The Mom I Want To Be – Part I

We have had a couple of rough sleepless nights in this past week, thanks to an extremely high fever that saw mommy and son wake up at odd hours. At some point, I had to reduce the layers of cloths the champ had in order to keep the fever in check, plus of course, medication to reduce it – I always keep some medicine for the fever because it has a tendency to strike at the weirdest hours. We later attributed the fever to a stomach upset, from which the champ has since recovered.

The erratic nights made me a walking zombie in the days that followed. I kept dozing off at my work desk, and with this cold, it is not hard to see how I’d just take a few minutes and snooze away. Listening to his soft breathing last night had me thinking about a lot. It brought to memory how I really struggled with sleep deprivation in my son’s first months of life. It was crazy – I have mentioned before in this post, that first week after we were discharged, he slept for an average of 15 minutes. 15-freaking-minutes! It drove me nuts, literally.

Read More: I had uncontrollable anger with my Postpartum Depression

I knew we wouldn’t get much sleep with a newborn, but I just didn’t imagine it to that extent. I had not known just how much lack of sleep could turn me into a moron. I started to become extremely irritable. I would snap at the slightest provocation, which in this case could be something as significant as a sink full of dishes. Thinking about doing laundry was enough to turn me into a teary mess. I had many anger outbursts, angry because this is not what motherhood was meant to be like. I mean, where was all the bliss? I wasn’t enjoying it. I was a sleep-deprived mom at the brink of losing my sanity – and I felt so helpless.

Needless to say, after this recent bout of fever, we have resumed a normal sleeping pattern, which for my son, is 12 straight hours. Mulling over this had me thinking, whether I could manage another round of crazy sleep deprivation with Number Two. It is not something I am actively planning presently, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread come upon me. I have a rambunctious five year old-going-fifteen, and it occurred to me just how much I have forgotten about the infancy stages.

Read More: Changes – Change is beautiful

My Postpartum Depression means I have a hazy recollection of my son’s first years. Sometimes I look at photos saved in my phone from 2011, and save for the familiarity of faces and places, I cannot quite tell what I felt. I was going through the motions, like a robot. I have what I like to call missed memories – I remember posting on Facebook about his first two teeth, but that’s just about it. These milestones were covered in a haze of depressive days. I have no idea what I felt when he first called me mom, what his first steps were like, what his weaning experience was all about. It is all very hazy.

I keep thinking to myself, I would want a different experience for my second when the time comes. I want to be the mother I always envisioned prepartum. I want to be the mother I envisioned myself as in my early 20’s – doting, caring and certainly not struggling with depression. I want to be a better mother than I am. I am well aware that postpartum depression (PPD) affects moms well into their second and third pregnancies as much as it affects first time moms. As a matter of fact, moms who have had PPD in their first pregnancy are at a higher risk of the same in subsequent pregnancies. It is a glaring fact, and I am only too aware of it.

Read More: #postpartumdepression – The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“Are you scared of having another child?”

It is a question I have been asked in a couple of media interviews, and my honest answer is, yes I am scared about a second one, scared at the thought of PPD all over again. But even in the face of this scare, I am well aware of the need to put up solid support systems before and after. I know that my family is present, that they are aware I struggled with PPD and are very supportive. I know I have contacts who I can call at 2am if need be. I am more conscious of what my triggers are, and cognizant of what red flags to be on the lookout for. There is the constant reminder that I was never a bad mom for suffering a mental health condition that affected my ability to love on, and bond with my son. From where I stand now, I am better placed, not because I am immune to PPD, but because I am informed and empowered.

Reminder: Postpartum Depression does not discriminate; it affects moms regardless of religion, social class, age, level of education and order of pregnancy. This is why it is important to raise awareness, get the society to know that there is such a thing as PPD, but most importantly, the fact that help is available. Please feel free to get in touch with me using the Contact page on the top menu if you need someone to talk to or are wondering where to start. I have a Facebook page where I share on PPD, and you can follow on Twitter too.

