Four.

4 years ago and a few months, he made his appearance into the world. Tiny, wailing, kicking his tiny feet and of course looking very , ermm, yellow. That was before his melanin-producing cells started working overtime and I now have a dark handsome 4-year old. I know how cliché it is to be told, “they grow up so fast.. cherish the moments..” yet when I think about it, this is actually true.

One day I was busy changing diapers, wiping drool during teething and introducing foods (which he took on really well, thank God). The days through the foggy phase that Postpartum depression (PPD) and in retrospect, the grace that kept us safe, through the sobs and smiles that were far and in between; through potty training and piping hot tears when he could not get it right; through wondering how we were gonna make it when he starts school, to hearing him doing his homework with remarkable ease. For great reasons, I am actually looking forward to his 4th year, and beyond. I am savoring and soaking in each precious (energy-packed) moment and absolutely loving it! Here’s why!

  1. Past the dark dreary 1st year when I was deep in depression, past the terrible 2’s and way beyond terrific 3s

His first year was tough, I was yet to get the hang of motherhood, and it took a while for me to realize I was actually depressed. I do not have many memories of this period 🙁 and I can only look through photos and try piece up what looks to me like a jigsaw puzzle. Terrible 2’s can only be described in one word: TANTRUMS!! I don’t miss that stage, quite honestly.

It was characterized by outbursts of anger, losing my identity as Samoina and just… exhaustion. Terrific 3’s was a stage when LO tried pushing every damn limit there was. The best thing about this stage was that the fog of PPD was just starting to lift… I could see hope in the horizon, that kept me going. 4, or as my friend Blythe loves to call this stage, fourlospher is here! That we got past all those stages is reason to be excited.

  1. We can have a coherent conversation!!

Just how amazing is it to actually move from the incoherent syllables and mathogothanio (blurb) to an actual flowing conversation? And while this often morphs to some weird questions (like why that guy hanging on the chopper doesn’t do it daily.. ), I am glad that I can get a glimpse of what his personality is at the core, converse about school, his friends, his dislikes (pumpkin and sweet potatoes) and everything in between..

  1. He expresses himself well.

Of course with the ability to converse coherently comes the fact that he can articulate his thoughts perfectly well and express himself. The other day I told him I needed to shave his head ‘coz it looked shaggy. He gave me that quizzical look kids have and asked whether his hair was as shaggy as mine… (ermm, I am in this phase of natural hair I am trying to figure out what hairstyle to put on). What amazed me was just how honest he was when he asked that. I looked at him wide-eyed. When did this boy grow up?

  1. He is, to some extent, independent of me J

He can feed himself (no more boobie-food), he is fully potty trained (no more butt-wiping!), he can sleep without having to be rocked, he can tell me when he is feeling unwell, he actually returns his toys to his toy-bag every night… It is the simple things that make this 4th year so exciting.

  1. He is learning virtues and vices

The fact that he can follow through stuff, say when we are watching news, and pick up vibes about something is quite… ‘grown up’ for lack of a better word. It reminds me of the need to instill virtues in him. Teach a child in the way he should grow, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. As a parent, I realize the immense responsibility of raising a little human to become a responsible member of society. It will take grace, wisdom, love, patience, and undoubtedly experience on the go.

Bonus point: He still cherishes mama’s hugs and kisses, and often reminds me when I forget to tell him “I love you”. 🙂

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To 4!!

 

 

Day 30 – End of my 30 day writing challenge

This is Day 30 of the 30 writing challenge, which can only mean one thing. It is overrrrr! Wooop. I am so excited to have done this challenge, not so much for the numbers, but for me, for moms who follow this blog! Let’s just say, if you want to imagine what I am like today, this video shows it best 😀 In this post, I am going to give my insights into what the challenge was like, somewhat a recap, show highlights over the 30 days as well as appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read.

This is where the blog started. I had always yearned to start a blog and chronicle my Postpartum Depression Journey, and healing as it progresses. For whatever reason, I kept postponing setting up the blog. I was my worst critic, and chief procrastinator. I always had a reason, till I realized there are never perfect conditions for anything (well, save for a ripe avocado and a hot meal 😀 ). I had to start, however I could. And so, first post went up to welcome my readers, and give them a feel of what it is like to be on ‘the island’, and a little about me.

