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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Tantrums, and how to deal

As I wrote in my last post which you can read here, there are tons of lessons I continue to pick from my therapy sessions. I am grateful I have been able to pull through the haze that Postpartum Depression is. I realize that the road to recovery is long and winding, and there are many things to learn and many more to unlearn. I did mention that for me, anger and intrusive thoughts were the most intense struggles when I was deep in PPD. I have blogged about this extensively too…and so for that reason, the two entities have been at the forefront of my therapy sessions.

This is the second installment of takeaway lessons from session II when my therapist and I sought to unearth the real issues masked by anger. In the last post, I touched on dealing with my expectations, letting the child be and the anger curve. In today’s post, I will look at 3 more pointers that continue to help me on the road to PPD recovery. Hopefully, this will help another mom as well.

  • Tantrums are a normal part of childhood. Let me write that again for emphasis purposes, and so that you can also read it again: TANTRUMS ARE A NORMAL PART OF CHILDHOOD. The moment you understand that, you are better placed to respond, not react (I am preaching to myself too) By definition, a tantrum refers to a sudden emotional meltdown in kids and is typically associated with whines, tears, screaming, defiance and stubbornness.

Read More: #SnapshotsforSanity

One minute your little one is enjoying cartoon, the next they are screaming their lungs out because the cartoon didn’t do something/cartoon ended/ cartoon slept.. you get the drift. According to this study, at the heart of the tantrums is your child’s inability to express themselves coherently. It is worsened by the fact that the child understands a lot more of what they hear, yet their language is still so limited. Pause and think about how frustrating it is. It is this inability to express their feelings that births tantrums. They are in fact, very very normal. Write it down and post it above your bed if you must. You are not poor at parenting; your little one is just growing as they should.

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Tantrums can be very frustrating

  • The next thing therefore would be, just how do you handle a tantrum?> What do you do in the midst of ear-piercing screams complete with body contortions? Instinctively, the first response would be to join in the scream fest, telling the little child to stop it. It is a very frustrating moment, yet, instead of looking at tantrums as an apocalypse (even though your house may seem like it just happened), you can start to see tantrums as opportune moments for discipline and education.

It is very tempting to storm out of the house to escape a tantrum, but this has the opposite of the intended effect – your child ends up feeling abandoned ( I am guilty as charged of this one. I would lock him up in my bedroom and leave him to his devices – long lessons I tell you). My therapist let me know that the magnitude of the tantrum emotions can actually be scary for a child, hence the need for them to know that you are around.

Read More: Shouting at my son and 4 tips that helped me

Secondly, keep calm and know that your child is growing normally (there should be a meme for this, no?). I realized, deep in PPD that the more I shouted in response to tantrums, the wilder my son became, and so we met at the infamous intersection of emotional meltdown and anger – not a pretty sight, so much so that my mom once asked me, who between the two of us was the child seeing as I was shouting just as much :O.

My therapist advised I needed to learn to approach him in a gentle spirit (hard as it is, it does quell the raging emotional storm to some extent), and embrace him (my eyes almost popped out y’all. Embrace a tantrum-er when I was boiling inside?) While this may not work immediately, it sure does make for a better reaction than yelling.

  • That said, she did mention it was imperative not to yield to unreasonable demands by a screaming child. This is oh-so difficult especially in public spaces (I’m referring to that child who lays prostate in the mall because mom didn’t get skittles :D), but agreeing to their demands teaches him/her that a fit is the way to get things done in future, and who are we really helping in that case?
  • Once the tantrum has subsided, she advised me to take time to talk it out with him, something I almost never used to do! I’d just shut off till the next day (It has been a mighty long road, heh!) Hug and talk to him, acknowledging his frustrations, but making it clear throwing a fit is not the way to express himself.