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Antenatal depression and what you need to know

I was talking to a friend recently, and they mentioned something that gave me the idea to pen this post. She asked, paraphrased,

“Looking back, were you able to tell anything was amiss [when you were pregnant]?”

My thoughts ran back to 2011. All of 2011, for the most part, was a blur – Pregnant, single and very confused. Looking back, now I see the red flags I missed. The constant tearing  (I remember walking downtown and just crying, not the pretty crying – I am talking bloodshot eyes, mucus and lots of tissue-), the sleepless nights I would lay awake wondering what this baby was going to eat (this baby who is now all of 5 years going 15), the drastic mood shifts and everything in between.

Little did I know that these were the early warning signs I was at risk of depression. Then I lost my job in the third trimester and everything just seemingly reeled out of control in my world. The thoughts of been unable to cater for baby’s needs were the catalyst for the Postpartum depression I suffered after his birth. In retrospect, there were all the signs that not everything was fine, but I remember thinking, ‘ah, it shall pass. Maybe it’s the hormones…’

Read More: 8 things to know when you visit a new mom

Today, I would love to share on antenatal depression. Why? Because it is often the precursor to Postpartum depression (PPD). Antenatal depression, just as the name suggests, is depression that occurs during pregnancy. While this is not perhaps as well known as PPD, it still is prevalent. According to PANDAS UK, around 1 in 10 moms will be depressed during their pregnancy. This is a sobering fact because 1 in 7 moms are at risk of PPD.

The causes of antenatal depression are broadly categorized into three: social, emotional and physical causes. Socially, some of the causes include lack of a support framework during pregnancy, an absent partner and generally, the stigma associated with depression. Given that the older generation typically may not have been aware of the different mental illnesses, it is easy to see why all these factors predispose a mom to antenatal depression.

Emotionally, the thought of bringing new life is often overwhelming, whether it is the first child or the fourth one. Add to this the fact that moms who voice their concerns are often told that the drastic mood swings are as a result of hormonal changes (what I thought at the time), and there’s not much that can be done about it.

Read More: Struggling with PPD? Here’s what you may want to avoid

The physical changes that come with pregnancy may predispose some moms to antenatal depression. The drastic changes include engorged breasts, extreme fatigue especially in the last trimester, swollen legs, bladder distress and heartburn among others, place a lot of stress on the body. Getting through the day sometimes get so so exhausting. It is little surprise therefore, that some women fall into antenatal depression.

With these in mind, it is important to look out for the symptoms of antenatal depression. These symptoms are eerily similar to those of PPD. The only difference is the onset that marks each of the perinatal mood disorders.

Symptoms of antenatal depression

  • Guilty feelings
  • Endless bouts of crying (as was my case)
  • Withdrawing from social circles, that is a mom-to-be is no longer interested in been around the people who mean the world to her. This is often accompanied by loss of interest in activities/hobbies they previously enjoyed.
  • A crippling fear of what the future holds, whether one will be able to care for the baby well.
  • Low energy levels
  • Appetite changes (one is either eating too much or too little)
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Fearing to speak out and ask for help
  • Recurrent sleepless nights for some moms

Left unchecked, antenatal depression affects the mom after birth and they go on to suffer from PPD. Therapy is a common method of treatment for moms with antenatal depression. If you have any concerns as a mom-to-be, remember there is no shame in reaching out for help. You are better off wrong (meaning you do not have antenatal depression) than fail to ask for help and suffer under the haze of this form of depression.

 

 

 

5 Years On

My son turned five in January this year. 5 good years. 5 solid years.

To say I am excited about it is an understatement. I remember how, in 2011, when I realized I was pregnant, I could not envision how I would bring this child up. I struggled with seeing beyond a year a month, especially in the days that followed after a threatened miscarriage. When it dawned on me that I would be a single parent, I slowly reeled into what I now realize was antenatal depression.

