The Invisibleness of Stay-At-Home Motherhood

The invisbleness of stay-at-home motherhood

And finding meaning as a Stay-At-Home Mom

I have blogged severally about my Stay-At-Home Motherhood experience here and here. This past week I found myself reflecting on it (yet again). Been a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) means I have also been away from the typical 8-to-5 routine. I will be honest and say, sometimes I miss it. This became more pronounced in the past few weeks I have been out of work. Granted, it is not an easy experience. But looking back it has afforded me more time to just take a step back, reflect and truly define what success looks like for me.

Helping moms with Postpartum Depression is where my heart truly is

My heart’s passion is to provide psychosocial support for moms with Postpartum Depression (PPD) through the organization I started, the Postpartum Depression CBO (click this link to go to the website). I have been there as the 1 out of 7 moms who got Postpartum Depression. As a survivor, I know what it feels like to be a new mom and not to feel the bliss that comes with motherhood. There is also the hopelessness that a new mom feels when she cannot bond with her child. I have had suicidal ideation and struggled with intrusive thoughts. But, I got help.

Read More: Can I get Postpartum Depression After the First Year?

My dear friend Carol noticed I was battling with depression due to my anger outbursts. She recommended a therapist who took me through my sessions. This is what spurred me to start Postpartum Depression CBO. I am paying it forward. It also gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment, certainly not monetarily.

Stay-At-Home Moms will often hear, “What have you been doing all day?”

In the mundaneness of Stay-at-home motherhood, the running up and down to care for my son and do chores has had me wondering – wondering if it matters. Domestic chores are at the crux of running a home. They are very time-consuming, but that’s not all. They also feel invisible. How many times do stay-at-home moms get the all-too-familiar,” You have been home all day, what have you been doing?”

To think that a mom may not even have had a chance to rest makes it sad and hilarious at the same time. From cleaning dishes to mopping the house, scrubbing the toilet, preparing meals and ironing, there is always something to be done in the house. Some invisible task that is only noticed when it is not done.

Read More: The Complicated Truth About Stay-at-Home Motherhood

Sometimes it gets to me – the mundaneness and invisibleness of it all. See, while at the office, you clock in the hours. It is easy to quantify the work done. I filed X reports, had a brainstorming meeting, got a new client on board etc. What for the SAHM? Does it matter that the laundry is done for the week? Or that the dishes are washed for the fifth time that day? Or that the week’s meals have been prepared in good time? Does it matter?

Spending moments with my son keeps me going

I struggle a lot with this, to be honest. It feels insignificant. In the large scale of things, what does it matter? In a number of years to come, will it be remembered that the house was sparkling clean? Or that my dish rack was filled with clean dishes? Or even that uniform was well ironed on Saturday evening?

The invisbleness of Stay-at-home Motherhood
Found this caption oh so true and relatable!

I am not so sure. Spending time with Jay is the one thing that keeps me going. The fact that I have the chance to mould him and spend these precious days with him makes the days bearable for the most part.

This feels like rambling now, and I am not sure it even makes sense. But I thought to share, for the stay-at-home who feels alone in these emotions. We are often told to savour these moments because they are fleeting and they will pass. Sometimes, a mom needs that reminder that it is worthwhile and that it counts for something.

PS: This article will be worth your while – This Dad Thought Stay-At-Home Moms Did Nothing All Day. Then, THIS Happened…

Featured Image: Photo by Fancycrave.com from Pexels

 

 

Book Review: Birth of a New Brain by Dyane Harwood

birth-of-a-new-brain

Birth of a New Brain, Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder by Dyane Harwood

I remember it like it was yesterday: racing thoughts, intrusive images and the overwhelming urge to harm myself and my then 5-month old son. I would later learn I had Postpartum Depression and Anxiety (PPD/A). Sitting across the room from my psychotherapist a year later, and I broke down realizing just how close to the edge my motherhood experience had brought me. As a PPD survivor, I am always reminded of how lucky I am to have gotten help in good time.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Story

That is what spurred me to start PPDKenya, a CBO that provides information, resources and psychosocial  support for moms with PPD. PPDKenya’s vision is a Kenya where moms are more informed about PPD, and have access to support and resources to improve their maternal mental health. In line with this, we carry out awareness campaigns both online and offline. Our online engagement is what led me to e-meet Dyane Harwood. Dyane is the author of the candid memoir, Birth of a New Brain: Healing From Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.

Dyane and I are both survivors of maternal mental illnesses, and I was excited to hear from her. She offered to share a PDF copy of her memoir, both for my benefit and the moms we support in our groups. This year, I decided to delve into her book. Dyane is, no doubt, an incredibly talented writer whose ability to share her story candidly is both inspiring and compelling. I decided to share my book review on her memoir in this new series I am starting on my blog.

Book Review

Birth of a New Brain, Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder by Dyane Harwood

Post Hill Press, New York, 2017

272 Pages, PDF Copy

Non-Fiction Work/ Memoir

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From Amazon:

“After the birth of her baby triggers a manic maelstrom, Dyane Harwood struggles to survive the bewildering highs and crippling lows of her brain’s turmoil. Birth of a New Brain vividly depicts her postpartum bipolar disorder, an unusual type of bipolar disorder and postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. 

During her childhood, Harwood grew up close to her father, a brilliant violinist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic who had bipolar disorder. She learned how bipolar disorder could ravage a family, but she never suspected that she’d become mentally ill—until her baby was born.

Harwood wondered if mental health would always be out of her reach. From medications to electroconvulsive therapy, from “redwood forest baths” to bibliotherapy, she explored both traditional and unconventional methods of recovery—in-between harrowing psychiatric hospitalizations.

Harwood reveals how she ultimately achieved a stable mood. She discovered that despite having a chronic mood disorder, a new, richer life is possible. Birth of a New Brain is the chronicle of one mother’s perseverance, offering hope and grounded advice for those battling mental illness.”