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  • Lastly, avoid situations that trigger a tantrum. Simply put, tantrums are more likely when your child is a) tired b) sleep-deprived c) hungry. Carry a snack if you are on the go and allow your child to rest before starting your errands (when possible). In addition, know that your child is growing and starting to get a little independent. It helps to give choices from time to time. For instance, “Would you like to watch cartoon first or change your clothes (after school?)” It gives them a sense of control and gives you better feedback.

When all else fails, wine!, be easy on yourself and try it out again tomorrow.

NOTE: I do realize that for moms suffering from Postpartum Depression, tantrums may seem insurmountable. It is easy to feel defeated, suffocated even by what is considered normal child milestones. Do not feel ashamed to ask for help. Take one day at a time, sometimes even one hour at a time. This too shall pass. There is hope.

What are some of the ways you have dealt with tantrums before? How do you handle the whirlwind emotions that you may feel? Let’s chat in the comment box below.

Just a few reminders:

  1. If you think you suffer from PPD, or know someone who does, do not be afraid to ask for help. PPD is a mental health condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Please email me at ppdisland@gmail.com for details or if you need someone to talk to.
  2. I finally decided to take the plunge and do my #littlething as far as reaching out and creating PPD awareness online is concerned. If you are on Twitter, please take a minute and check out @PPDKenya as well as #PPDKenya and if it is not too much to ask, share on your networks. Many thanks.
  3. You may also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Takeaway Lessons from Session II

In the second installment of this series of posts (Read the first one here)reflecting my experience during my therapy sessions, I share some of the key pointers my therapist shared with me, and how they are interspersed with my postpartum depression journey. During the second session, my therapist opted to help me deal with my anger, especially towards my son as this was the most prevalent symptoms of my PPD journey. I have written more about this here and here. The second reason for this was so that as the sessions went by, I’d be able to track my progress and journal the same for posterity sake.

Over the many days I struggled with anger, I had started to notice a pattern which I aptly called the ‘anger curve’ – a term I coined because that is what it felt like. The curve typically had 4 key sections: ‘warning signs’, momentum, peak and the dip. The part of the curve that I called the ‘warning signs’ was just that: the cloud before the storm. For Jay, it was typically jumping up and down like a Maasai moran, rolling on the ground and often a cascade of shrill screams. He also had this upward quirk of his mouth that just made me know, and anticipate an emotional storm in every sense of the word.

Read More: Angst

The curve gained momentum because the intensity of all the warning signs aforementioned just escalated. These included sharper screams, vigorous rolling and faster jumps. Occasionally, there were spits (Yes I know, spit-in-my-face and for a moment, I’d often reconsider whose child this was) and punches. At the peak of the curve was that moment when all these theatrics simply melted into a raging unstoppable toddler, and a mom for whom the inability to calm her son simply created the perfect setting for a meltdown. At the end of the curve was a remorseful and apologetic toddler, all spent, exhausted and weepy. At the end of the same curve was a guilt-filled teary mom.

My therapist listened to me keenly, and when I was done offered a number of pointers that’d help me deal with the anger towards my son, then have us look at the source of the intense anger in the next session.

  • The first thing she said was that it was important to realize that while childhood memories as far back as 5 months (when my anger episodes were far more frequent, irrational and uncontrolled) may not be stored on a child’s brain, now I had the chance to create fresh memories. Simply put, kids, for the most part, do not remember details of their past up until about 3 years, after which, their brain starts to retain events.
  • Secondly, as pertains the ‘anger curve’, she mentioned the fact that I needed to find a slot where I could step in and halt the progress. Ideally, it is best to do this at the onset, what I called the ‘warning signs’. When all the jumping and rolling sets in, she advised me to take him to a place where he’d be able to do that without injuring himself in a bid to create a lag within the curve. This also serves to distract him from the issue at hand.

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It also provides me with a chance to breathe in, count to 10 and let some of the tension dissipate. Getting this breather prevents irrational reaction, and allows a moment of clarity for a better response.

Read More: What is Postpartum Depression?

