning to a new school), and I was because I felt like the meltdown was an attack on my capacity as ‘good mom’.

The #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram means a lot to me, because it is always a reminder that the camera does not capture everything. That we all love to show the strong kickass side, but this does not take away from the fact that we all have hard days.

Do you relate to this post? Check out #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram on Social Media too.

Featured Image: Photo by Ogo from Pexels

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 lessons I learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Mother and son

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 of motherhood

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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Read More: 5 Celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with Postpartum Depression

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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. 

Featured Photo by nappy from Pexels

 

Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and disclosed how, I was a little anxious about setting up my LinkedIn account. Yes, I am the one in a zillion who had never bothered to create a Linkedin account until the point I decided to get PPDKenya registered legally. And partly because I subconsciously didn’t think there was anything worth writing about myself in the professional circles. Walk with me, I am going somewhere with this.

See, I have been a stay (and work) at home mom since my son was born – in January 2012. Even typing this makes me pause for a few seconds. It’s going to seven years since I last set foot in a regular 8-to-5 job, which amazes and shocks me in equal measure. It hasn’t been easy – it cannot be easy to make the switch from a travel junkie whose work involved lots of travel, to staying and raising a child round the clock.

Becoming a SAHM was not something I sought out to be. In the second trimester of my pregnancy, I realized I was going to be raising my son alone. Shortly after, I lost my job. So jobless and with no partner support, I ended up going back home to my parents and figure out life from that point. My son was born with no health complications, thankfully. My parents were very supportive, and I am thankful for that to-date. I knew however, I needed to find something to do to help me raise my child and get the basics (diapers, clinic money, clothes etc) because at the time, I wasn’t paying any rent or utility bills.

Read More: This is Why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

That’s how I stumbled onto online writing. A friend suggested the possibility of working from home and I embraced the idea because it would keep us afloat. Years later, it has provided a lifeline for my son and I, but it was not without its own challenges.

At the onset, it gave me a profound sense of self to be able to stay home and cherish whatever memories I could of raising him before Postpartum Depression stole the precious moments. But as the years went by, I realized I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all. SAHMoms find themselves alone, quite literally, for long hours every day. I found this aspect of SAHMotherhood particularly challenging. I am an extrovert by nature, and love to be around people. Here I was, spending up to 10 hours indoors, alone, with nothing but baby talk, bibs and nappies to fill my days.

The lack of adult interaction for most days made it difficult to articulate the emptiness I felt. Caring for my son almost 100% of the time made it very easy to forget about myself. Add to this the monotonous routine of daily life and it started to feel like my sense of self was slowly but surely slipping away.

My PPD didn’t make it any easier. I remember asking myself, ‘What’s the point of dressing up anyway, if I wouldn’t be going anywhere? Why make my nails if I will spend half the day cleaning up mustard-coloured nappies?” Let’s not talk about the matted nest that was my hair. I let go of myself. I just did not see the point of making it… and over time, how I looked on the outside began to seep into how I viewed myself.

Read More: Changes

It started to feel like I had lost my sense of identity, I had lost the person I was before motherhood, so much so that on several days when I got someone to watch over him, I’d spend the whole day trying to remember what it was I loved doing – what it was I enjoyed most. I couldn’t find myself in the haze of motherhood. I didn’t feel attractive anymore, and struggled to look at myself in the mirror. Under the layers of baggy tees with several milk patches and saggy track pants, I felt completely lost.

The intrusive thoughts I had with PPD worsened how I viewed myself. My mind kept telling me I was frumpy and ugly (frugly if you like), and it didn’t matter because everyone seemed so put together on IG but I was struggling with my sense of identity and self-esteem.

I did go for therapy, and that helped quite a bit. I recovered from PPD, but the scars on my sense of identity linger on many days, particularly on those days when there’s an impending change or I am embarking on a new project as is the case with the organization. I second guess myself so many times, I doubt my abilities, I hear the subtle voices in my mind telling me I am not good enough.