Antenatal depression, while perhaps not as widely known as Postpartum depression (PPD), is a form of depression that occurs during pregnancy. It is characterized by symptoms such as persistent worry about the pregnancy and safety of the baby, sudden mood shifts, and withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities as well as extreme difficulty in concentrating. For some moms, this form of depression is also accompanied by engaging in risky behavior as well as intrusive thoughts of selfharm. Left unchecked, antenatal depression is often a precursor for postpartum depression [source].

And that is exactly what happened in my case, only I was not aware. Struggling with impending single motherhood, losing my job in my last trimester and everything in between left me gasping for breath. I recall vividly, walking in town one evening, so overwhelmed by the thoughts of pregnancy and the new role I was about to take on. I was saving every cent I could get to take care of this baby. Before I lost my job, it entailed frequent travelling, and to some extent, that was weighing down on me owing to the additional costs of the same.

Read More: Night Terrors: The Reason my son kept waking up screaming!

Too overwhelmed, I started crying smirk in the middle of the city. It was not the pretty classy crying; no, I am talking about the ugly mucus-all-over-the-place type of crying. I crossed the roads in a haze, not sure I wanted to be pregnant anymore. I should have known there was something wrong… but even then, I felt resigned to whatever curveballs came my way. And come they did when PPD hit.

After he was born, I struggled with intrusive thoughts. I struggled with bonding with him. It is said that moments with a newborn are blissful, magical even. I did not see it. Sleep-deprived, utterly exhausted and wondering just why I couldn’t bring myself to enjoying motherhood, these experiences threw me deep into Postpartum Depression.

Read More: A Letter To My Son: Chronicles of a PPD survivor

As he grew up, and the milestones came and went, I struggled with the thoughts that my PPD would scar him for life. I feared he may never be able to love me as mom. Thoughts of been unable to bond with him continually haunted me. I never thought we’d make it to 5, but here we are. I recovered from PPD, I am able to bond with my son now, perhaps the best we have all his life. I am at a place where I appreciate been a mom. I am grateful for 5. Here is to 5 more, 15 more, 25 more…!

Why do I write this? To share with a mom struggling with PPD that there is hope. It may not get better in a day (Took me a couple of years to get to this place), but someday it will. I got help, I went for therapy, and I am here to tell you that you can pull through. That there’s hope, there’s help and it matters that you are holding on.

PS: Do take a minute to check out the Facebook page and Follow on Twitter 🙂

 

 

I remember.

I remember seeing the two lines and spending the rest of the day in a haze, alternating between contagious excitement and intense anxiety,

I remember thinking twice, no thrice, actually multiple times about my abilities as a mom-to-be,

I remember getting through the craves and aversions, and always having an excuse that ‘baby does not want this or that’,

Then the fluttery kicks began and I fell in love with someone I was yet to meet,

Read More: 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

I remember drinking cold water and the kicks would set in earnestly,

I remember staring down at my belly and not been able to catch a glimpse of my toes,

I remember the build up to D-day during the Christmas festivities and waddling around home waiting to pop,

All my expectations, all my hopes, all my excitement, I anticipated motherhood, but still had a few worries at the back of my mind. Single parenting seemed so daunting, yet, here I was already.

I became a mom one fine Tuesday morning, and with it my life changed forever.

The whole labour and delivery process, while without complications, really got to me,

I remember the sleepless nights like it were yesterday,

The incessant crying, the inexplicable shrieks, the colic episodes dead in the night, all of which culminated in sleepless nights for days on end,

I was starting to lose my sanity, slowly under the weight of the demands that new motherhood places on women. I remember that bonding with my newborn was not automatic the way I had anticipated.

Read More: Angst

But weren’t moms meant to enjoy this blissful stage? Why couldn’t I? Why was I so irritable, and so damn angry?

I remember the intense anger and bitterness I harbored, perfectly masked in social settings, but aptly pulled down at dusk when the world went to sleep and I was left fighting the depression demons, feeling hopeless, helpless and utterly inadequate to be a mom.

I remember crying on many days and nights, the sobs soaking my pillow and hair, his soft breathing on my chest as he nursed. I couldn’t reconcile what I felt with what I expected before he was born. I was at a loss of words and totally broken on the inside.