  • Sometimes, stepping in works; it should. But it does not always work, which is why she advised me to try as much as I could to set ground rules when he was calm and exuberant. This also helps him view the rules as something positive, and not always mentioned when things went downhill.
  • The third thing which she said, and which hit me like a ton of bricks, was the fact that I needed to manage my expectations. “You expect a 4 year toddler to behave like you, that is the problem Samoina.” Whew, I looked back on all the meltdowns I could recall vividly and saw her point. I expected non-messy potty training sessions. I expected him to sit through social functions and stay clean (hellooo, he is an energetic boy- expect cuts, bruises, climbs and torn jeans!) And what this did is that it simply created a viable environment for a proper tantrum. Let your child be a child within reasonable boundaries, she said. ** This I had to write in my journal, profoundly deep**

In the next post, I will share the other three pointers that have helped me thus far in dealing with my anger towards my child during and after PPD, as well as document the help I continue to get from the therapy sessions. If anyone is interested, I attend psychotherapy sessions at Royal Fountain Counseling Services.

Just a few more things:

  1. If you think you suffer from PPD, or know someone who does, do not be afraid to ask for help. PPD is a mental health condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Please email me at ppdisland@gmail.com for details or if you need someone to talk to.
  2. I finally decided to take the plunge and do my #littlething as far as reaching out and creating PPD awareness online is concerned. If you are on Twitter, please take a minute and check out @PPDKenya as well as #PPDKenya and if it is not too much to ask, share on your networks. Many thanks J
  3. You may also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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It is never too late.

For many months after my son’s birth, and subsequently the Postpartum Depression (PPD) that ensued, I have struggled to come to terms with the effects of my condition on my little one. Many times I have been asked, so how did you deal with it? Was there a support group? Did you seek professional help? And this is how I go about answering those questions.

  • How did I deal with it? I fumbled my way, grappled in the gloom and dark that depression presents, taking steps. Sometimes I took 5 steps forward and 20 backwards when PPD reared its ugly head. On some days, just the realization that depression was a condition like any other is what kept me going. A day, sometimes an hour at a time.
  • There was no support group, at least not that I know of presently in Kenya. And so the support structures for me, came in the form of family and very close friends, even when they had no inkling why my days were filled with sadness ‘when moms ought to be enjoying the new season’.
  • I sought help online and mentioned it in this post, because it is what worked for me then. There is such a thing as Internet Cognitive Behavior Therapy for those with PPD. Just as the name suggests, this form of therapy involves taking up online treatment options that are adapted for moms with PPD. You can read more on this here.
  • Here’s the thing. I was just about 23 years then and a jobless single parent finding my way around this thing called motherhood. I had saved up some money in the months leading up to my son’s birth, but you know how babies seemingly gobble up diapers, and how there are no free clinics? Yes. This meant that right at the bottom of my priorities was seeking help if I had to pay for it with money I did not have.

Read More: Scary Anger

That said, I knew that the blinding rage, the bubbling fury and the intrusive thoughts I often had were not merely superficial. The saddest bit, and anyone who has had PPD will relate, is that all these intense emotions are often directed at the child. The thoughts of hurling my LO downstairs were not far apart, there was always the lingering thought of ‘getting done and over’ with motherhood as well as the tears that soaked my pillow. The beatings that accompanied the potty training sessions, and tantrums, and the yelling….

All these things kept me up on many nights. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew I would seek professional help later in my journey. I was especially keen on knowing the effect PPD had/ would have on my son. I just didn’t know it would happen sooner, thanks to the gift of a lovely friend I met over at Bible Study.

This August, my little and I started seen a psychologist/therapist in light of my thoughts above. This is the first of posts that I will be blogging about on what I have learned, the progress we have made with my little and overall, insights that will helps better parenting skills. It is a journey I am really looking forward to, because it is never too late to get help.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the comment box below. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

3 Reasons I was an angry mom

Anger has long been a struggle for me, partly Postpartum Depression, and in part, verbal diarrhea when emotions run high. Recently a text from L (For those who do not know, L is she whose fantastic baby shower we attended last year, and always a reminder of the power of friendships; read it here) came through, and took me down memory lane; To days when emotions and depression were an amalgam that made life a tunnel with elusive light. In her text, she made mention of bonding with J, my son. Hugs, and cuddles, and kisses, and so much warmth.