But,

But I am learning to look into the mirror and tell myself I am doing an amazing job raising my son. To say out loud positive affirmations, and to remind myself of the wonderful work PPDKenya does to help moms with PPD. I am learning to create boundaries to practise self-care. I am learning to say NO. I am learning that this is part of my journey. And it is helping me find myself, and teaching me to let go.

 

 

 

 

 

I am talking to my 6 year old son about Postpartum Depression. Here’s why

I have been talking to my son about Postpartum Depression (and mental health generally) lately, and there is a reason why. As a Postpartum Depression Survivor, I keep wondering, what if I had learnt about mental health way before I became a mom? What if this was part of our conversations? Wouldn’t it go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with mental health? Wouldn’t help my son learn about self care and help him comprehend some of the changes in mood he has seen in me? in himself? in the family?

Having gone public with my Postpartum Depression story (see this link), I realized that withholding accurate information on mental health from my son does no good. He might not understand it now, but in this day and age of the internet, he will learn about it sooner than later. And instead of leaving him to his own devices to figure it out, I am beginning the lessons early enough. If anything, I am hopeful this information helps him feel more secure and less fearful about mental illness.

Here’s how the conversation began: He asked what I have been doing ‘talking on TV’ and why ‘those TV people have not come back this year yet he has been waiting’. And so I figured this would be a wonderful note to start the topic. So, I told him when he was born, I was not able to handle a small baby well and my mind got a little sick. That made me sad and I used to cry sometimes. But I saw a doctor who helps treat the mind, and I got better. So, after that I started a ‘company’ (organization really) that helps moms whose minds are sick. He asked what company that was, and I said PPDKenya, even showing him some of the official documents.

Read More: PPDKenya provides psychosocial support for moms with Postpartum Depression (PPD)

He was quite inquisitive. He asked how and why the mind gets sick, what the doctor does and whether I would get sick again. To which I answered, the mind is a part of the body, like the leg, hand or head. And just like these other parts get sick, so can the mind. The doctor may give medicine to a mom to help her get better. Would my mind get sick again? (This had me undone to be honest, because it is a fear that lingers at the back of my mind.) I answered honestly, and at a level a 6 year old would understand: I could get sick again, anyone’s mind can get sick, but I am taking care of myself and doing what the doctor told me (during therapy). I assured him that talking about what worries our minds is one of the ways to take care of ourselves, and if he ever had any issues he could share them with me. He agreed (and has since admitted he doesn’t like it when I do XYZ, his heart feels sad when someone dies like my cucu did this past week, and that he feels like crying when the phone games hang..) It is encouraging to see him learn how to describe his emotions an put words to his feelings – it reminds me we are making progress.

Hopefully we can keep up this momentum as the days go by.

Sidenote: Ever since he saw the PPDKenya documents, he has been so enthusiastic to ‘help’ me run the organization, complete with writing posts on his ‘PPDKenya Notebook’. This warms my heart, that this tiny human believes in me to help other mommies, in his words ‘for their minds not to get sick’ 🙂

Ramblings on motherhood, toys and straws

These holidays have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and mine. The school holidays began with a bang. My heart was bursting with gratitude and just the sheer amazement that we made it this far. Here, my not-so little boy, all grown, graduating from kindergarten to Primary school (wrote about it here). It was a big moment, I still look back and I’m like whoa, see God. (You may never understand the magnitude of this milestone if you never had to struggle with depression that made you question your ability and worth as a mom. I have blogged about this here and here and here as well).

So, anyhow, graduation came to an end and the very next week he was admitted to hospital, and discharged after almost a week. Mom and baby were ecstatic to have him in great health. Then mom got the infection and off I was to hospital. Took a couple of days off, and was better. Right after that, kid had a stomach bug and it was back to hospital. To say this was a rough ride is to put it mildly. I was really scared, and my thoughts were going crazy. (PS: Has any of you moms ever made the silent prayer that says, I’d rather be sick than my child gets unwell… then you actually get sick and are unable to cater for the child’s needs? I’m like – this is twisted irony 🙂 )

Read More: 7 Gross things moms do (admit it, you have done one of these!)

