Day 21 – The Place of Vulnerability

Today is Day 21 of the 30 day writing challenge, a challenge which has allowed me to learn so much more than just putting up Postpartum Depression-related posts. 9 days to go. While at it, S/O to all those who take time to read this blog, I see you guys in Poland, India and Mauritius too 🙂

Yesterday I shared five of the many blogs that have been instrumental in my life here. Mulling over the impact of these posts, the words that have so often spoken to my heart as well as the experiences of my fellow bloggers brought one thing to light. A common similarity emerged of all the sites: the five and the host of others that I visit constantly.

It was amazing to realize that as diverse as the blogs are, they were unified by the need to remain authentic, true to the lessons they have learnt over the years. Painful lessons, but necessary ones. To share with the world all these lessons calls for some bit of vulnerability. Here’s why: it is opening up about your *dark for some of us* past, bearing most of what many would consider a private life, and ultimately revealing a struggle, a deep-seated issue and the journey through it all.

This is not an easy thing, since then it opens up one’s life to scrutiny. You have people reading and following your blog silently, watching from a distance. It is easy to feel the pressure to impress by omitting these otherwise lackluster portions of our lives. There’s no harm in providing the highlights of the show, just let me retain the original script, so it is easy to think. This way perhaps, I can remain masked without having to pull off the layers that have camouflaged my ashen face.

I have discovered something beautiful even in the midst of these thoughts. That it is this vulnerability that makes it easy for people to relate to different issues. It is the vulnerability in talking about been suicidal that allow other moms to know that they are not alone. It is the vulnerability of wondering how to balance spirituality, motherhood, work, friendships and still create time for myself, that allows other moms to know that it is okay not to look for perfection.

It is the place of feeling exposed in handling issues that leave us flummoxed, wondering where to start, that allows divine grace to step in. When we accept out struggles, share our journeys, and embrace the place of vulnerability, then we are best placed to be open to the possibility of healing and restoration, not just in our lives, but in the lives of those around us.

Featured Image Photo credits: Linked 2 Leadership

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 4 – Good Enough, Or Not.

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

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

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

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

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“You want that mom, huh?” Toasty Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good Enough? Yes.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Olga S.

Day 3 – Postpartum Depression Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Image photo credits: Postpartum Progress