In retrospect, it was not always like this. J is 4.5 years now, and for the better part of 3 years I was a bitter, angry mom. Anger, for moms with PPD takes such a hold on your life. It feels like a choke-hold position by unimaginable forces. It is intense. It is irrational, and it saps the very joy of motherhood, stripping one right to their most vulnerability, and smirk in the midst of the shell-like condition. Now, I am grateful for having come to this point, a point where I cherish the moments, a point of healing from PPD. Looking back, there were a few reasons why I was an angry mom. Read on.

  1. Expecting too much from my LO given his age.

This was, undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons why I was always snappy:  expecting perfection great manners from a toddler who barely knew how to talk. My mom reiterated the fact that kids would only behave their age, at least up to a certain point. For instance, at 1 year, having weaned him well, I subconsciously expected him to feed without a mess.

Yet, now I cringe when I think of my expectations. Granted, such expectations are fodder for anger.  My point, do expect your LO to make a mess when it is their first potty training session. Expect them to feed with their legs in the air when you wean them. Expect them to chew on stuff when they start teething. And when they get to 3, expect that silence means mischief, and take it in stride.

Read more: Shouting at my son, and 4 tips that helped me.

  1. Projecting my stress onto him

So, the client rejected his order, or there was an 8-hour blackout when I had an urgent order, or it was simply just one of those difficult days living in the haze of PPD. All these scenarios had a common denominator; in my personal disappointment, J was, sadly, the recipient of my outbursts. It was worse if he was having a cranky day. It meant (usually) 2 crying persons at home.

Having realized this tendency over a period of time, I set out to compartmentalize thoughts especially when having a rough day. Journaling has been of immense help for the simple reason that it helps me sort out my thoughts (ie, is it that I am angry at J for spilling milk accidentally, or am I mentally fatigued from the day’s events?) In line with this, writing a daily gratitude list helps put things in perspective (ie, this may be a heated moment, but I am grateful my son is healthy, going to school, has a supportive family…)

  1. Lack of self-care

Post-PPD, one of the most precious things for me is self-care. Just as the name suggests, this is all about caring for ME. Without this self-care, I feel like I am mechanically getting through my days, burnout and all. When I do not intentionally carve out time for myself (especially because I work from home), I get irritable because I feel like I have depleted my resources and I am running on empty.

Today, I guard my space, indulge in self-care (always baby-free) – whether it is a relaxing pedicure session, catching up on my favorite reads on a warm musty afternoon or simply making my best dishes using choice recipes (on that note, yall head over to Cooking with Jazz for simple delicious meals with a Kenyan touch). More recently, I am aware that my devotions play an integral role in my life. Spending time with God makes me less prone to irrationality, more intentional and overall realizing that in the grand scheme of things, I am steward of my son, not an owner.

Read more: 6 simple ways I bond with my son

These 3 were the major reasons I was an angry mom. I am slowly getting out of that debilitating angst that characterizes PPD, all the while seizing the precious moments before they fade away. Do you relate to any of the 3 reasons? How are you working around it? Let’s chat in the comment box below. I look forward to hearing from you.

PS: I wrote in detail about Scary Anger over at Butterfly mom’s blog, and you can read it here.

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Scary Anger.

Rage, Anger, Simmering fury, Bubbling ire

These are the words that come to mind whenever I think about the kind of anger and resentment I felt when I had Postpartum Depression. Before I was aware of the specific name given to my then-condition, I wondered to myself why, in my parenting, I was always angry, always furious, always seething at something. When my son was a few weeks old, I thought it would pass, I kept telling myself it was as a result of the sleep deprivation.