Read More: When Moms Experience Trauma During Birth

Review

Living with a mental illness is not easy. Moms who experience maternal mental illness will admit that it is not an easy journey. For moms with bipolar disorder, shuttling between the incredibly highs during mania and the despair-filled lows of depression makes it difficult to enjoy motherhood.

Dyane has lived with bipolar for most of her life. Her dad lived with bipolar one disorder too, yet never did Dyane once imagine that she would fight the same mental illness her dad did. It was not until her second child was born that her bipolar disorder was activated. Her first daughter’s birth, for whatever reason, did not activate the disorder then.

According to Dr. Alaine Gregoire, the founder of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance,

“The Postpartum period carried the highest risk of developing bipolar disorder in the human lifetime, although reasons are unknown” as cited in Harwood, 2016, Page 26

Her second birth experience led to her hypomania, what she aptly describes in the first chapter title as ‘The Gateway to Postpartum Bipolar Disorder’. No one at the hospital seemed to have detected her hypomania, likely because she appeared ‘excited’ about her child’s birth.

Dyane is discharged to return home. In the chapters that follow, she shares her experience with hypergraphia. This is defined as an overwhelming urge to write, so much so that affected persons write on just about everything. For Dyane, it hampered her ability to care for her child as she could not stop writing even when breastfeeding or visiting the washroom!

Dyane soon realized she needed a psychiatric intervention after nights of sleep deprivation, racing voice and pressurized speech. She began to get psychiatric treatment as an outpatient. But as is the case with many who live with bipolar disorder, outpatient treatment may not be adequate. This marked Dyane’s first admission of what would turn out to be seven hospitalizations.

Dyane Harwood, Author of 'The Birth of a New Brain'
Dyane Harwood, Author of ‘The Birth of a New Brain’

Read More: Postpartum Bipolar Disorder 

The Birth of a New Brain paints the picture of Dyane’s resilience, especially after receiving several doses of medicine. Most of this medication was found not to work as a result of bipolar-medication resistance. In a bid to improve the quality of life, doctors will often prescribe multiple medications to better the patient. For Dyane however, this caused severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

One of the things that stand out in Dyane’s experience is the use of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) to lift her out of the depths of despair. This, following her dad’s death, drives Dyane to request for ECT. ECT is a process that induces seizures electrically to treat patients with medication-resistant bipolar.

Additionally, Dyane shares some of the changes that she makes at a personal level. These include bibliotherapy, forest baths, exercise, sleep and selfcare habits. Her book also lists resources (mainly in the US and the UK), but there are also websites which are accessible for many people. Dyane is also kind enough to recommend reading material for anyone who would love to learn more about maternal mental illness.

What I liked:

Dyane writes well and is able to let readers into her world as a person with bipolar disorder. She does not use big heavy words. Even she makes mention of medical terms, she goes on to explain what a word/technique means/works. Her writing style has prose and is easy to follow through. Dyane also backs up information with resourceful content for anyone willing to read further.

What I Did Not Like:

There is not much to write here. However, I was hoping to read a little bit about her husband’s experience having a partner with bipolar disorder. This, I presume, would be helpful for fathers reading the book. It would give a glimpse of their experience, as well as highlight other practical ways to help.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Dyane’s Birth of a New Brain does a great job of creating awareness and educating her readers on bipolar disorder. To do it so clearly required that she share her story with candour. I would highly recommend this book for the mom with Bipolar disorder, Peripartum onset. Moms who have had any type of maternal mental illness will catch glimpses of themselves in Dyane’s moving memoir.

Follow Dyane on her website here.

You can also read one of her many interviews on this post.

For Kenyans looking for a support group for bipolar disorder, USP Kenya and PDO Kenya offer psychosocial support, information and resources on Bipolar Disorder.

 

I Finally Got Around To Making my 2019 Vision Board: Here’s How.

A simple guide to creating your vision board

I have long been planning to make a vision board. When the New Year rolled in, I made sure to put that on my list of things-to-do (Alafu, is there anyone who is still saying Happy New Year? Because it is ageing really fast!) I finally got around to making it and was pretty stoked by how it turned out.

A vision board, just as the name suggests, is a tool on which you display pictures that represent what you aspire to be or have in your life. This not only helps you clarify your life goals, but it is also a wonderful way to stay focused on your goals.

A simple guide to creating your vision board

Why create a vision board?

When I decided to make one, I started by visiting this site to read up on vision boarding and what it entailed. In this day and age, many of us tend to be distracted from our goals quite a bit – whether that is because of a demanding career, transition to a new stage in life, a breakup, even social media! There are many things that make it easy for us to get distracted. This is where creating a vision board comes in handy.

Read More: 8 Lessons I am Learning From Being Unemployed

3 solid reasons to create a vision board

  1. A vision board gives clarity for your goals

Many of us will typically create resolutions at the start of the year. For the most part, these may include wanting to exercise, travel, eat better and improve relationships among others. But how specific are these goals? What would it take to exercise well for instance, or to improve your relationships?

Having a vision board provides clarity for these goals. This is because to make one, you will need to look for pictures that accurately capture the details of your goals. For some, exercise means going for a daily jog, taking bi-weekly Zumba classes or even purchasing a home workout DVD. In seeking these images, it is then possible to turn those resolutions into tangible action and achievable goals.

  1. A vision board is a great addition for your daily affirmations

For the most part, a vision board contains pictures of what you would want to do or achieve. It is important, however, to include words or phrases that resonate with your values and goals. This helps to silence the ‘Inner Critic’, you know the negative voice that never shuts up and continually discredits your capabilities? That voice is the one I am referring to as the ‘Inner Critic’.