Fast forward to now, we are both in great health and are thankful for that. And we are back to bouncing off walls and off each other. Don’t go just yet, I am going somewhere with this post… So, J has an affinity for drinking straws, the disposable ones. A weird affinity that sometimes irks me because, I just don’t understand why anyone ought to take their yoghurt in a cup using a straw – but maybe therein lies the wonder and amazement of a child’s life.

Now, drinking with the straws is no big deal per se. It’s what follows once that happens which gets on my nerves. The not-so-empty cup is left on the table, and the straw leaning over. It’s easy to drop the cup by simply having the swish of my cardigan touch the end of the straw. For whatever reason, this is one of those pet peeves I have always had.

How does it relate to the hospital visits? The few days we were at hospital got me thinking how we as parents take so much for granted. We have this misguided illusion of immortality. There is all the time in the world, we think to ourselves. Until sickness jolts us back to reality. The other day I looked at him playing on the floor, strewn with all his toys, LEGO blocks, and my pens and pencils. On the table, the yoghurt cup and straw he had just used. For a split second I wanted to scold him and ask him to clean up.

Read More: Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

Then it struck me, when he was sick, I prayed and hoped that he would get back his health because at the time, I certainly preferred a messy house to a sick child. And here he was, playing, all energetic – yet I was inwardly grumbling at the sight of the messy floor. It struck me that one day, when this rambunctious little boy is all grown, there may never be a messy floor again.

I realized that a time will come, when there will be the last straw – quite literally. When he is taller than mommy, and has a deep voice to go with it, I may never need to tell him to discard the straw and drop the cup in the sink, because he will not be so little anymore. A time will come when there will not be the pattering of little feet up the staircase, a time when the warmth of morning cuddles and wet cheek kisses will be few and in-between.

This struck me because the inquisitive and wondrous stage we are in will not last forever. The genuine sparkle of his brown eyes when he makes a discovery may not be so obvious in a few years to come. I am making an intentional decision to enjoy this stage, to enjoy the endless stories even when I’d rather be scrolling down the gram, to enjoy the balloon games and blowing bubbles while they last – not forgetting the cartoons on JimJam. As I write this, my work desk is filled with toys, and you guessed right – a cup of yoghurt.

 

Milestones

The few weeks leading up to the fourth week of October 2017 have been a flurry of emotions. I have been excited and overwhelmed in equal measure, all the while filled with immense gratitude. It was a week I never thought would come to pass back in 2011 when I found out I was pregnant. I recall with clarity the sheer trepidation I felt – the fear, the anxiety, the doubt and the shame, all rolled in one. Here I was, just a few years after campus, and fresh into a new job with a child on the way.

To say I was scared would be an understatement. I felt unprepared for motherhood. What kind of mother would I make? How would I take care of this child alone? Would I be able to raise him? What would he eat? Where would he go to school? How would I meet his needs? I was afraid of what the future held. I started drifting into antenatal depression. My mind often spun wondering how we’d pull through. Losing my job in my third trimester just added to the financial strain and spun me further into mental anguish. Looking back, this was one of the key contributing factors of my postpartum depression (PPD).

Fast forward to January when he was born – he was a healthy bouncing baby boy. What was meant to be the happiest time of my life turned out to be the most heart-wrenching period. I struggled a lot in the first few months of his life. The sleepless nights took a huge toll on me, and for the most part, I was not able to bond with my son. Then that resulted in guilt, regret and shame, topped up with hopelessness.

Would we make it to 5 years – scratch that, let’s talk about one year first. We got to one year, then two, then three… and now we are almost six. It may not seem like much, but having struggled with PPD, this is huuge. And that is why, when J graduated from kindergarten this past week, my heart was filled with immense gratitude. The appreciation of just how far we have come, that we got to 5 and beyond. I don’t think words can capture what it feels like, or even attempt to explain it. This milestone is an amazing step for my son and I. We made it J!

