Postpartum Depression: My Story

Growing up as a little girl, I envisioned the Cinderella wedding, complete with bows, pink and Prince Charming. Then the babies would follow, and it would be blissful, and we would grow old and live happily thereafter. Only, that this is not what unraveled. I remember vividly the moment I found out I was expecting. A flurry of emotions that are hard to capture in words flooded every fiber of my being. I was ecstatic at the thought of bringing a little human into this world. I was scared too of what seemed like (and actually turned out to be) such a gargantuan task. Many days I was anxious of the journey ahead, and for a good reason.

Before conception, I had just started working at my new job and was so excited for the potential it showed. I had a great social life, loved traveling, hanging out with my friends, and was the typical party animal. Life at 22 was great…until I saw the two lines that changed my life forever. “No, I am not ready for this.” “How would the sudden shift change my life’s trajectory?” These thoughts plagued my mind with such relentless zeal. The struggle of whether to walk this journey or change it kept me at the same spot for days on end.

Read More: Night Terrors: Why my son kept waking up at night

I recall, with such clarity, the scary nightmares I’d get around this time. Grotesque bloody mess on my hand, unending baby cries all night and a terrifying aura that enveloped me during these moments in my sleep. I’d wake up in a huff, panting, sweaty and disoriented. Eventually, I opted to keep the baby. A threatened abortion threw me off balance in the 5th month, and in retrospect, was one of the subtle reasons I slowly gravitated towards depression (as I would later come to realize).

Save for that, my pregnancy was fluid for the most part. Towards the end of the third trimester, I lost my job, and with that, went reeling faster into a depressive state. Single parenthood beckoned, jobless and utterly clueless on how to bring a child into this world. Little did I know that financial constraints are one of the risk factors associated with Postpartum Depression (PPD). Early January of 2012, I got a healthy bouncing baby boy through normal delivery. Here’s the thing: I was certain there was going to be pain, just how much I did not know.

The trauma of labor and child delivery would leave in my mind harrowing memories which made it even harder to cope with my new status. The first two weeks were a haze of sleep deprivation, colic, yellow-mustard like diapers and a whole lot of exhaustion. This is not what I had signed up for. Where were all the perfect happiness moms were supposed to experience in the wake of their baby’s arrival? When would I experience the magic charm of motherhood? I despaired. Not only couldn’t I bond with my son, I slowly started growing resentful. I resented my son and motherhood and all of society’s norms and nuances for the same. I didn’t realize it then but I was slowly teetering on the edge of losing myself in motherhood – and along with it, my sanity.

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The resentment increased three-fold before morphing into anger. This was quite unlike the ‘normal’ anger – it was fiery, it was intense and it was irrational. Anything and everything was cause for such ire. There’s a pile of laundry to be done, food to be cooked, diapers to be changed and satellite TV having issues. All these left me so angry, it scared me. My turning point came one day in my son’s 5th month. Having had an unsettled night, and struggling in the haze of another hopeless morning, I was at my most vulnerable.

The incessant crying did not help much, and the next thing I knew, I had slapped his fragile body. For a few seconds, time stood still as my mind raced to grasp the reality of what I had just done. I was undone, broken, disappointed and angry at myself for not been able to be a good mom. After this particular incident, I started toying with the idea of suicide. In my head, I kept wondering what the point of life was if I could not take care of my son and meet his emotional needs. The worst thing about these intrusive thoughts was, I wanted out, but just did not seem to muster enough strength to do it.

Over the next few days, I sought online to find out why I possibly hated my son and couldn’t bond with him. A whole new world opened up to me, providing relief and more trepidation in equal measure. There was such a thing as Postpartum Depression. Statistics show 1 in 7 moms are at risk of Postpartum depression. Was I the 1 in 7? I ingested this information with gusto, because it empowered me to know I could be better. Some of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression include anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, appetite changes and insomnia. Reading through this was encouraging, in part because I somewhat had an idea of what I was going through.

At the time, I could not get medical help, largely because I was still jobless. And so I found myself a virtual circle of warrior moms on Postpartum Progress – moms who had been through PPD and conquered it. I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. A couple of friends stood with me during this time, offering a shoulder to lean on those difficult days. I would not be here had my family not supported me. These are the pillars that held me together.

