Day 10 – Angst

This is Day 10 of my 30 day writing challenge. A third of the challenge done *insert the Sauti Sol lipala dance here*. It is as exciting as it is eye-opening. I have met and connected with so many other strong moms online. I am grateful, humbled that my PPD journey would encourage a mom, and let them know they are not alone.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and this brought to memory my struggle with feeling suicidal at a time when everything felt so overwhelming. Anyone who has felt suicidal before knows too well the hopelessness that comes with this choice; the utter darkness that engulfs one’s world, so that day and night cease to be different. Below I share my experience.

*  *  *

That Monday began like any other, only that as the hours progressed (snail paced if you asked me), I figured this is how heavy pregnant bloated elephants must feel. EDD was just two days away, and all I wanted was the baby out, ouutt, outtttt! So, aside from my super cravings and 6 miles-a-day walks, I’d done all I could to ensure pregnancy went well, especially after that threatened miscarriage 8 weeks into my pregnancy.

The contractions came, first at intervals, then seemingly every second. The night seemed so so long, I knew the hour was near. Hauled my bag into the car and got to hospital about 7am, wheeled into the labour ward. At this point, unprintables coursed through my head because there really are no words to explain that pain. Physically though, I broke into singing wakorino songs, I could even hear the drum beats in my head.

45 minutes after I got wheeled into the ward, my son was born weighing about 6.5lbs. I couldn’t believe this was done. It was a beautiful moment, and as I was wheeled to the recovery room, I couldn’t help but envision the start of a new chapter. Motherhood was right here. It was beautiful to hold him in my hands, his then-light skin (he has since plastered enough dust on his face and turned to mocha brown) creating a sharp contrast with my dark ebony glowing post-pregnancy skin. His tiny hands, his hair, his eyes… everything about him was beautiful.

Sitting barely able to sit in the recovery ward, and I envisioned how perfect my imperfect life would be. The next day I got home (it was a normal delivery) and the reality of motherhood sunk. See, you just can’t wake up and decide you putting been a mom on hold. You remain one to the end.

The thing which I perhaps overlooked was the change of sleeping patterns. One day you are barely able to sleep because the elephantine belly has a life of its own nudging your bladder and giving your stomach a hi-5; the next day you can’t sleep because baby deems it fit to sleep during the day and stare blankly in the dead of the night.

My son, in his first month or so, slept at intervals of 15 minutes. 15 freaking minutes, he is snoring, the next two hours he is awake, only to sleep for another half hour. I figured I might as well sit on the couch, I’d never sleep at that rate. Only then did I learn that sleep deprivation has the subtle capacity to make one go nuts, least of all a new mom.

He’d cry a lot ( I was stressed during my pregnancy, in retrospect, it may have affected his first few weeks of life), and many times, I’d cry with him, out of frustration, out of anger, out of just-what-the-hell-is-this? Aren’t-moms-meant-to-get=their-act-together? Those bouts of tears, hot tears that create a lump in the throat, the kind of tears that make you choke… those tears. Many times I did not know what to do when I’d burped him, changed his diaper, breastfed him, yet he would still cry incessantly.

This bit brings tears to my eyes. One particular instance is etched in my memory. As was with many days, the memories of my son’s first few weeks are hazy, like peering through sea water with your eyes open and you can’t quite see clearly… He’d cried for hours on end. I was home alone, I changed his diaper and fed him. Then burped him and rubbed his tummy. And he just wouldn’t stopped crying. I rocked him, God, I rocked him for hours, and nothing changed.

I could feel that all-so-familiar bitterness and frustration welling inside my heart. It shot from the deepest part of my heart, right through to my tear ducts. And the torrential tears came down, landing on my son’s shawl. This angst I couldn’t bear. I looked at him, no, he didn’t deserve a (bad) mommy like me who couldn’t get her stuff together. He deserved better, but why couldn’t I just be that mom? I was trying so hard but these bouts of incessant shrill sharp cries were driving me crazy. I knew I needed help, I just didn’t know what this ugly dark, dreary, desolate phase was (later learnt it was PostPartum Depression, PPD).