I remember questioning my abilities as a mom, and slowly sliding into a dark hole. It felt lonely, it was lonely.  No one seemed to understand.

I remember Googling ‘Why do I hate my baby so much’ and learning that there was a high likelihood I was suffering from Postpartum Depression. This flooded my heart with relief, as it did fear, fear of the unknown.

I remember learning just about everything I could on Postpartum Depression (PPD) because information is power, and because it was helpful knowing I was not alone in this. The virtual communities and forums created for Postpartum Depression were a huge blessing.

Read More: Inspired by these blogs

I remember vividly the struggle of walking through the haze of Postpartum Depression, wondering whether it will ever get better. I am glad it did, I am glad I got help. To think there’s a mama struggling right now, is why I am passionate about creating more awareness on PPD.

I remember, and so I will speak more about Postpartum Depression.

If you suspect you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, do not be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your doctor about it or get in touch on the Contact Page and we will direct you to professionals. If you are looking for a comprehensive resource center for the same, do check out Postpartum Progress.

Bath time nostalgia!

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Image source

Recently, I have been having all these fuzzy baby thoughts. (See my recent posts here). Perhaps it is because it seems like all my friends are welcoming their bundles of joy, or maybe the fact that only now, am I enjoying motherhood. See, I am a Postpartum Depression (PPD) survivor, which means this monster took away my most precious moments, leaving me dazed as the fog descended on me heavily. Even then, there were precious moments that I cherished and looked forward to: bath time.

I remember how, on arrival from hospital, I admitted to mommy that I was scared about bath time: what products I would use, how I’d bath him, what I’d do when the temperatures plummeted to single-digit values… and the list went on. First things first, mommy said. Choose the right product – a baby specific product. Secondly, bath time is key for baby’s proper development and third, there is such a thing as half-bathing when it is cold (Anyone else hoping the sun comes out to play soon?!)

Read More: Potty Training routines

Suffice to say, mommy did bath my son those first few weeks. He was so tiny and looked so fragile, I was afraid he’d slip from my hands. When it was cold, my son got a half-bath from his granny. It always amazed me how fast mom was. She’d place the water in a basin and set it ready, all the while singing and playing with him. She’d then undress him in turns. First it was his upper body where she’d start by wiping his eyes then his face.

She’d then proceed to his hair (curly baby hair – someone take me back to those days, now it is all kinks, LOL) using my favorite brand of baby wash, Johnson’s. She’d then finish off by cleaning the diaper area, using some warm water or baby wipes when she was time pressed. I watched her do this seamlessly, and promised myself once I get the hang of it I would make sure I enjoyed it.

It wasn’t long after that when she resumed work and I had to take up bath time all by myself. Part of me always looked forward to bath time, simply because it was calming. Calming for both baby and I. Away from the dreary motions of depression, bath time provided much needed relief from the intrusive thoughts that plagued my mind. For him, it was an opportunity to play in the water. His bath toys always fascinated him and he’d glee, stimulated by the vibrant colors.

Read More: Lost memories

I treasured these moments, because they were always the highlight of the day, smack in the midst of depression. I look back with nostalgia at all the bath time fun, the songs and games. He is grown now, and if there is anything I learned while he was still young, is that you got to make the best of those moments when they are still young and cuddly – and not running around the house butt-naked, trailing tissue paper right behind them! Lay a foundation for proper bonding later on as they cross their milestones.

I cannot overemphasize the need to choose baby products that are gentle on your baby’s skin. Johnson’s baby range of products is gentle and mild for your newborn, so you need not worry about their skin reacting. More importantly, bath time is meant to create new memories that allow baby to develop healthily. I find it amazing that, despite the lost memories thanks to depression, memories of bath time still linger in my mind to-date. Warmth, cuddles, pure love – bath time.

This is what I wish I knew while I was pregnant.