Affirmations are a reminder of the potential that you have, away from the grip of the Inner Critic. Some great affirmations include:

“I am present in this moment”

“I am enough” and

“Worthy of the space that I occupy”

  1. A vision board helps you to stay focused

Lastly, a vision board helps you to stay focused. We are all too familiar with how quickly the ‘New Year, New Me’ vibe is easily buried by the demands of daily living. How then is it possible to stay focused? By creating a vision board. Regardless of what happens, this vision board serves as a reminder of where you would want to go. It taps into your conscious and subconscious so that your mind is fixated on your goals.

Now that we know the benefits of having a vision board, I will share the process of how I made mine below.

Read More: 7 Lessons in 7 Years of Motherhood

What you need to make your vision board

Most websites will include the use of a poster frame, glue, marker pens and old magazines as the things that you will need to bring your vision board to life. I, however, did not have the resources to purchase all those things. Here’s what I used:

  • The hard backflip of last year’s calendar, but you can use manilla paper or even buy a dry erase board for this purpose.
  • Office glue
  • Old newspapers
  • Old magazines I had kept in my closet (and which everyone has finished reading anyway)
  • Marker pens

Here are the simple steps I followed to make my vision board

  1. I first blocked out a period of time to prepare the vision board, ideally about 2 – 3 hours uninterrupted (Yes, I opted to do this while kiddo was in school). I then made cuttings from the newspapers and magazines, choosing pictures and words that resonated with my 2019 vision plan.
  2. Once I had all the cuttings, I divided the hard backflip of last year’s calendar into squares to cover different aspects of my goals. Mine included PPDKenya (the organization I founded to raise awareness on Postpartum depression and offer support), Finances, Health and Fitness (More about my fitness routine for 2019 in this post), Family, Relationships, Work, Travel and Books. This way, it would be easier to assemble relevant ideas on the board.
  3. I then collected the cuttings in the different categories and began to paste them onto my ‘board’. This went on until I had a collage of photos that represented my dreams and goals.
  4. I then let the vision board dry, before placing it on my desk where I would see it every day. I especially loved that I found words which I feel, are defining for my 2019 – BOLD and EVOLVE. Every morning I wake up, say a prayer and take a good look at my vision board. It is a reminder of where I am heading and what I would like to achieve this year.

PS: For anyone who would want to prepare their vision board on their gadget, the use of vision board software may interest you. Read more about that here.

PPS: Spurred by my pictures, my son also made newspaper cuttings and made a mini version of his vision board. In it, he has pictures of guys exercising (guess my enthusiasm rubbed on him, hah!), footballers, a spanky new car and a beautifully designed living area. I found his choice of images pretty interesting, and I hope his dreams come true!

 

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8 Things I Am Learning From Being Unemployed

Workstation

One of the things I decided this year, was to blog a lot more often and to share from a place of authenticity and empathy. The Goal is to do 52 posts this year – quick math, that is a post a week for the rest of 2019. I am still on track so far, with these posts for the month of January.

  1. The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge 
  2.  7 Lessons I Learned in 7 years of Motherhood
  3. This is What I Did Not Post on Instagram
  4. 7 Important Things I do During My Morning Routine

In today’s post, I am sharing lessons I have learned on been unemployed since late December last year. Admittedly, I cannot compare my experience with anyone who’s been unemployed for years, because I cannot imagine how much harder it is. On the flip side, I cannot downplay the fact that the past few weeks have not been the easiest of days for me.

Stay At Home Motherhood

So, I have shared before on the blog, that I have been a stay/work at home mom. After my son was born, I couldn’t go back to work and, for the first nine months of his life I stayed at home – literally. During this time, I was also battling severe Postpartum Depression (but didn’t know it for a while) and staying at home made the symptoms more intense.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Experience

Towards the end of the year, a friend introduced me to online writing. By then, my son had settled into a pattern of sorts, and I could juggle motherhood and getting some work done. I kept at it, and would later grow into it through the different seasons and years. This past December holidays, however, two of my contracts came to an end, perhaps a little unexpectedly. It threw me off balance quite a bit, as it would anyone. Towards the end of the year, and for most of January, I have been applying for jobs as a freelance writer, sending cold pitches and generally keeping hope alive.

Today though, I broke down. There is something about seeing the calendar page flip to mark a new month when you don’t have a job. It is a subtle-not-so-subtle reminder that bills are due – rent, groceries, electricity, school fees, transport, insurance… name it. Today that reality just kinda smacked me in the face. It took all of the energy in me not to have a total breakdown. Part of what it took was to journal – my all-time go-to coping mechanism. I write and write and write and write, and as I did, I thought to share some of the lessons I am learning from been unemployed.

Lessons I Am Learning From Been Unemployed

Lessons From Unemployment

  1. There is no shame in being unemployed

Of course this is easier said than done. It is easy to feel embarrassed about a conversation that ends up with, “So, how’s work?” or “So, what do you do?” But I am realizing that this is nothing to be ashamed of. That many people will, at one point or another, go through unemployment for a period of time. If anything, you are encouraged to speak out and network because you never know what opportunities abound with the persons you interact with.

  1. Work does not define me, but it is intricately tied to a sense of self-worth

Knowing and reminding myself that I am worthy is one of my key affirmations. But even that, in the face of unemployment, gets shaken to the core. Having a job to go to or to do, every day is closely related to one’s self-worth and self-esteem. Part of the reason for this is that, subconsciously, going to work makes you feel as though you are making a contribution to the society. In the absence of this contribution, there is a sense in which one lacks purpose.

Add to this the existence of mental illness and it is easy to see how unemployment, lack of self-worth and depression create a vicious cycle. This study done by Gallup-Healthways in 2014 showed that depression rates are significantly higher for those who have been unemployed for six months or more. It underpins the link between work and self-worth and makes it easier for me to understand why, these past few days have caught me questioning my worth and contribution, even with PPDKenya.