I took off his shawl, stared at him in the face, shouted something I can’t remember, and beat him. At five months. His fragile diapered bottom bore the brunt of my frustrations. No one could understand me, what I was going through, the bitterness, the anger, the frustration. The more I beat him, the more he cried, the more I cried. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I closed my eyes for a moment. In that moment, I walked to the kitchen. The knife on the window sill glistened in the mid-morning sun. My son’s cucu had sharpened it a few days ago. It would be ideal, quick, and it would end this silent torment. I picked it and walked to my son, still swaddled in the beautiful shawl grandma had bought for him. This would be real fast, I’d slide it into his fragile 3-week old back. I could feel blood in my hands, fresh, warm and scarlet. But how’d i live with my actions? I wouldn’t live, suicide would be the answer. I opened my eyes, and in that moment, I knew I wanted life to be over, for both of us.

***

My son is now 5, and I count myself blessed, because when I was on the edge, my fam’s presence and support (unknowingly) kept me hanging on. That, coupled with a vibrant online community of warrior moms who had made it through and ultimately, God’s grace (even when I couldn’t see it or feel it) kept me. It is why I am passionate about PPD, so that if by been vocal one mommy out there can know they are never alone, then let me talk about it. Grateful for now, for healing, for the miracle that my son is in my life.

PS: This post was inspired by the need to create awareness about PPD and suicide. So much stigma is associated with people who have had suicidal thoughts/ those who have died from suicide. It is time we stopped the stigma, one post at a time. My good friend Kimberly Zapata shares her journey too at Sunshine Spoils Milk. Yall should also check out Sitawa Wafula’s work too on #openspaces this weekend at the Sondeka Festival.

556493_10150722502674777_996318998_n

 

Save

Day 9 – How bad do you want it?

This is Day 9 of my 30-day writing challenge.While this blog largely talks about Postpartum Depression and Motherhood, it will also contain my reflections on different facets of life, my 2cents if you will. Lately, it’s been bothering me when I complain about stuff that is not going right in my life, or whine about things I have no control over. I gathered my thoughts and penned this brief piece.

* * *

Quite often we complain about the things in our lives that are not working- dysfunctional relationships, jobs that do not pay well, weight issues, feeling overwhelmed…among many others. While this is not to downplay the fact that these are real issues, sometimes all that is needed is an attitude adjustment if we are to make a move from the very issues that try to pull us down. Everything that you see today began in the mind, if you can realign your thinking, you can be able to start making a move towards what you want to see in your life. Enough with the complaining, what are you doing about it?

Trouble they say, is the flavor of life. It is almost impossible to think of having a trouble-free life, yet it is amazing how the same issues have the capacity to weigh us down. One of my life principles is not to worry. Yes, not to worry. That does not mean that I do not plan or strategize- it just means that I ask myself whether it is worth worrying about. This is essentially because there are two fundamental questions I ask myself when I am at cross roads- if I can do something about it, why worry? If I cannot do something about it, why worry? See, worry is an energy sapping emotion that will not get you anywhere.

I purposed to change my attitude to the issues I face by asking myself what I can do about them. At times, the most you can do is sit still and think it through. It may take days, weeks even months before a solution is forthcoming. The key thing is to look through the maze and see whether you can find a solution. What can you do about that friendship that is not adding value to your life? How about that relationship that is not headed anywhere? That job that you keep whining about Monday to Monday, what can you possibly change about it? How do you find balance in a world that is increasingly spinning faster and faster? Is it out of reach? Is it too far-fetched? I believe this is not the case.

If you want something so bad, you will find a way to go around it. I made a conscious decision to do what I can about my life, the best way I know how. Tired of complaining, I am changing my attitude. I am going to do what I can, I will intentionally make time for my son, seizing each day as it comes, I will look for that job, I will update my CV, I will fix the relationships that need fixing and let go of those that do not add value to my life. I will work out for that bum to firm up, I will start looking out for what I have and be grateful for the intangible things that add value to my life. I will start today. So, just how bad do you want it? Do something about it!!

2015-07-10 00.26.04
Manyatta Living 🙂

Day 8 – 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

This is Day 8 of my 30-day writing challenge. I am loving it thus far because apart from staying accountable (having declared it publicly in this post), it also causes me to reflect on nuggets of wisdom I may have missed out in my Postpartum Depression Journey.

When I was pregnant, apart from the constant cake craving I had ( I ate cake for 7 days straight up till labour commenced), one of the things that’d nag at the back of my mind was the anxiety of bringing a child into this world. Granted, I had helped babysit a couple of my cousins, but apart from that, there was not much I could relate to. How do you fasten the diapers? What do you do when you suspect they have a bad stomach? Pray, tell, how will I cope with co-sleeping? Won’t I roll over the baby if I dozed off? And on and on my questions rolled.