I have done a list on 10 things I would tell my pregnant self, which you can read here, but seemingly, so many of my friends are expecting their bundles of joy. So, I thought, another 10 or so (we will see) will not hurt. This post was birthed by the conversation I had with my pal whose daughter is just 2 months old. She was sharing on some of the shocking things that she experienced while she was expecting, and the least of which is talked about. In retrospect, I realized this was my case too! There were so many things I wished I knew, most of which were never shared. Here goes.

  1. You will be an emotional wreck, a whole lot more than you think.

Whether due to the upsurge of pregnancy hormones, or just the sheer thought of bringing new life to these world, your emotions will be all over the place (Got to love how well Shiko of The Green Calabash puts it in this post). I remember once, crying in a Thika-bound matatu, not the pretty crying. Ugly-sobs-mucus-type of crying. It does get overwhelming sometimes, so grab a box of tissue honey, and rock on.

  1. Things get, ermm… slippery in South Pole.

Pantyliners are your friend. Enough said.

Read More: Baby Shower!

  1. Labor is different for everyone.

This, I think, was one of those topics I steered away from when I was expecting my son. Enough with the horror stories, the grotesque images and everything in between, Granted, child birth is not a high tea party, but then again, moms-to-be need not be pumped with all the crazy happenings. It will help to give insight into what to expect, but in my view, all the horror stories are to be saved for later (probably after delivery). That’s just my 2 cents.

So yes, some will have the ‘she-just-came (and I still had my makeup on)’ narrative, and others, by the time their newborn is put in their hands, will have said unprintables, danced kanungo, gotten rid of every burden in the form of clothing and realized that there’s a level of pain where words and tears do not suffice. All that matters, is to take the journey in stride, however it comes.

  1. It is a whole new season of adjustments with breastfeeding.

Cracked. That Nivea ad doesn’t even do justice to try and imagine what cracked feels like. Now, picture cracked nipples, and a little clueless human being trying to latch. This is HARD. And on many days, you will want to give up, because sore bloody nipples are not anyone’s cup of tea. Good old Vaseline will be your friend, amidst all the shrieks and tears (I dreaded breastfeeding for this very reason on those first days, but it does get better. So, no, there’s nothing wrong with you!)

Read More: The Place of vulnerability

  1. Lochia is a thing.

The glee on my face when I realized I would be off periods for 9 months, could actually be packaged and sold for a pretty penny. But you see, the human body has a way of reminding you who the boss is. And so, immediately after delivery, the nurse tells you that you should expect lochia for the next couple of weeks.

Lochia is the medical term that refers to the vaginal discharge after birth. This discharge contains blood, tissue from the uterine lining and bacteria. Or in other words, it is payback for the 9 months you did not bleed, hah! Some women will experience cramps too, so painkillers will come in handy. And do not forget the maternal maxi pads, you know, the ones that feel like you rolled a gunny bag and placed it in your Mother Unions (which, by now, are like the best things after porridge and sleep) – those ones.

  1. You may have to re-invent your wardrobe

Those strappy tops you had that held your bosom in place and did not move an inch, forget them. Because, guess what, you need clothes that allow you to whip that boob out comfortably, and on LO’s demands. Invest in button-down blouses, zipped tops and anything else that allows easy access to the lactose zone.

Read More: 7 gross things moms do

  1. You may not be able to bond with your child immediately

This, I have to slip in here a second time. Not all moms will have an instant bond with their child, whether due to the trauma of labor, or depression during pregnancy, or sometimes simply the overwhelming experience that this new chapter represents. And that is okay, to a certain extent.

Baby blues are fairly common, and will often die down on their own. In Postpartum Depression however, these blues only intensify. They have a vice-like grip on any mom, and will often wash up like mighty waves on the shore of your heart. If you do experience this, do not be afraid to get medical attention. There is no shame in asking for help. So chin up! (If you would like to read more on Postpartum depression, click here).

  1. They grow

In spite of the challenges at the onset, the kids grow. A proverb in my local language loosely translates to “Kids do not have stones on their heads” – easy to see why. Then we shall miss the infant stages where they are cute, cuddly and composed, before they get to 5 and you feel like you are handling a blender whose settings have been turned on… without the damn lid! And we shall be back to bringing other life to this world.