Read More: Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

  1. Having a support system makes a big difference!

The truth of how I have survived this past month, and especially with kiddo going to a new school, is the anchor that my family is. I have a super supportive family, and my sister has been incredibly gracious to me. My close circle of friends has also been incredibly resourceful in checking in and offering encouragement. This is something I cannot be blind to. I recognize it somewhat cushions me from the very jagged edges. I am also cognizant of the fact that not everyone has such a support system. For this, I am very grateful.

  1. Do not quit everything

Granted, life does slow down to a certain extent when you are unemployed. After the frenetic pace of school hunting, my days slowed down noticeably. The mundaneness set in after my sis went to work, and my son was off to school. I would find myself asking, “Then what?”

With this, it is easy to quit everything – quit eating right, quit exercising, quit sleeping well… and plunge into job hunting. But the truth is, this will easily cause burnout. What I have learned to do these past few weeks, is to keep a basic routine of sorts. Part of this has been in form of my morning routine that includes a daily 30-minute intense workout (for those who have been wondering where the zeal comes from!). The morning workouts give me something to look forward to, space to process my thoughts and a toned body at the end of it all.

  1. It is okay to have good and bad days

Someone recently Whatsapped me and said that they envy my lifestyle (having followed my daily workout selfies) – and I wanted to cringe. Because what she didn’t know, was that for the most part, those workouts keep me sane and grounded. On some days though, I will drag myself out of bed, workout and then watch the hours go by with barely any strength to look for a job or make connections. I realized that those bad days are okay too – I just don’t want to linger there too long.

Read More: 17 things in 2017

  1. Having an emergency fund is KEY

Yes, I did have some cash somewhere that helped changed schools for my son, but in retrospect, it should have been bigger. I am reminding myself why it is important in this season. Closely related to this, is that it is wise not to put all of one’s eggs in one basket. Ever since I started freelance writing, I would work with at most, two clients at a go. But I am now realizing how detrimental that is to my financial well-being – and I am taking it for a lesson.

  1. Do the things you have always wished you had more time for

It is easy for the days to waste away when there is no work to go to, but time is valuable, even in such a hard season. This past month, I have tried to make good of this time by

  • Working out a lot more consistently
  • Reading more books (onto my third read for the year)
  • Blogging a lot more
  • Sharing content consistently on the PPDKEnya platforms
  • Brainstorming and writing down ideas
  • Networking, making cold pitches and generally putting myself out there.
  1. Do not give up

I could as well be telling myself this every day. Do not give up. Continue to put in the work. I keep reminding myself that the worst anyone can say no when job hunting/ looking for opportunities, is a NO. The best that can happen, well, there is no limit to that. I will keep putting myself out there. Something will work out, and when it does, I will add an update to this post.

For the record: I am a freelance writer and have been published before on Standard Digital’s Ureport Platform, and you can read the articles here and here. My main niches are Parenting, Wellness, Productivity, and Maternal Mental Health, but I can cover just about any topic on request. Additionally, I have built and continue to run this, and the PPDKenya website which you can visit here. Please get in touch with me if you need services to be provided by a freelance writer. Here’s my LinkedIn profile too. 

 

 

7 Important Things I Do in My Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

For most of my life, I never really thought myself to be an early riser, or what we commonly refer to as the morning person. I felt better suited to sleep late into the night and sleep in some more in the morning. It certainly did not go well during high school, and most of the times I would sleep in my uniform so that I am ready to go when the morning bell rang. That, or I would drag my sleepy self to class in my nightdress and a Maasai shawl to ward off the morning chill in Thika.

In my adulthood, I would only wake up early for work, and even then, it was a mad dash out of the house. I would typically wake up late, prepare in a huff, skip breakfast and get to work. This often left me feeling exhausted. The worst feeling, perhaps, was playing catch up with the rest of my day. My transition to motherhood wasn’t any easier. Sleep deprivation, coupled with my Postpartum depression (PPD) made it harder for me to settle into a routine.

Why creating a morning routine could change your life

My Morning Routine

Fast forward, and a few years later I can gladly say I wake up before 6AM on most days, even on weekends. So, what changed?

Part of it could be attributed to the fact that my son is older now, of course. But a big chunk of it revolves around the fact that I discovered the power of a morning routine in recent years. A morning routine is important because it sets the stage for the rest of the day. If you can get your morning routine right, you can get most aspects of your life right.

Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context, for the rest of your day. – Eben Pagan

One of my New Year Resolutions two years ago was to create a good morning routine. I came across Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning and Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. These two tools revolutionized my life, and changed my mornings for the best!

There are a number of reasons why morning routines are encouraged for anyone who wants to improve their productivity. First, a morning routine sets the pace for the rest of the day. You will avoid feeling like you are catching up with the one hour you lost in the morning. Secondly, getting this routine in place avoids mental fatigue.

Mental fatigue affects ALL of us. Why does this happen? It happens because we all have a finite amount of willpower at the beginning of each day. When we use it to make ‘small’ and inconsequential decisions in the morning, it means there is less energy to make sound decisions later in the day. If you would love to know, it is for this reason that Obama and Zuckerberg wear/wore the same thing from day to day (Link).

Read More: 7 Lessons I have Learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Knowing what to expect every morning reduces mental fatigue. To do this, try and make sure that your morning routine does not very much. Here are 7 things I do in my morning routine after I wake up at around 5:30 AM.

  1. Light stretching

I typically wake up and lie in bed for a few minutes. I breathe in deeply, tell myself it is a new day and it will be ah-mazing! Let me also confess that because I used to get sleep paralysis, I don’t sleep face downwards – ever. So after a night of sleeping on the side, I like to do a few stretches to get my body to wake up well.

  1. Get a glass of warm water

After more than 6 hours of sleep, I wake up feeling dehydrated. Warm water feels like just about the right thing to do, so I will take a glass of warm water to get my metabolism going before taking anything else.