Read More: 4 tips that helped me choose a school for my toddler

So, I read as much as I could on mom blogs, websites, magazines… whatever I could get my hands on. When the contractions began one fine Monday evening, it dawned on me that nothing could have prepared me better for motherhood, except, well, motherhood. Here are the 10 things I’d tell my pregnant self.

  1. Stop wasting your time organizing and picking at every little thing in the house.

I remember cleaning, scrubbing, dusting, wiping every surface. You know, because babies can look you in the eye and tell you it is dusty. All this cleaning, even when I felt 59 months pregnant and I couldn’t see my toes. Spend time relaxing and resting instead because for the next year or so, it is gonna be a marathon. Plus, once baby starts to crawl, organization starts to feel foreign.

  1. Enjoy you-time.

Fall in love with been alone, spending time in solitude. Shopping alone. Going to the park for reflective walks alone. Using the bathroom, alone. In less than 12 months’ time, you will not be able to do much of these without a little mammal trying to keep you company in the bathroom, and at the park, you are gonna have to run after said mammal 🙂

  1. NEVER question the mom whose kid is throwing tantrums at in the supermarket.

Stop rolling your eyes at her inability to stop the wrecking ball that is her toddler. Stop wondering aloud which kind of mom does not discipline her children. Because, this is a stage. As you will learn soon too, you cannot afford to cave in to Little One’s (LO) demand whenever they kick up a storm ‘cuz you didn’t put Kitkat and Lyons Icecream in the shopping trolley. Part of motherhood is gentle but firm decisions, and ignoring quizzical bystanders like you is part of that too.

  1. Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks.

It may look natural, but trust me it is not. The first few days before you get your footing are the hardest, physically and emotionally. You need to learn to help baby latch well. For Christ’s sake, use nipple cream to ease the pain. Nothing is more painful than suckling baby through sore, painful, dried scabbed nipples.

  1. Drop the superwoman ATT

You heard me right. Babies require attention, and you will get exhausted every so often. Don’t try to do it all on your own. If someone offers to help, snap the offer and run! If they offer to watch baby for a couple of hours, don’t reject the offer. Thank me later.

  1. Take time every so often to steal away for you (and your partner).

Before baby is born, you have all the time to schedule and follow your plan. Babies have this innate ability to turn your schedules upside down. Whenever possible, take some time off to rest and rejuvenate. It doesn’t have to be a whole day; even two hours will refresh you. Whether it is a spa session, or a hike outdoors, or a trip to the farm, whatever rocks your boat. Do not ignore your partner either, get activities to enjoy together.

Read More: Letter to a new mom

  1. You may not be able to bond with baby immediately.

Many moms-to-be will relate to the assumption that the moment baby is born there is an instant bond. For many, this is true, but not for all. Whether due to the events surrounding child labour, or the circumstances of delivery, or the trauma of the whole experience, some moms do not form that immediate attachment. And it is okay to give yourself time to appreciate the lifetime changes that have taken place.

  1. If situations transcend beyond just ‘not bonding with baby’, get help.

Get help because this could be indicative that you suffer from PPD. When you cannot connect and love on your child for prolonged periods, or are angry/bitter at been a mom, you may need to get help. Postpartum blues are common, and these do not usually last more than a few weeks. When they do, seek help. Read some of the symptoms of PPD here.

  1. Don’t dwell too much on the EDD (Expected Due Date)

Babies have a way of taking their sweet time as the EDD approaches. Don’t fuss too much over this (as much as you feel like a pregnant jumbo elephant with absolutely no way of shaving your lady parts :D). Just savor the moment when you can enjoy the kicks while they last. Soon, you will be dodging the kicks of a toddler who has the energy of combined nuclear plants!

  1. Children will grow, eventually.

Do not despair at the lack of sleep, incessant crying, intolerance to different ingredients and a temper shorter than the memory of a goldfish. It does not last forever. They do grow up, they morph into intelligent little human beings, in 3 years, you will be amazed that you can hold a conversation with them. You will be intrigued by the things that pique their interests! Learn to enjoy the different stages, snap the milestones, live in the present!

Do you relate to any of the ten things? What would you have told your pregnant self? Anything hilarious thing you thought pre-baby that would make you slap yourself in the face with an ice cream cone? Looking forward to hear your thoughts 🙂

That said, I feel like eating cake, and ice cream. Below is one of my fave pregnancy shoot photos, courtesy of Peter Cacah

409678_10150491006254777_113451579_n

Featured Image Photo credits: ColourBox

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.

IMG_7120

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