Ramblings on motherhood, toys and straws

These holidays have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and mine. The school holidays began with a bang. My heart was bursting with gratitude and just the sheer amazement that we made it this far. Here, my not-so little boy, all grown, graduating from kindergarten to Primary school (wrote about it here). It was a big moment, I still look back and I’m like whoa, see God. (You may never understand the magnitude of this milestone if you never had to struggle with depression that made you question your ability and worth as a mom. I have blogged about this here and here and here as well).

So, anyhow, graduation came to an end and the very next week he was admitted to hospital, and discharged after almost a week. Mom and baby were ecstatic to have him in great health. Then mom got the infection and off I was to hospital. Took a couple of days off, and was better. Right after that, kid had a stomach bug and it was back to hospital. To say this was a rough ride is to put it mildly. I was really scared, and my thoughts were going crazy. (PS: Has any of you moms ever made the silent prayer that says, I’d rather be sick than my child gets unwell… then you actually get sick and are unable to cater for the child’s needs? I’m like – this is twisted irony 🙂 )

Read More: 7 Gross things moms do (admit it, you have done one of these!)

Fast forward to now, we are both in great health and are thankful for that. And we are back to bouncing off walls and off each other. Don’t go just yet, I am going somewhere with this post… So, J has an affinity for drinking straws, the disposable ones. A weird affinity that sometimes irks me because, I just don’t understand why anyone ought to take their yoghurt in a cup using a straw – but maybe therein lies the wonder and amazement of a child’s life.

Now, drinking with the straws is no big deal per se. It’s what follows once that happens which gets on my nerves. The not-so-empty cup is left on the table, and the straw leaning over. It’s easy to drop the cup by simply having the swish of my cardigan touch the end of the straw. For whatever reason, this is one of those pet peeves I have always had.

How does it relate to the hospital visits? The few days we were at hospital got me thinking how we as parents take so much for granted. We have this misguided illusion of immortality. There is all the time in the world, we think to ourselves. Until sickness jolts us back to reality. The other day I looked at him playing on the floor, strewn with all his toys, LEGO blocks, and my pens and pencils. On the table, the yoghurt cup and straw he had just used. For a split second I wanted to scold him and ask him to clean up.

Read More: Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

Then it struck me, when he was sick, I prayed and hoped that he would get back his health because at the time, I certainly preferred a messy house to a sick child. And here he was, playing, all energetic – yet I was inwardly grumbling at the sight of the messy floor. It struck me that one day, when this rambunctious little boy is all grown, there may never be a messy floor again.

I realized that a time will come, when there will be the last straw – quite literally. When he is taller than mommy, and has a deep voice to go with it, I may never need to tell him to discard the straw and drop the cup in the sink, because he will not be so little anymore. A time will come when there will not be the pattering of little feet up the staircase, a time when the warmth of morning cuddles and wet cheek kisses will be few and in-between.

This struck me because the inquisitive and wondrous stage we are in will not last forever. The genuine sparkle of his brown eyes when he makes a discovery may not be so obvious in a few years to come. I am making an intentional decision to enjoy this stage, to enjoy the endless stories even when I’d rather be scrolling down the gram, to enjoy the balloon games and blowing bubbles while they last – not forgetting the cartoons on JimJam. As I write this, my work desk is filled with toys, and you guessed right – a cup of yoghurt.

 

Taking care of my mental health during the school holiday

School holidays are usually a mixture of emotions for me: enthusiastic because there is more time to spend with the champ, and sometimes a little anxious because the very same holidays can be a crazy catalyst for a proper breakdown. The champ has been home for just about a week, and I have made conscious effort to take care of my mental health to avoid a breakdown/ anxiety attack like the one I had over the weekend – felt utterly overwhelmed by parenting duties and just the dynamics of a relationship. Doing so much better now – thanks to the lovelies who kept checking on me; Nzanga, Pat, Nyaguthii, Glenda, Begire and the seester 🙂

If there is one thing my Postpartum depression recovery journey has taught me, it is the need to be on guard as far as my mental health is concerned. It is so easy to think, ‘ain nothing can get me down’. I am talking about those incredibly high highs that have you feeling like you can take on the world, only to come crushing so bad after a proper breakdown (anyone else experienced this? Like sometimes so  so much happiness is almost always followed by life’s rough patches?)

Read More: I struggled during the last school holidays in April

So, for that reason I set out to place measures to guard my mental health wellbeing. Here’s how I am taking care of myself this holiday season.

  • Planning

I am been intentional in scheduling my work these school holidays. See, I work online, from home. My experience means I know how crazy it gets to work when staying with a rambunctious five year old with a yuuuuuge appetite. (Sidenote: I used to think my folks had a pet peeve back in the day because they kept saying how much the food budget goes up during school holidays… Now I know how real it is! LOL, this energetic boy has like 10 meals a day, eh).

That is why planning is important. I take a few minutes each evening to plan for the next day. I noticed it is best for me to work early mornings (5.30am thereabout) in order to make some progress before the champ awakes. So far, so good – I will also mention at this point that afternoon naps are gold.