  1. Morning pages (20-30 minutes)

My morning pages were inspired after reading about Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. This practice involves writing about 3 pages of whatever comes to mind. This is not content that you will ever publish or share with anyone. Think of it like a place to dump your thoughts and get your creativity flowing. Since journaling has always been my go-to selfcare tool, it was only natural that I fell in love with morning pages.

Read More: Self-care: Here’s what I like to do for my mental wellness

  1. Prepare my son for school (40 – 50 minutes)

He is usually up by 6 AM, and is picked about 45 minutes later. After he wakes up, we chat and bond for a few minutes then say our prayers. He will then make his bed, fold his pajamas and dress up ready for school. By then, I have prepared his breakfast and he is good to go. I see him off downstairs with a hug because you can never give your child enough hugs.

  1. Workout (30 minutes)

Once I am back home, I will then change into my workout clothes and do half a minute of HIIT. I am currently following the Focus T25 workouts by Shaun T. This is one of the best parts of my days! I break a good sweat with these workouts and add a morning jog on the weekends. Plus, the workouts are only 25 minutes, so there is literally no excuse for not putting in the work.

  1. Cold Shower (20 minutes)

After cooling down, I jump in to take a cold shower. There are many health benefits of taking a cold shower which you can read here. I feel so rejuvenated and energized after that, and as often as I can, I want to take a cold shower.

  1. Breakfast (20 minutes)

On most weekdays I will have breakfast alone and prefer to enjoy it unrushed. Since I started my workouts, I have found myself gravitating towards healthier choices. It doesn’t make sense to get all sweaty then eat all the wrong foods. My breakfast typically includes sweet potatoes/ arrow roots and tea, oats, cereal and eggs. As I am having breakfast, I like to speak positive affirmations.

“It is going to be an amazing day”

“I am a phenomenal woman”

“I am doing the best I can for my son, and that matters”

“Things will work out, eventually”

After breakfast, I then brush my teeth ready to start my day. I work from home and have a dedicated space to do that from. This routine has been incredibly helpful for me! I must also add that I prefer not to log onto my social media pages before getting the most important task of the day done. To do this, I schedule posts going out on Postpartum Depression Kenya (PPDKenya) pages using Hootsuite, and this allows me to get so much more done.

How does your morning routine look like? What is your favorite part of the routine?

 

This is what I did not post on Instagram

Black Girl On Vacation

“Do not compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel because of what you see on social media”

This has, for a long time, been a personal mantra. It is something I have been embracing, and a reminder for myself. You might be very familiar with the sinking feeling that you experience when, after scrolling endlessly on social media, starts to creep at the back of your mind. For a while, I opted to deal with it by keeping offline for extended periods of time. Of course that would work for some time, and then I would get back online and experience that sinking feeling.

Scouring the web the other day, I came across this article. The author of the post admits to signing up for a yoga retreat to cope with anxiety. One of the author’s friends made a comment about ‘how she was always on vacation’. For someone struggling with anxiety, that could not be further from the truth. It did, however, cause the author to reflect on how often it is that things look so glamorous from the outside looking in.

#WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram

What I Did Not Post On Instagram

This is so profoundly true for many of us. I know fully well that it is stressful to compare my day-to-day life with everyone’s highlights (because few of us will rarely post the hard days, and that is okay), but sometimes there is that lingering feeling that I could be the only one who hasn’t found their footing. Reading through her post made me realize that those feelings are normal for the most part, and we do get through them (Unless it is a mental illness for which you would need professional treatment).

Looking back, I could not help but realize how it is possible to unintentionally create a façade. In this post, I will be sharing the backstory for some of my Instagram photos. Follow me on Instagram here.

A Mother’s Day Tribute while I was struggling with PPD

Backstory: I was smiling here, grateful to have my mom, but struggling in my own motherhood. I was probably at my heaviest here too, because one of my (negative) coping techniques was eating comfort food. It made me add lots of weight, I was criticizing myself harshly and living with Postpartum Depression. On many days around when this photo was taken, I would cry myself to sleep as he was nursing by my side.

Some parenting days are hard.

Backstory: He was 4 then, I cannot even remember how this meltdown began, but it ended up with him taking my mom’s plates and smashing them to ground. In a moment of utter frustration, I beat him so badly that he slumped and slept on the floor. The all-consuming guilt after he slept meant I cried myself to sleep, because of the frustrations and mostly, because I felt I was never a good mom to start with. PS: This is not something I am proud of, certainly. Therapy has helped me manage my anger better now.

Grief is hard – it is not a destination, it is a journey that changes you forever

I am laughing here, we are. But these are my cousins and we were hanging out the day after grandpa was buried. I am wearing a pink cap to hide my swollen eyes.

Vacationing – but still feeling lost

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A post shared by Sassy'Samoina Rembo Qui (@samoina.k) on

This photo was taken in Nyali, during our annual family vacation. It was an amazing getaway, and full of memories. What it doesn’t capture is the fact that I was feeling lost – jobless and with bills to pay. I contemplated shutting down PPDKenya altogether and going to a far far place where no one knows me.

Glamorous dinner wear and a dose of anxiety

I am smiling in this picture, with my fierce ladies. But what I did not post on IG is that I had a panic attack on that evening. My anxiety was spiralling out of control and I was struggling with intrusive thoughts (what if the car crashes? what if I get kidnapped? What if I never see my family again?) Forever grateful for Christine who came to pick me up from the house that day. <3

 

Birthday cupcakes and a meltdown

My aunt delivered these cupcakes for my son’s 7th birthday. What I did not post is that he had the mother of all meltdowns on this day, and we only got to blow his candles two days after. He was frustrated and angry (he is transitioning to a new school), and I was because I felt like the meltdown was an attack on my capacity as ‘good mom’.