After a couple of posts, I figured I wanted to do something that would get me out of my comfort zone, something that would push me further and allow me to reach out to more moms. That is how the 30 day writing challenge was birthed. I was a bit skeptical at the onset. Here’s the thing, you really don’t know that readers hold you accountable till you skip a day in the challenge and someone asks you what happened! So yes, I was concerned about whether I’d be able to hack the challenge. As a counter-measure, I decided to donate Ksh 1000 to MyMindMyFunk for every skipped day of the challenge.

Now, here is the thing, I did not want to pledge 100 bob because that would be easy; 1000 would make me rethink before I say I am too tired/hungry/sleepy/experiencing writer’s block to blog. Suffice to say, I skipped only 1/30 days. If you look keenly, you will notice that Day 19 of the 30 day writing challenge is missing. So, I get to keep my word in support of Sitawa Wafula‘s mental health organization in the coming days.

Were there days I felt like this was too much? Yes. Were there days I asked myself what had I gotten myself into? Yes. Were there days I asked myself whether I was living the truth on my blog, looking for grace even when it is scanty? Many days those ones. But the end goal kept me going (plus this has been a rough month for me as a WAHM, so pesa onge, loosely translated to cash on the low). I have learned many lessons which I will share in one of the posts this month, so look out for that too *does the happy dance*.

Recapping the 30 day writing challenge

Looking at analytic information on my WordPress Dashboard, the most widely read post was actually Day 1 – Lost Identity where I shared my experience on losing my identity as a new mom, the core of who I was in my bubbly persona. Depression has a penchant for throwing you off balance, so much so that you can hardly recognize the woman in the mirror. The ominous feeling of a lost identity and a depressed soul. In healing now, I am relearning this identity; first as a child of God, as an individual, as a mom, as a daughter and as a friend.

Day 10 – Angst was, undoubtedly, one of the hardest posts to write ten days into the challenge. This heartfelt post could be a trigger for some, because in it, I share the darkest moments of my PPD journey – been suicidal, and hating motherhood so intensely. I remember Googling exactly this phrase: ‘Why do I hate my son so much?’ This was a very hard place. Looking back, the journey from this angst to now has allowed me to reach out to other moms, both with PPD and without. Beauty for ashes, now I see the beauty of it all.

Day 15 – When Loneliness Creeps in for new moms was, in the last 30 days, the third most read post. And for good reason. Sometimes I think moms-to-be have this illusion thinking that once baby comes, you get to pick up with your girls right where you left off before you hobbled to the labour ward. This loneliness was a complete shocker for me. Reading through the feedback after posting this affirmed the need for moms to connect more closely after delivery.

During the challenge, I also put together resourceful posts for anyone who would like more information on Postpartum Depression which you can read using the links below:

Day 3 – Postpartum Depression Therapy

Day 14 – #Snapshotsforsanity

Day 17 – 3 Lessons Learnt During Healing after Postpartum Depression

Day 23 – Stages of Postpartum Depression

Then there were those posts that gave glimpses of my life as a mom, the challenges of single parenting (albeit with some subtlety) as well as the rigorous stage that is poop, pee and everything potty training!

Day 2 – Masked.

Day 4 – Good Enough, Or Not.

Day 8 – 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

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

Day 22 – Of Potty Training Routines and Brushing Teeth

If you would like to have a look at all the posts over the course of the writing challenge, feel free to make your way here. So there, the summary of the amazing journey that the 30 day writing challenge has been. I cannot publish this post without expressing my gratitude for each and every person who took their time to read, to make sense of my words and to immerse themselves in the world of a PPD survivor. Thankful for the support, the encouragement and the criticism. Here is to new beginnings, new opportunities and new connections. Eternally grateful for abounding grace in the now.

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#tbt but Current Mood \0/ Photo By Kiarii Kimani

Featured Image Photo Credits: Daymond John

UPDATE: 13. October.2015

The 30 day writing challenge was on condition that for any skipped days, I get to donate Ksh 1000 to Sitawa’s organization, My Mind My Funk. I like to keep myself accountable, it is integrity even in the small stuff that makes all the difference. Here’s a screenshot to the same effect. So glad to be a part of Sitawa’s projects.