  • Taking time for ME

This is sometimes difficult seeing as the dynamics of working at home and school holidays intersect at ‘minimal time to spend alone’. But seeing how important this is for my sanity, I try to make time for ME – no internet, no Whatsapp, no kid, no TV. I spend this time either journaling or meditating. Sometimes it is not possible to do this because the child can decide sleeptime will be at 10.30pm, in which case we get to colour together.

 

  • Spending time in the outdoors

There is something about spending time in the outdoors, that is as rejuvenating as it is exciting – away from the routines, away from the four walls. There’s something about natural light in the outdoors that works for mental well-being. I learnt this when I had postpartum depression, and I’d stay indoors for days, struggling to get outside. Only getting out of bed because I had a baby to take care of/ feed/ change/ bath… otherwise I’d want to remain in bed all day. Getting outdoors awakens the senses, allows you to see the living (even when you feel dead on the inside) and is a welcome change from the dreary enclosure of four walls. Sometimes the champ and I will go for a walk, some days we will spend time watching the sunset on the balcony and yet other days we will go visit his grandparents and enjoy the calm at cucu’s place.

Read More: My selfcare routine

  • Spending time together

My son loves all things art and craft, so I try as much as possible to be engaged when he is home for the holidays. We have made threaded bottles before in this post. Yesterday we began on a paper mache product. Remember that from primary school? Yes, he was excited, especially when I mixed the flour with water to prepare the ‘glue’. I am actually enjoying it. It is messy, and it is fun, and it allows me to listen to his heart in the middle of the mache process.

Yes, that’s an inflated balloon for the paper mache process. Got the link on Pinterest 🙂

And tea. It goes without saying, tea is part of my selfcare routine 🙂

How do you take care of your mental health during the school holidays with kids ?

Guest Post – Why I Think I Died In 2016

In this post, I made a call out for guest posts by moms who wanted to share their stories on Postpartum Depression (PPD). Today’s post is by Vicki K, a phenomenal lady who I met during the Mommy Conversations, a forum held by Amira Africa (and wrote about it here). Vicki is a mom to a handsome champ, and has struggled with PPD. She is on the road to recovery, and in this candid post, she shares her journey and the isolation that comes with been depressed as a new mom.

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In recent times, I have come to appreciate how amazing life is. Why, you ask?  Because as I look back at my past years I know, my lowest moment in life was in 2016. If there is a year I would have fit perfectly well as an actress on the series walking dead. 2016 is the year I ask myself severally:

“Why was I so uptight for most of the year? Why couldn’t I relate with anyone during this period? Why couldn’t anyone understand me? Why did I feel so utterly alone despite been surrounded by so much love?”

All this was because I had Postpartum depression (PPD). I knew all along I was suffering from PPD, and even did a Twitter thread on the same at some point. Knowing I was depressed, however, did not solve the problem. It could not. I shut it down most of the time all by myself, waiting for it to pass.

I was waiting, waiting for anyone to notice, waiting for a sign that my life is worth it.

I was waiting to be told I matter. I thought all this would solve my PPD.

 

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as these. I guess I was looking at it the wrong way for a whole year. I need not explain what PPD is as there is a lot of information on this website (Read a basic intro in plain and simple English here, the symptoms, stages and treatment options available for moms with PPD).Depression is depressing. Your mind is at play here and whatever you do, it’s is still right there with you. It keeps lying to you, “You do not matter, and you are not worth it. You are the only mom suffering. You are a bad mom, and your child does not deserve you.” And it goes on and on, the unrelenting negative thoughts.

My walking dead experience was filled with tormenting words my brain lied to me on a daily basis. Sometimes, I would just stare at nothingness, waiting for the days to pass. When I smiled, it was rarely genuine. I don’t remember being truly happy, unless I was far from my son which was not often. I always felt like I was on lock down. It was as if society had told me “No, you are not supposed to follow your dreams, you have to take care of your child or no one else well.” It started to become a reality. My mind was playing tricks on me all the time and winning.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Made Me Wear a Mask

The worst part of all this, was that my son always faced the wrath that came with my PPD. He did not deserve it. All he was being was an infant – messy, loud, and demanding like all other infants are. He just wanted my attention. When my triggers surfaced, he never had it easy. Shouting and abandonment were part of it. In many situations where he needed love most, I just was never there enough. Do not get me wrong, I had a supportive family and close friends and I’m eternally grateful for their presence. Whatever I wanted I could have. I did not even have to stress on food, baby clothes, feeding utensils, and even diapers. I even had a 24-hour support system. (This is for the people who tell depressed individuals, ‘ooh, you should be grateful you have a child, so many couples want a child but cannot have them’. ‘You have everything, stop being ungrateful.’, ‘You are very selfish.’-the list goes on and on. This is a reminder, it isn’t that we are not grateful, or do not know all things. We do, we are struggling).