This post is dedicated to my supportive family who have been there through it all and the superb friends the journey has afforded me. It is also for all the mothers struggling with PPD to know that they too can make a full recovery. There’s hope. Here’s to more milestones in the future.

 

PS: This post is a couple of days late because, while I had written it earlier, my son’s hospital admission could not wait. and so, it sat in the drafts folder. After his week-long stay, glad to say he has made a full recovery and we are back at it – by it I mean bouncing off walls with karate-like moves. I am not complaining.

PPS: Blurry images but I am at that point in my life where my memory is still sharp 😀 😀 😀

Taking care of my mental health during the school holiday

School holidays are usually a mixture of emotions for me: enthusiastic because there is more time to spend with the champ, and sometimes a little anxious because the very same holidays can be a crazy catalyst for a proper breakdown. The champ has been home for just about a week, and I have made conscious effort to take care of my mental health to avoid a breakdown/ anxiety attack like the one I had over the weekend – felt utterly overwhelmed by parenting duties and just the dynamics of a relationship. Doing so much better now – thanks to the lovelies who kept checking on me; Nzanga, Pat, Nyaguthii, Glenda, Begire and the seester 🙂

If there is one thing my Postpartum depression recovery journey has taught me, it is the need to be on guard as far as my mental health is concerned. It is so easy to think, ‘ain nothing can get me down’. I am talking about those incredibly high highs that have you feeling like you can take on the world, only to come crushing so bad after a proper breakdown (anyone else experienced this? Like sometimes so  so much happiness is almost always followed by life’s rough patches?)

Read More: I struggled during the last school holidays in April

So, for that reason I set out to place measures to guard my mental health wellbeing. Here’s how I am taking care of myself this holiday season.

  • Planning

I am been intentional in scheduling my work these school holidays. See, I work online, from home. My experience means I know how crazy it gets to work when staying with a rambunctious five year old with a yuuuuuge appetite. (Sidenote: I used to think my folks had a pet peeve back in the day because they kept saying how much the food budget goes up during school holidays… Now I know how real it is! LOL, this energetic boy has like 10 meals a day, eh).

That is why planning is important. I take a few minutes each evening to plan for the next day. I noticed it is best for me to work early mornings (5.30am thereabout) in order to make some progress before the champ awakes. So far, so good – I will also mention at this point that afternoon naps are gold.

  • Taking time for ME

This is sometimes difficult seeing as the dynamics of working at home and school holidays intersect at ‘minimal time to spend alone’. But seeing how important this is for my sanity, I try to make time for ME – no internet, no Whatsapp, no kid, no TV. I spend this time either journaling or meditating. Sometimes it is not possible to do this because the child can decide sleeptime will be at 10.30pm, in which case we get to colour together.

 

  • Spending time in the outdoors

There is something about spending time in the outdoors, that is as rejuvenating as it is exciting – away from the routines, away from the four walls. There’s something about natural light in the outdoors that works for mental well-being. I learnt this when I had postpartum depression, and I’d stay indoors for days, struggling to get outside. Only getting out of bed because I had a baby to take care of/ feed/ change/ bath… otherwise I’d want to remain in bed all day. Getting outdoors awakens the senses, allows you to see the living (even when you feel dead on the inside) and is a welcome change from the dreary enclosure of four walls. Sometimes the champ and I will go for a walk, some days we will spend time watching the sunset on the balcony and yet other days we will go visit his grandparents and enjoy the calm at cucu’s place.

Read More: My selfcare routine

  • Spending time together

My son loves all things art and craft, so I try as much as possible to be engaged when he is home for the holidays. We have made threaded bottles before in this post. Yesterday we began on a paper mache product. Remember that from primary school? Yes, he was excited, especially when I mixed the flour with water to prepare the ‘glue’. I am actually enjoying it. It is messy, and it is fun, and it allows me to listen to his heart in the middle of the mache process.

Yes, that’s an inflated balloon for the paper mache process. Got the link on Pinterest 🙂

And tea. It goes without saying, tea is part of my selfcare routine 🙂

How do you take care of your mental health during the school holidays with kids ?