The #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram means a lot to me, because it is always a reminder that the camera does not capture everything. That we all love to show the strong kickass side, but this does not take away from the fact that we all have hard days.

Do you relate to this post? Check out #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram on Social Media too.

Featured Image: Photo by Ogo from Pexels

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 lessons I learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Mother and son

On this day, 7 years ago, at this time, I was celebrating the birth of my son. He came in at 7:34, head full of hair and with the sweetest eyes I have ever seen. I will never forget the emotions that I felt when he was placed on my chest for skin-to-skin care. I was grateful that the delivery process went well, albeit with a couple of stitches. Hello episiotomy! His birth made me feel a sense of relief because it was finally over – where it is the experience of labour and delivery.

But I will also admit I felt somewhat unprepared for my new role as a mom. Here’s this tiny babe who would be looking up to me for literally EVERYTHING. The uncertainty of life and parenting alone cast a dark shadow on what was a beautiful series of moments with his arrival. As I was wheeled to the maternity wing to get him to nurse, I did not imagine the journey as it would unfold, and my experience with Postpartum Depression.

7 lessons in 7 years of motherhood

7 lessons in 7 years

Today as I journaled and reflected on this past 7 years, my heart is filled with awe and pride, mostly awe. Here are 7 lessons learned in 7 years of my motherhood journey. They are by no means exhaustive, but they represent some of my most defining moments.

  1. There is no shame ought not be shame with the process of child birth

I will be honest and say that childbirth is downright raw, and messy, and beautiful. Before becoming a mom, I was mostly acquainted with the beautiful  – photos of the newborn snuggled in a cozy blanket and mommy tired but smiling, sometimes with makeup. Not that there is a problem with this, but the truth is that it doesn’t represent all that there is to the birth process. There is fluids and blood, lots of it. And poop, and sore tissues, and stitches and salt baths just to name a few.

It is raw, it is messy and it is beautiful.

Read More: 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy

  1. I learned that I did not have control over everything

One of my earliest motherhood lessons was that I did not have control over everything. Right from how my birth experience would look like to adjusting to breastfeeding and taking care of myself. I quickly learnt that whilst I could not control these aspects of my life’s new chapter, my response to them mattered a great deal. And the most important part of my response was directly related to how I was doing mentally. Which brings me to my third lesson.

  1. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is real and can affect anyone.

I remember vividly the expectations I had of motherhood. The thought that it would be a magical and blissful experience, buoyed by the beautiful pictures I had seen from some of my friends. But as it turns out, I was the 1 out of 7 new moms who got Postpartum Depression.

A number of risk factors accelerated my depression. Looking back however, what stood out the most was that I had pregnancy depression. Pregnancy depression, also known as antenatal depression, is a maternal mental illness that affects expectant women. If it is not diagnosed early, it typically leads to PPD, as was the case for me.

Mental illness does not care, and can affect any mom regardless of their social status, religion, education level or marital status. You could be married or in a stable relationship and still get PPD. You could be Christian, Muslim , Hindu or atheist and still get PPD. We have also had celebrities sharing openly about their experiences. So if you are a new mom with PPD, please remember you are not alone.

Read More: 5 Celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with Postpartum Depression

  1. Motherhood is a lifetime journey.

A friend recently asked me if, looking back, there was anything I would tell the 21-year old I was before becoming a mom. I thought about it, and what stood out was the need to go into motherhood whilst prepared. And that’s because it is a lifetime journey. Unless you would love to give up the baby for adoption, motherhood is a life journey. There is no trial period, there is no opting out – you are simply in it. And while you cannot be 100% prepared, it helps a great deal when one is in a good place mentally, emotionally and financially.

  1. Every child is unique

Right from the onset, it was clear that my son would be a loud, lively and energetic kid. It was evident, at least to me and those around me, where he got these traits from. It was easy to notice his unique personality. He was, and still is growing to be his own person. He easily articulates his thoughts, he is firm with what he wants (or doesn’t want) and has his own opinion. As a mom, it is easy to want to change certain aspects of his personality to meet my unspoken expectations, but I am learning to let him be his own person. This video explains it best in ways I never could.

  1. Selfcare is important

I cannot overemphasize the importance of selfcare. I got around to learn this, albeit the hard way as a Stay-At-Home Mom (SAHM). In his early days, I poured all of me into taking care of his needs round the clock – making sure he was fed, changed, vaccinated, bathed and getting him to sleep. Over the days, doing that without taking care of myself only led to burnout and I started to resent the whole idea of motherhood. It made bonding with him difficult, and my Postpartum Depression did not help. Going for therapy, however, helped me find selfcare tools that I could use to ensure my mental wellness, and ultimately improve my ability to care for him.

Selfcare is NOT selfish. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Read More: Here’s what is in my selfcare toolbox

  1. Motherhood is an evolving journey

As he grows up, I am also realizing I am changing. As I enter my thirties this year, I realize I have grown in tremendous ways in the past 7 years. I am not the mom I was in 2012. It has been an amazing journey, one that has had its own challenges. But today, I sit here, grateful. For these seven years, for my son and for the opportunity to help other moms with PPD through PPDKenya.

What would you say are the most defining lessons of your motherhood journey? Share in the comment box below and let us encourage each other. 

Featured Photo by nappy from Pexels

 

30 Day Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness matters

January is Mental Wellness Month. Mental wellness refers to a state in which one’s psychological well-being allows them to function well using their cognitive and emotional capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, mental wellness is more than the absence of mental illness.

By marking January as the mental wellness month globally, more people are encouraged to be proactive in taking care of their mental health. To help with you with this, I created a 30-day mental wellness challenge for this month. There are many options to get through with. The most important thing to remember is that these options are not a replacement for medication and therapy.