In my mind, once he settled into a sleeping pattern, the anger would ease. But it did not, and Oh God, he took maaaaany months to settle into a pattern (one of the effects that PPD had on my son 🙁 ). No one starts on their parenting journey anticipating failure, and that’s just what PPD does to you: makes you feel like you failed at this parenting thing, like you cannot get anything right. This very thought would set a cascade of events that would make me quiver with fury.

The rage never did tone down. If anything, it went a notch higher. I knew there was something terribly wrong with me (my emotional and mental state) the day I slapped his fragile tiny body for ‘crying too much’. In retrospect, this was deep in the pits of depression. It was a frustration words do not quite capture. So in exhaustion, after the incident, the waves of guilt came flooding my weary heart. And I could not stop the tears either. This irked me, because if there’s anger that’s as frustrating as it is tiresome, it is anger at yourself. So there I was, feeling helpless, frustrated… and the unrelenting anger.

Some scenarios that would paint the dark hole that the anger was:

Irrational

You cry the whole freaking night, and I am gonna get angry at you, child. Can’t you just sleep once, one freaking night? I mean, what’s the point of crying because you are sleepy instead of just sleeping? *cue sleep deprivation* If you cry one more time, I swear, just one more time, I am going to beat you, because you cannot sleep. Irrational, but the thing is, when you are smirk in the middle of the darkness that depression is, those are the lenses that you use to view life…

Uncontrolled

I got angry at the ‘flimsiest’ reasons, but you bet they were not flimsy then. And when anger reared its ugly head within the four walls, I threw anything my hands landed on. And many times I prayed that ‘thing’ would not be my six month baby. Uncontrollable does not begin to describe this grip that anger had on me.

Read More: I have to remind myself it is not a relapse

Everything made me angry, eeee-v- e-r- y-t- h-i- n-g!

  • I hated the fact that day was followed my night, simply because it meant the mask would come off and I would cry into my pillow for hours, my son nursing notwithstanding.
  • I hated changing diapers 2 milliseconds after changing it (and at the same time wondering where the money would come from seeing as I was jobless at the time)
  • The sight of dirty dishes made me angry.
  • The statement ‘I understand what you feel’ from anyone who had never got depression irked me.
  • The way my life seemed to have stopped, and the world continued spinning.
  • The fact that suicidal thoughts felt like a calm place, yet I couldn’t fight the fear of it.
  • I got angry at the way dogs barked at night, never mind I couldn’t get any sleep.
  • I hated it when my shoes pinched…

I was angry at everything.

It was a remarkably horrible feeling. I felt pathetic on the inside, and it showed on the outside effortlessly. Now that I have healed from PPD, I look back and realize the sheer number of horrific intrusive thoughts I got, the irrational things I did (and said to an infant) in utter frustration and I realize that anger is the least-talked about, and the most-frowned on –albeit subconsciously- symptom of Postpartum depression.

Which is why, while I cringe and tear at these sad memories, I would like to let any moms suffering from PPD out there that the deep-seated anger is part of the condition, and that you are not alone in this. You are not a bad parent for been an ‘unlucky person’ to suffer from depression right after your little bundle arrived. And there’s help. It can get better, It does get better. There is hope – when you make the decision to ask for help.

Asking for help, especially when you do not have an inkling of where the anger stems from is a daunting task. Yet, as much as it glares at you, it is one of the most liberating things any parent would have to do. I sought help online, because heck I did not have any money to go see a medical practitioner. Finding Postpartum Progress was my first step to healing. What an amazing online community of warrior moms who showed me there was hope.

It can get better, it does get better. You are not alone in this.

***

This post first appeared on The Butterfly Mother in her series, The Mountain – Our Parenting Challenges

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Day 23 – Stages of Postpartum Depression

This is Day 22 of the 30 day writing challenge. This challenge has forced me to look inwards and reflect on the journey that has been. Looking through the archives, I came across a post on Postpartum Progress, one of my top five favorite blogs mentioned in this post. The content on this site was both relatable and resourceful, something which kept me going at a time when motherhood was both frustrating and overwhelming.