The Mom I Want To Be – Part I

We have had a couple of rough sleepless nights in this past week, thanks to an extremely high fever that saw mommy and son wake up at odd hours. At some point, I had to reduce the layers of cloths the champ had in order to keep the fever in check, plus of course, medication to reduce it – I always keep some medicine for the fever because it has a tendency to strike at the weirdest hours. We later attributed the fever to a stomach upset, from which the champ has since recovered.

The erratic nights made me a walking zombie in the days that followed. I kept dozing off at my work desk, and with this cold, it is not hard to see how I’d just take a few minutes and snooze away. Listening to his soft breathing last night had me thinking about a lot. It brought to memory how I really struggled with sleep deprivation in my son’s first months of life. It was crazy – I have mentioned before in this post, that first week after we were discharged, he slept for an average of 15 minutes. 15-freaking-minutes! It drove me nuts, literally.

Read More: I had uncontrollable anger with my Postpartum Depression

I knew we wouldn’t get much sleep with a newborn, but I just didn’t imagine it to that extent. I had not known just how much lack of sleep could turn me into a moron. I started to become extremely irritable. I would snap at the slightest provocation, which in this case could be something as significant as a sink full of dishes. Thinking about doing laundry was enough to turn me into a teary mess. I had many anger outbursts, angry because this is not what motherhood was meant to be like. I mean, where was all the bliss? I wasn’t enjoying it. I was a sleep-deprived mom at the brink of losing my sanity – and I felt so helpless.

Needless to say, after this recent bout of fever, we have resumed a normal sleeping pattern, which for my son, is 12 straight hours. Mulling over this had me thinking, whether I could manage another round of crazy sleep deprivation with Number Two. It is not something I am actively planning presently, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread come upon me. I have a rambunctious five year old-going-fifteen, and it occurred to me just how much I have forgotten about the infancy stages.

Read More: Changes – Change is beautiful

My Postpartum Depression means I have a hazy recollection of my son’s first years. Sometimes I look at photos saved in my phone from 2011, and save for the familiarity of faces and places, I cannot quite tell what I felt. I was going through the motions, like a robot. I have what I like to call missed memories – I remember posting on Facebook about his first two teeth, but that’s just about it. These milestones were covered in a haze of depressive days. I have no idea what I felt when he first called me mom, what his first steps were like, what his weaning experience was all about. It is all very hazy.

I keep thinking to myself, I would want a different experience for my second when the time comes. I want to be the mother I always envisioned prepartum. I want to be the mother I envisioned myself as in my early 20’s – doting, caring and certainly not struggling with depression. I want to be a better mother than I am. I am well aware that postpartum depression (PPD) affects moms well into their second and third pregnancies as much as it affects first time moms. As a matter of fact, moms who have had PPD in their first pregnancy are at a higher risk of the same in subsequent pregnancies. It is a glaring fact, and I am only too aware of it.

Read More: #postpartumdepression – The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“Are you scared of having another child?”

It is a question I have been asked in a couple of media interviews, and my honest answer is, yes I am scared about a second one, scared at the thought of PPD all over again. But even in the face of this scare, I am well aware of the need to put up solid support systems before and after. I know that my family is present, that they are aware I struggled with PPD and are very supportive. I know I have contacts who I can call at 2am if need be. I am more conscious of what my triggers are, and cognizant of what red flags to be on the lookout for. There is the constant reminder that I was never a bad mom for suffering a mental health condition that affected my ability to love on, and bond with my son. From where I stand now, I am better placed, not because I am immune to PPD, but because I am informed and empowered.

Reminder: Postpartum Depression does not discriminate; it affects moms regardless of religion, social class, age, level of education and order of pregnancy. This is why it is important to raise awareness, get the society to know that there is such a thing as PPD, but most importantly, the fact that help is available. Please feel free to get in touch with me using the Contact page on the top menu if you need someone to talk to or are wondering where to start. I have a Facebook page where I share on PPD, and you can follow on Twitter too.

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