The challenge helps build your mental strength. Just like any other muscle in the body, the mind benefits from daily workouts to help improve your wellness. You can start the Mental Wellness challenge at any time of the year. Most people prefer to start the challenge at the beginning of the month. Whatever you prefer, just ensure that you take note of where you started and track your progress.

Please Note: This challenge is largely rooted in selfcare and social structure to improve your mental health.

The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

Day 1 – Journal about how you feel.

Take time to get in touch with your inner self, as well as to find out how you would like to feel after the challenge. Below are some wonderful prompts you can use to help with your jourmalling.

  • Today I learned…
  • My ideal day would look like…
  • I am grateful for…
  • I would like to accomplish the following three things…
  • This is how I am feeling right now…

Read More: My Selfcare Routine

Day 2 – Spend at least 20 minutes in the outdoors

Whether that means taking a nature walk, going for a light jog or walking around the block, take time outside.

Day 3 – De-Clutter

Clearing out your space has a tremendous effect on your mental health. It is particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety. Getting rid of clutter helps your mind.

Day one of the Mental Wellness Challenge includes journalling as a tool. Write about how you feel and how you would like this challenge to improve you.
Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness Challenge Day 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Unplug for 24 hours

Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives. For many people, however, this has led to an over-reliance on our gadgets. On Day 4 of the 30-day mental wellness challenge, go off the internet for 24 hours. Do whatever works for you. Some people prefer to log out of all apps while others opt to delete all their apps.

Day 5 – Call someone that you love

It is easy to get caught up in life’s daily routines. This is why it is important to pause and get in touch with our loved ones. Pick up the phone and call someone that you love.

Day 6 – Slow down, be present

Our fast-paced lives mean we hardly get time to truly be present in the moment. Today, take time to slow down. Be present. I have found that taking time to note my surroundings helps anchor me in the present. Take note of five things that you can do with each of the following senses: see, hear, feel, smell and touch.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 7 – Make a list of next week’s goals

What would you like to achieve? What are your short term and long term goals?

Day 8 – Do one thing that you have been putting off for a long time.

What’s the one thing you have been postponing for a while but would love to do? Today provides that chance.

Day 9 – Read something that will assist your mental wellness

Read your favorite book, fun facts, listicles, or even an informative blogpost. Here is a good place to start on this blog.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 10 – Extend kindness to a stranger

Read More: What I am learning about grief

Day 11 – Practise positive selftalk

Choose an affirmation that resonates with you. Repeat it throughout the day.

Day 12 – Find ways to improve your morning routine.

What does your morning routine look like? How can you improve it?

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 13 – Create a sacred space for yourself

This creates a safe space for you to retreat to after a hard day. Fill it with all your favourite things – sweet photographs, special letters, scented candles or even your favourite rug.

Day 14 – Do not be afraid to ask for help

Day 15 – Make a list of 10 things that you are grateful for today

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

 

Day 16 – Go through today without complaining.

Day 17 – Go to bed half an hour earlier today

Getting adequate rest is an important part of mental wellness. This not only allows the body to recuperate, it is also a wonderful opportunity to recharge.

Day 18 – Make time to enjoy the sunrise/sunset today.

Sit and soak in the splendid beauty of that moment.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 19 – Write a letter to the 10-year old that you were

If you could go back in time, what would you tell the 10-year old that you were?

Day 20 – Make time to watch something that encourages you or makes you laugh.

Day 21 – Be intentional about how you speak today.

Try as much as you can to make sure that it is stuff that builds and not destroys.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 22 – Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone

Say hi to that neighbour you have never talked to. Write an audacious plan for your year. Take yourself on a date. Venture out to a new part of town. Learn how to crochet.

Choose something that takes you out of your comfort zone, but one that benefits you.

Day 23 – Practice deep breathing for five minutes today.

Deep breathing has been shown to ease anxiety. Read more about that here.

Day 24 – Say NO to the things that you do not want to do.

One of the greatest pillars for mental wellness is learning to say No and to set boundaries. This gives you space to chase after only the things that set your heart on fire.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 25 – List 10 things that you love about yourself.

Day 26 – Spend time alone today. If possible, plan a date night for yourself.

Day 27 – Make time for a healthy hearty breakfast today

Read More: Taking a minute can save a life

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 28 – Clear out your email inbox.

This is the time to get rid of all those emails that keep piling in your inbox. Hit unsubscribe for emails that you no longer read/ find useful.

Day 29 – Take photos of 3 things that make you happy today.

Day 30 – Evaluate the progress you have made during this mental wellness challenge.

What would you like to keep doing? Is there anything that worked for you? What was your best day? Do you have a list of things you can commit to do in the coming months to improve your mental health?

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

 

Featured Image credits

STILL A MUM 2018 CONFERENCE & AWARDS GALA

PPDKenya at the StillAMum 2018 Conference

Every year, October 15th marks the World Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) day. The goal of this day is to, first and foremost, recognize the loss that so many parents have experienced, as well as to create awareness on pregnancy and infant loss.

This year, Still A Mum organized a two-day conference that included two events and an awards gala. PPDKenya partnered with Still A Mum for the conference, and we were able to share some of the information that PPDKenya does at our stand.

It was amazing to speak to the expecting couples and new parents on Postpartum depression and what places moms at risk in the period after birth. A number of the dads-to-be and dads asked about PPD. One of the common questions from them was, “If PPD mainly affects moms, how does it affect dads yet they have not physically given birth?”

This was a great point for discussion because not only are these dads the first point of contact for a new mom (usually), their been aware may help a mom who’s developing the symptoms of PPD and who may not be aware of the changes they are going through. To answer the question on why dads sometimes get PPD:

Paternal Postpartum Depression (or its abbreviation PPPD) affects at least 5% of new dads globally. Why then does it happen if, in women, it is thought to be triggered by hormonal fluctuations after pregnancy, and yet men cannot possibly have it as a result of this? Studies show that, for reasons that are still been researched, a man’s hormonal levels also change, albeit not as significantly as in moms.