In the post, the author likens recovery of Postpartum Depression (PPD) to a journey of healing after the loss of a loved one. The thing about PPD is that you can’t just take medication and expect it to die down after a fortnight. The process starts from recognizing the condition to seeking help and finally recovery, all of which can take up to a couple of years.

For those with friends and loved ones who have suffered from PPD, it may help to look at this mental health condition through the ‘5 distinct stages of grieving’, namely Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Originally developed for people with terminal diseases, the system was later made to include the stages for any significant loss, and PPD is one such loss.

The Six Stages of my PPD Journey

Denial – Motherhood has taken a toll on me, I can’t believe this is what it is like. I need sleep for my sanity, I just can’t seem to get any rest. I will be okay. It will improve as baby gets older.

Anger – No one seems to relate to what I am going through. What did I get myself into? Life is not fair. I struggle as a single parent, he is probably enjoying a Manchester United Game at a pub, totally oblivious to how much goes into raising a boy single-handedly. What the hell is wrong with me? This is meant to be a joyous occurrence; it just isn’t, and I can’t seem to help myself or my baby. 🙁

Bargaining – Maybe if I get more sleep it will ease. Or perhaps I need to exercise and get rid of this sagging post-pregnancy belly. I can’t wait for the day baby sleeps through the night, I will be much better. Or perhaps if I shared this with another mom it will ease the burden. I just need to improve on my motherhood style.

Depression – This is not working out. I am not good enough a mom, seems like I am a let-down to everyone. My son does not deserve a mom like me; he deserves so much better, someone who will love him for the innocent child he is. It’s very bleak, I have no hopes it will get better. Maybe suicide is the solution, this is unbearable.

Acceptance – I don’t have the courage to live a lie anymore. I must accept help. It is okay to admit I am not okay. It is okay to be an imperfect mom. It is okay to look for support groups for moms who have conquered PPD. I will trudge on for my sake and my baby’s.

While these are the 5 notable stages of Grief, and can be related to PPD, there is a unique stage that comes after treatment and recovery. Think of it as the place where doubtful thoughts plague your mind, always on the lookout for triggers that make it easy to slip back into depression. This stage is characterized by good days and bad days; with the latter, it’s typical to feel like strength is wavering. You are unsure whether you will ever recover fully, yet on the good days, you experience the thrill and joy of motherhood.

Once this stage is over, there’s total healing. You know deep down that you are doing an amazing job as a mom, only that it was made foggy by the haze of PPD.

NB: The journey with PPD, as with any other mental condition, is as personal as it gets. As such, it ought not be hurried, or compared to another’s. Moms with PPD, hang in there. I cannot promise it will get better in a day, or a week. But you cannot afford to give up on you. You are not alone in this, I have survived PPD, you too can.

Featured Image Photo credits: RC Psyche

Day 17 – 3 Lessons Learnt During Healing after Postpartum Depression

Two years ago, if anyone told me there’s light at the end of the tunnel that Postpartum Depression (PPD) is, I’d probably stare at them, and laugh hysterically, caustic sarcasm and all. The truth is, there isn’t a single formula for coursing through the treacherous path that depression is. It is not a one-size fits all, and for this reason, healing varies from one parent to another. I am extremely grateful for this space now, this place of healing as the fog of PPD slowly lifts.

Healing, I am learning, is a journey, not a destination. You don’t just wake up and voila! You are a-okay. It is many days of holding on, trudging, many times with weariness and loneliness for companionship. It is days of lapses, when, just as you are thinking the haze is lifting slowly, you are knocked over by triggers that threaten to suffocate any nuances or implications of healing. During these lapses, I’d slump into implacable sadness, and the guilt would wash over my heart like the ocean waves over the beach at dusk. Then, the cascade of thoughts about ‘bad mommy’ ‘you are never going to hack this’ look, you are failing at been a good mom (Read this post on feeling like I am not good enough a mom)’… the cacophony of noise from this derailed mental train of thoughts would send me into a frenzy, and it’d then feel like making three steps forward, and thirty backwards.