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Day 22 – Of Potty Training Routines and Brushing Teeth

This is Day 22 of my 30-day writing challenge. Loving the shape that this challenge has taken on so far. It is allowing me to learn so much more, giving me fresh insight into who I am as an individual as well as offering a platform to connect with my readers and moms across the globe.

Today’s post is inspired by an incident that happened this morning, but first things first. My son is fully potty trained at 3.5 years (thank God, diapers are oh-so costly!). It’s taken a year plus to get here. I opted to start off with day potty training since I figured two-part potty training would be kinder on us as opposed to introducing both routines simultaneously. That, plus I was was still in the doldrums of depression. So even day potty training was difficult.

At the onset, the slip ups were so frequent, especially considering Jayden had converted his potty into a Ferrari. So, I’d try as much as possible to sync his feeding time, nap time and potty time so that he’d learn to use it. Many days, I’d show him the potty, he’d say he didn’t feel like peeing, only to walk a few steps and create a puddle, or a jet to the wall depending on which came first. I’d lose it. It was worse when these accidents happened with poop as described in this post. Postpartum Depression (PPD) made potty training hard because I’d take it out on him if he didn’t remember to use his potty.

Occasionally, when fatigued, I’d simply put him on diapers and give myself an ‘off’. Once he got the hang of it, he stopped wearing diapers during the day. He even graduated himself to using the toilet *proud mommy moment*. All that remained was night potty training, which I wasn’t too enthusiastic to start because I knew it meant interrupted sleeping patterns. Then I weighed that, versus the cost of diapers, and resorted to night potty training ASAP.

Seems Legit! :D
Seems Legit! 😀 Meme Generator

At the start, I figured I’d have to wake him up twice at night. Jayden would usually sleep at 10PM, or 9PM on good/tiring days. I’d program myself to sleep at midnight so that I’d wake him up to do his first wee. Then again at 4AM for the same. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I heard the alarm buzz for Jayden’s wee, and half asleep, I’d just switch it off, only to wake up to his wet bedsheets. This would irk me, because it meant cleaning up before he left for school. At the time, I had also banned any drinks after 5PM (save for water when he brushed his teeth).

As he gradually got the hang of it, I cut down the number of times I woke him up by half, and so I set the alarm for 2AM everyday, without fail. It became automatic, so much so that if I forgot and woke up 20 minutes later, he’d be soaking wet. And that’d mean changing him into a dry set of clothes and cleaning up, at 3 freaking AM. So I rarely forgot the 2AM call.

A little while later, I realized that he’d gotten used to it, and I could skip the 2AM call altogether. The ban on drinks was pushed to 7PM. He’d do dry nights for 3 weeks straight, and have an occasional accident. I learnt not to be brash with him for this, he was putting in effort, evidently.

So today, waking up to his wet bed sheets and a cranky toddler (he detests waking up soaked in his pee!), first thing he does is cry, and ask why he peed on himself, and why yesternight I didn’t remind him to brush his teeth. Wheew, This is not my idea of starting my mornings, but I am taking it in stride, and praying for grace.

always happened though! :D
always happened though! 😀 Laughing Stork

See, his night routine looks something like this: Have dinner> Shower> Play a little >Brush teeth > Night time pee > Bedtime reading > Prayer > Cuddles > Snoring. Started this sometime this year, and it stuck. And yesterday mom was too tired, she didn’t remember Jayden hadn’t brushed his teeth. He dozed off in mom’s arms, and so wise moms know when baby is asleep, you don’t wake them up unless it is an emergency.

When Jayden woke up all cranky this morning, it suddenly dawned on me how powerful routines are in parenting. Little wonder he felt something was off. I apologized and let him know; today I would remind him to brush his teeth!

How did potty training work for you? Did you do day and night potty training simultaneously or opted to deal with each stage desperately? How about routines? Are there any routines that have worked for you in your parenting? Let’s share in the comment box below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured Image Photo Credits: Potty Training Tips

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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.