So, why then was I depressed most of the time? I always felt like I did not deserve it all, as if it was not fair for women to bear the entire burden all by themselves. (This, in itself declared that I’m a feminist) It didn’t’ make any sense to me, why couldn’t babies just take care of themselves and be quiet? Does my life even matter? On my hardest days with PPD, I would sleep hoping to die, hoping not to wake up. I did have suicidal thoughts, but I did not have the guts. I did not care whether I was going to heaven, hell or transition into something else in my next life, even a stone. Then morning would come repeatedly.

What was my turning point in all this?

I had many turning points that have made me who I am now. At one point, I had a huge fight with my cousin all because of cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches. The memory is still vivid. This was my first ever word fight and hopefully my last. I realized later maybe I was placing too much pressure on her and I’m the one on the wrong or maybe she is just having a hard time too. Secondly, after an event I had attended in September 2016, I decided to reach out on a blog where the writer was among the panelists, when my PPD got out of control. Getting help and having someone who related to what I was going through was amazing. I followed a platform on PPD and realizing I was not alone, again, gave me comfort.

Read More: I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

At one point, I decided to reread the Harry Potter book Series. For two months, this was my go to book. I would itch to finish one book at a time. Fascinatingly, this time round, I read it with a different viewpoint to the extent I always noticed when the characters were depressed – how ironical. When you are going through something, you tend to notice others experiencing the same situation. This is for my friends who came before 2016 and wondered why I became excessively quiet in that year.  No, I am not yet fully recovered after PPD yet but life is a journey. So, as I continue to put my trust in the One who is not done with me yet, I begin to understand, I begin to find peace even when my now son who is approaching terrific two wants to ‘eat me alive’. I now speak more positivity into my life than I did in 2016. I believe now that nothing lasts forever and God’s timing is ideal.

*****

Thank you Vicki for sharing your story. It does take courage to open about one’s struggle, but I am realizing just how much one mom’s story is a voice for the many moms who may not be able to speak out. Vicki is passionate about wildlife conservation, and you can catch up with her on her blog here

Letter to my son – Chronicles of a PPD survivor

Dear Son,

I write this letter to you from a reflective point of view, from the eyes of a mom who has suffered Postpartum Depression (PPD) and is on the road to healing. See, I did not look at my options before you were born, and chose to walk down the lane written ‘depression’. No. I found myself there. I should have seen where the cascade of events was leading me, to a dark hole where I couldn’t pull myself together and haul myself out of it. I should have known that some moms get depressed once their babies are born, but I didn’t. I learnt much later, after I had plunged head first into the gripping darkness that PPD is. But this letter is not about recovery per se. It is a letter of apology.

I am sorry that you had to be the prototype of my take at motherhood, an experience that has been fraught with challenges and chides (mostly from folk who have no idea what PPD is), with tears and torn hearts, with smiles here and there, and a couple of photos to capture your milestones. I am sorry that nothing could have prepared me for the struggle with PPD. I am sorry for my inability to comfort you as you cried your lungs out in the dead of the night on your first week of life; many times I cried with you out of utter frustration.

I am sorry for thinking that, at one point, suicide would offer some reprieve, a break of sorts from all this mental torture. I am sorry for thinking that maybe life would have been better for you if I wasn’t your mom, because now I see beauty for ashes. Now I see the blessing that you brought into my life; you saved me from wasting myself away in debauchery, from sinking in life’s pits in my inebriated state, you saved me from me. I apologize for regretting having you, however you came, because you are already here. You were never a bad child; I just couldn’t cope with the depression, on those days I slapped you, on those days I kicked you for peeing on the floor even when you weren’t potty trained. For those days your tantrums had me lost in fits of anger, and I hurled a shoe at you, for those mornings I walked away to prevent myself from doing something I’d regret.

I am not making excuses for letting some of the most precious moments of our lives slip through my hands, glistened by my tears. No, I am simply apologizing for having taken you through all this, for having subjected you to all the beatings, for the unrelenting anger that PPD caused to morph into a daily experience. For the lost moments, the experiences I will never be able to relive with you my dear son.

But. But now, I am picking up the pieces on the journey to recovery. It is a slow winding road, but a journey I have taken baby steps in. I am learning to unlearn what PPD had made the norm, simply because I cannot undo that which PPD supplanted for the quintessential mom-child bonding experience. I am learning to tell you ‘I am sorry’ when I lose it, when I go overboard in addressing your fits and tantrums. I am not the perfect mom, but I will seek grace in my imperfection. Seek grace to be able to draw the line between love and discipline. To draw the line between when I need to hug you and when I need to walk away and let you calm down first so we can have a platform to reconcile.

Some days I forget to ask for grace, some days I pray for grace and still lose it, then feel guilty about it; realizing I let you down, again. I let myself down, again. The journey to recovery is not as easy as I thought it would be, but it matters that I have taken a few steps. I am sorry my son, I really am.

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Photo credits: Patricia Esteve

Love,

Mom.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Glued To My Crafts

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