Sometime this week, my uncle, after reading this post, asked whether my son still shouts. I replied that he doesn’t, and pleased, he replied that my son had become a good boy. I mulled over this for a while, and it dawned me, he was always a ‘good boy’; just that mom was depressed, and he only acted what he saw me do, which was shout like a crazed woman. Against this background, I started to think of the lessons I had learnt during healing after PPD, and I’d like to share them with you. In no particular order:

1) Monkey See, Monkey Do

This phrase best captures my conversation with my uncle. Kids do not learn from what we say; they learn from what we do. My son saw me flip when I was angry, he learnt that shouting is the way to go when stuff doesn’t go his way. Why? But mommy does it. More critically, kids in the toddler stage are in the formation stage, the moulding stage if you will. They absorb what they see and hear in their immediate environment like a sponge, which is why it is important to model the right stuff.

For parents with PPD, this is not as easy as it sounds on here. Under the haze that PPD is, you feel like you are losing control, spiraling downwards very fast. If you recognize yourself with any of these symptoms, you might need to seek help. Confide in someone, get someone to watch your baby when you feel overwhelmed, ultimately, seek help from a medical doctor since this is a mental health condition just like any other.

2) Kids are very perceptive.

When things feel like they are getting out of hand, kids are able to perceive this, even when they cannot tell exactly what’s going on. For parents with PPD, this is often, which is why medical professionals assert that depressed parents are predisposed to raising stressed kids. My son had gotten to a point where he could smell trouble coming, even when he did something that was typical of kids his age. He’d freeze, remain motionless, terror written all over his face just before the lashing would begin 🙁

It is hard to undo the damage done thanks to the monster that PPD is, but I learnt and continue to learn that each present moment is a good place to start afresh. To appreciate that I might have lapses and all, yet holding on in the healing journey is not always easy. Living in the present, embracing moments, because they are fleeting in their very nature.

3) It is important to spend quality time with kids.

Time flies, quite literally. To think just 3 ½ years ago I was holding him, just a little over 15 lbs, and now he is running all over the place, asking when Obama’s jet will land in Kenya again, and why his boobs are tinier than mine….

The point is, there’s only so much time to spend with the kids at any particular stage. PPD has the uncanny ability to steal these moments, leaving moms and dads frazzled, grasping with the reality that moments and opportunities to bond are lost. Healing is teaching me to enjoy these moments, to enjoy quality time, to find balance in the crazed days, to savor the thrill of bedtime reading and cuddles, and never to beat myself for a past that is gone.

Samaina
<3

Featured Image photo credits: Patricia Esteve

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Day 12 – Shouting at my son, and 4 tips that helped me.

This is Day 12 of my 30-day writing challenge, almost half way there. It amazes me sometimes how much simple things like a commitment to 30 days of XYZ can alter our lives for the better! 🙂

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Today’s post was inspired by an incident sometime mid last week. Apart from been a WAHM (Work at Home Mom, or at the hotel, or on the move, wherever really), I get to write, articles for web content, academic papers, and lately, a good chunk of my time has been directed to getting this blog up and running. So, on this particular day that spurred this blog, I called a client to follow up on dues, late dues, like work-done-in-July late. Using my safaricom line, and realizing that his line was ‘busy’ almost every other day. I switched lines and when he picked, he didn’t immediately realize it was I (of course). So I introduced myself, and it was as though that was the cue for his verbal diarrhea.

