This is why I am vocal about Postpartum Depression in Kenya

Hi.

My name is Samoina, and I am a Postpartum Depression survivor.

Have you heard about postpartum depression before? Postpartum Depression (abbreviated PPD) is one of several perinatal mood disorders that affects moms up to one year after birth. The precise cause of PPD remains unknown, but it is thought to be as a result of the sharp drop in hormonal levels. Ideally, during pregnancy, progesterone levels are at an all-time high. After birth, their levels plummet suddenly, leading to significant changes in the body.

This is not to be confused with baby blues, a mild and short-lived condition that affects a new mom’s moods and usually disappears on its own after about 2 weeks. Baby blues are characterized by exhaustion, moodiness, and worry, which to some extent, are normal as they develop during the transition from pregnancy to motherhood. If, however, these symptoms do not disappear, and instead get more intense as the days go by, there is cause for concern as this could point to PPD.

Some of the symptoms associated with PPD include intense anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, confusion and the inability to bond with one’s child. Many moms also experience such deep despair and hopelessness that makes one feel like their existence as a mom is meaningless. The endless crying is also an indicator that all is not well. Other symptoms of PPD include feeling worthless, overwhelmed, and most of all scared to reach out. Most affected moms are scared to reach out because there is still so much stigma that surrounds Postpartum Depression and mental health in general.

But,

Aren’t moms supposed to enjoy this blissful period?

Doesn’t motherhood come naturally?

Which mother hates their child after carrying them for 9 months?

There must be a spiritual reason why you are suffering after getting your baby!

Do you know someone somewhere has it worse than you do? Can you just snap out of it!

….

 

Does this sound familiar? If it does, perhaps it is safe for me to say that these nuances are part of the reason many moms suffer in silence. I am vocal about it (I run a FB page here, do check it out, and Like, Like, Like) because I know just how much PPD takes away from a mom and from their child.

I am vocal about it because I look forward to a Kenya where maternal mental health will be a priority.

I am vocal because I thought I would get this information from hospital after delivery, but I did not (still so much to be done on this front).

I am vocal because right now, a mom somewhere is battling with postpartum depression. Statistics show that 1 in 7 moms is at risk of PPD. To bring this closer home, think of 7 of your friends who are moms, 1 is at risk. Isn’t this sobering enough?

I am vocal because I do not want these moms to go through the harrowing experience that PPD is, and I want them to get help as soon as possible

I am vocal because PPD took away the memories of my son’s first year, and all I am left with is a hazy collection of scattered snippets of motherhood, and I miss it, and I can never recover that..

I am vocal about PPD because there is still so much awareness to create, both online and offline, to get the conversations about mental health going.

Won’t you share this article and help get started on creating awareness of Postpartum Depression in Kenya?

 

(Remember to subscribe to PPDIsland by clicking on the subscribe button to the right of this post 🙂

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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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