Watch: Interview with Family Media on Postpartum Depression

In July 2015, I took to writing this blog and go public about my struggles with Postpartum Depression as an outlet. This, alongside journaling, proved very therapeutic. One year later, I finally did manage to get therapy that was immensely helpful. Looking back at my journey, and how difficult it was for both of us, I made up my mind to create awareness of Postpartum Depression. Most moms are suffering like I did, in silence, not sure whether their struggles are ‘valid’.

Through my online awareness campaign, I would love to have everyone know that PPD is a mental health disorder like any other, and for which there is help available. That they are not alone in the quest for normalcy as they adjust to the changes, and above all, that they matter. One of the most fulfilling things is having moms reach out for help without feeling stigmatized, and been able to direct them to professionals for medical assistance. I am hopeful for a country where there is less stigma surrounding mental health disorders. We can change this narrative, one post, one tweet, one conversation at a time.

This post first appeared on Standard’s uReport platform here.

8 things you need to know when planning to visit a new mom

Aaaaaaand, the baby fever continues.

So, your friend just got her bundle of joy and you are over the moon for her, because, c’mon, who doesn’t love those cute adorable photos, complete with toothless grins and baby hair? You visit her while still in hospital, and uuuhh, and ahhhh, and you can’t wait to visit her at home. This post is for you. Indulge.

  1. Give the new mom time to settle.

Yes, you are all excited and simply cannot wait, but reason dictates that you allow the new mom to settle in her new role. She is dealing with low energy levels, sleepless nights, a million diaper changes, bibs and burps…all at once. It is all new. For this sole reason, take some time before you visit. She may not say it, but she needs some space to just, settle in.

(I must throw this in here, however. This depends on the kind of relationship you have with the new mom. For some, it is a-okay to pop in a few days later, but for many, allow some time to settle and get into a routine of sorts).

  1. Do not drop in unannounced

Just. Do. Not. Do. It! Ideally, it is rude to just pop in without any form of communication, so how much more for a new mom? Never mind that she has no semblance of the difference between day and night in those first weeks? Be courteous enough to call in advance, and remember, ‘No – Not on that day’ is a complete answer.

  1. Take food with you (Points for bone soup and fresh fruits).

Nothing spells care like a home visit from someone who brings food. Given the new mom’s schedule, it certainly is tasking to prepare meals, which is why this is just, God-sent. If you cannot do so, and have a free relationship with the new mom, find out from her whether you can make yourself comfortable in the kitchen and prepare a meal. This is such a powerful gesture!

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  1. If you are feeling under the weather, please do not visit until you are much better!

There is no two ways about this! The last thing new mom wants is for you to leave her little one with a cold, considering how susceptible infants are to infections! For Crying out Loud, just. Stay. Away! No need for hospital visits for the newborn just because Aunt Faustina insisted on coming along!

  1. There’s a reason why the hand sanitizer is on the table

Yes, you must sterilize your hands before you handle the baby. It is an unwritten code, so drop your handbag honey, and clean those hands!

  1. Find out how she is faring.

It is pretty simple to get wrapped up in all things baby, but the new mom will appreciate if you showed some concern for her and bothered to find out how she is. If she is a first-time mom, she certainly has lots of memories (some not fond), expectations and fears. Provide a safe place for her to express herself and perhaps confide in you. The key is not to push it too much, but be keen to read subtle cues.

This is particularly important since if you are close enough, you may be able to pick hints that point towards depression. Let her know that you will be there if she needs you, and that it is okay for her to ask for help whenever she needs it. This is a simple but powerful gesture.

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  1. Help around the house

If you have a close relationship with the mom, you can always find something to do without inquiring. Clear the sink, iron the clothes or mop the living room. If this feels awkward to do without asking, say something such as, ‘I want to help you by doing (mention the chore). Let’s get started and you can tell me what you love about this chapter of your life’. This works better than simply asking, “Can I do the dishes?” since it is likely she will decline the offer – out of been polite.

  1. Lastly, know when to leave

It is polite not to extend your visit. Take the cue for your exit. She may want to breastfeed privately, or bath the baby, or take a nap, or express milk… this is the indication for you that you need to leave. Again, this depends on the relationship you have with the new mom. I remember how, as a single mom, I never really wanted my friends to leave because I would feel so lonely

All in all, this is just a guideline. Whatever you do, ensure that you do not burden the new mom.

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