Guy launched into a tirade of how my ‘small’ money was not worth bugging him about, how he wished I hadn’t got his number, how he had better things to think about… All along I am wondering to myself what’s going on with him exactly, so I pause and request him to stop shouting because sense does not get amplified that way anyway. Starting to feel agitated now, so I let him know I wouldn’t be a vending pit, and that he’d have to channel his negative energy elsewhere… you gotta pay up, gotta have integrity in the ‘small’ things. He was annoyed, from the way he blabbed incomprehensible words before hanging up.

For a second I felt weird, strange a little out of place. You will realize why. One of the biggest challenges I had during my Postpartum Depression (PPD) Journey, and even during healing, was the shouting and anger that characterized my dialogue on a daily basis. When I got frustrated/felt overwhelmed, I’d feel helpless, and this would launch my shouting antics, at my son, as young as he was. I’d shout at him, roughing him up for things that kids would normally do at his stage. Depression meant that these ‘normal’ stages and milestones were a little harder for me.

My shouting at a vulnerable harmless child was camouflage for a weary soul, an overwhelmed mom, a mom fighting depression but living a masked life. In retrospect, shouting was simply to cover up my powerlessness in parenting. Once I was neck up high in my shouting contests when my mom appeared and enquired what the matter was. I broke down because I knew I shouldn’t be shouting at my son, but just couldn’t stop. The question that drove the message home was when she asked, if a stranger came in and listened to the shouts, whether they’d be able to differentiate mom and child.

That subtle remark tore me apart, it was true. There was no difference between how I acted and how my son manifested the same. My capricious words, mom said, would damage him emotionally, and change who he was at heart. My shouting would slowly but surely transcend any efforts to raise a stable child. Proverbs 15: 1 comes to mind:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.

The wise one wrote that a gentle answer defuses anger, but a harsh word stirs up anger. How’d I expect to raise a calm son when all I did was rile up his anger with my words? This has been a slow (sometimes painful) lesson for me. Even when my lil man has made a mistake, I need not shout at him. It only raises his defences and squashes any hope for finding grace together. These 4 practical tips I came across somewhere along the journey have been of immense help.

  • Acknowledging the situations that trigger overwhelming pressure, and in turn, the yelling

As a mom, I learnt to decode cues and behaviors that signaled my son was about to crumble, and I was going to get frustrated. Evenings and early mornings were the most common. Early mornings when he was still groggy made him easily ticked off. Late evenings when he was sleepy were also a perfect recipe. So, mentally, I’d set time to be with him so that he eased into the day/ into his sleeping patterns seamlessly. Other situations included when he was hungry (so I’d carry a snack or fruit), when I was tired (so I’d decompress before getting home to avoid venting at him), when he’d be required to sit still for long periods, say when travelling (so I’d make advance plans to schedule breaks).

  • Counting to 10

When I felt that a shouting match was a few minutes away, and I needed to act, I’d count till ten, slowly. This was a perfect buffer that quelled anger and gave me time to weigh the situation before responding. I will admit this took some time to get used to… but was well-worth it. I don’t always remember to do this, but then again, I am not the shouting mom, claws out Khaleesi-style at the mall.

  • Draw closer to my son and hug him.

Initially, this felt awkward because the closer I got to him, the higher the chances were that my hands would land on him diapered butt at a velocity. After inculcating the first two tips into my response plan however, I realized that it was harder to shout at him when he was clasped in my arms; it required more effort; And so I realized this worked as well. When he was angry/disappointed/flummoxed, hugging him brought this close bond, a sense of security, a platform to point out where he erred. In the end, mom and son are at peace.

  • Seek grace.

Parenting is hard, there are hard days when shouting does not seem to ebb regardless of our best intentions. Days when anger seems to cast a theatrical angst so that through my eyes, and the world feels distinctively bleak. It is on these day that I seek grace, wisdom to raise this little human being in a world that is increasingly becoming depraved and entitled.

How do you handle anger as a parent? As an individual? What works for you in defusing this anger? Any tips you would like to share? Looking forward to hear from you J

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Flashback to when I had big hair and J had a mohawk 🙂 <3

Featured Image Photo Credits: Life Hacks