Read More: Postpartum Depression affects dads too!

Add to this the psychological, social and financial changes that come with a new baby and it is easy to see why new dads are at risk of PPPD too. Unfortunately, men (generally speaking) will not often readily share what they are experiencing, which poses a challenge even in PPDKenya’s efforts to reach out to the dads. For this reason, the opportunity to speak to the men at our stand was very significant.

The first day of the conference targeted medical professionals, particularly those working in the maternity and pediatric departments. It incorporated training on different aspects during pregnancy, child birth and after as well as Respectful Bereavement Care. Day Two of the conference was dubbed ‘Healthy Baby, Healthy Mum’, and targeted expecting women and their partners as well as new parents. Some of the topics that were covered included healthy habits during pregnancy, labor, delivery, breastfeeding, immunization and Postpartum Depression. I was honored to host the talk on Postpartum depression (with most of it in Swahili! – did you know Postpartum Depression is known as ‘mfadhaiko baada ya kujifungua? You are welcome!), share a bit of my story, what symptoms to look out for, the work that PPDKenya does, and most importantly, that there is hope for the mom and dad with PPD. After the talk, a number of moms did visit our stand, and of them, a few had a free counseling session. PPDKenya was honored to have Brenda Sharp volunteer her services as a psychologist to help the moms at the event.

 

The awards gala had to be postponed from the 13th to the 20th because Wanjiru Kihusa, founder of StillAMum, was out for her Facebook Community Fellowship (Glad to know such fierce kick-ass women!). The gala was organized to celebrate the wonderful work that StillAMum has done in the past three years of operation and to honor persons and companies improving the lives of Kenyan parents. All photos courtesy of Tek Photography.

Dresscode was black-tie, and boy oh boy, people caught the memo. The ambience, the setup, the dinner, the live band and the MC (one and only DJ Soxxy) put together a stellar awards ceremony! It was a beautiful event and I was honored to have joined efforts with the StillAMum team. Let’s do this again in 2019!

 

Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and disclosed how, I was a little anxious about setting up my LinkedIn account. Yes, I am the one in a zillion who had never bothered to create a Linkedin account until the point I decided to get PPDKenya registered legally. And partly because I subconsciously didn’t think there was anything worth writing about myself in the professional circles. Walk with me, I am going somewhere with this.

See, I have been a stay (and work) at home mom since my son was born – in January 2012. Even typing this makes me pause for a few seconds. It’s going to seven years since I last set foot in a regular 8-to-5 job, which amazes and shocks me in equal measure. It hasn’t been easy – it cannot be easy to make the switch from a travel junkie whose work involved lots of travel, to staying and raising a child round the clock.

Becoming a SAHM was not something I sought out to be. In the second trimester of my pregnancy, I realized I was going to be raising my son alone. Shortly after, I lost my job. So jobless and with no partner support, I ended up going back home to my parents and figure out life from that point. My son was born with no health complications, thankfully. My parents were very supportive, and I am thankful for that to-date. I knew however, I needed to find something to do to help me raise my child and get the basics (diapers, clinic money, clothes etc) because at the time, I wasn’t paying any rent or utility bills.

Read More: This is Why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

That’s how I stumbled onto online writing. A friend suggested the possibility of working from home and I embraced the idea because it would keep us afloat. Years later, it has provided a lifeline for my son and I, but it was not without its own challenges.

At the onset, it gave me a profound sense of self to be able to stay home and cherish whatever memories I could of raising him before Postpartum Depression stole the precious moments. But as the years went by, I realized I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all. SAHMoms find themselves alone, quite literally, for long hours every day. I found this aspect of SAHMotherhood particularly challenging. I am an extrovert by nature, and love to be around people. Here I was, spending up to 10 hours indoors, alone, with nothing but baby talk, bibs and nappies to fill my days.

The lack of adult interaction for most days made it difficult to articulate the emptiness I felt. Caring for my son almost 100% of the time made it very easy to forget about myself. Add to this the monotonous routine of daily life and it started to feel like my sense of self was slowly but surely slipping away.

My PPD didn’t make it any easier. I remember asking myself, ‘What’s the point of dressing up anyway, if I wouldn’t be going anywhere? Why make my nails if I will spend half the day cleaning up mustard-coloured nappies?” Let’s not talk about the matted nest that was my hair. I let go of myself. I just did not see the point of making it… and over time, how I looked on the outside began to seep into how I viewed myself.

Read More: Changes

It started to feel like I had lost my sense of identity, I had lost the person I was before motherhood, so much so that on several days when I got someone to watch over him, I’d spend the whole day trying to remember what it was I loved doing – what it was I enjoyed most. I couldn’t find myself in the haze of motherhood. I didn’t feel attractive anymore, and struggled to look at myself in the mirror. Under the layers of baggy tees with several milk patches and saggy track pants, I felt completely lost.

The intrusive thoughts I had with PPD worsened how I viewed myself. My mind kept telling me I was frumpy and ugly (frugly if you like), and it didn’t matter because everyone seemed so put together on IG but I was struggling with my sense of identity and self-esteem.

I did go for therapy, and that helped quite a bit. I recovered from PPD, but the scars on my sense of identity linger on many days, particularly on those days when there’s an impending change or I am embarking on a new project as is the case with the organization. I second guess myself so many times, I doubt my abilities, I hear the subtle voices in my mind telling me I am not good enough.

But,

But I am learning to look into the mirror and tell myself I am doing an amazing job raising my son. To say out loud positive affirmations, and to remind myself of the wonderful work PPDKenya does to help moms with PPD. I am learning to create boundaries to practise self-care. I am learning to say NO. I am learning that this is part of my journey. And it is helping me find myself, and teaching me to let go.