Is there anything I have missed on the two entries? Drop by in the comments below.

Every June…

Every June, I have a silent anniversary of sorts.

This June was no different.

It doesn’t help much the fact that this blurry anniversary coincides with my birthday.

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I have vivid memories of that day back in June 2011. In the months that had passed, I lived in a bubble of sorts; reality still hadn’t dawned on me. How’d I been drinking Famous Grouse & Malibu all along without knowing it. It never crossed my mind, at least not at 22. I had these lofty dreams, my career was on an upward trajectory, and there were all the signs of a well-heeled lifestyle. The realization that life as I knew it was going to change had me floating in a palpable fog.

I’d had nightmares every so often since I saw those two lines—piercing screams in the dead of the night, a bloodied mess on my hands, an obsessive worry-packed train of thought that seemed to amplify my incapability to transcend life’s hurdles, and the very nagging thought that I probably wouldn’t pull through alive. I was scared. With every new day that drew me closer to one of my life’s most changing turning points, I grieved at the life I had left behind yet couldn’t embrace with gusto what lay ahead.

Read More: Triggers…

It was a yo-yo of sorts. I was going to be a mom—totally unprepared, and completely flustered by life as I knew it. As the days whizzed by, I felt like a puppet in life’s hands; going through the motions, pretending to be unfazed, but really squirming on the inside.

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That Wednesday morning began like any other…

This post first appeared on Postpartum Progress. Read the rest of the post here.

Guest Blogging over at JoinMQ

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of guest blogging over at JoinMQ. JoinMQ is a UK-based charity organization that continues to highlight the importance of mental health, the need to reduce stigma associated with various mental health conditions as well as spearhead research in the same field. What an honor to be able to share my journey as far as Postpartum Depression is concerned. Feel free to leave any comments or feedback. xx

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As the festive season approaches, I cannot help but marvel at the fact that in my son’s almost four years, this is the first Christmas I will be spending, away from the haziness that is postnatal depression. It is as amazing as it is surreal. It brings tears to my eyes, but not the kind of tears that I shed last Christmas. Instead, it is tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope.

Let’s back track a little to 2011. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew I’d have loved to be a mom, but it never really crossed my mind that this desire would manifest less than one year later. When I realized I was pregnant, a myriad of thoughts crossed my mind. Part of me was ecstatic at the thought of bringing forth new life. But many of my thoughts revolved around fear and worry. Fear of the unknown, fear that this was the wrong time, worry about how I would provide for him and how I would cope with the demands of motherhood.

At about 5 months of pregnancy, it became apparent that I would be a single parent. The financial implications of this new reality sent my world into a spin. I was still on probation at my new place of work then; they were less likely to grant paid maternity leave. To say that my distorted dreams of sailing through motherhood were a grim reality is understating it. All the while, dealing with the changes that came with pregnancy while trying to comprehend how I would cope.

I am a stickler for plans, the kind of person who likes to have details beforehand, so I can plan accordingly. But here I was, my thoughts seemingly spiraling out of control. This fear of the unknown would later morph into Postnatal Depression (PND). At the time, I had no idea why I had a bad feeling about the whole experience. I attended my anti-natal clinics faithfully. In many Kenyan hospitals, these clinic sessions largely revolve around the mom-to-be’s physical health – blood pressure, position of the baby, heart rate, weight and the EDD.

“In retrospect, my mental health was a non-entity.”

My mental health at the time was not of much importance, and even when it came up, it was not a screening process as such. It was merely a by the way, a casual ‘How do you feel?’ To which I’d answer okay and move on swiftly to the next procedure. Deep down, I kept hoping the nurse taking me through my clinic sessions would seek to delve deeper, find out whether I was facing any challenges as my due date approached. I hoped she would ask whether I had any fears pre-partum, and consequently assure me it would be okay. But this did not happen. For the most part, I felt alone.

Things did not change much post natal as the checkups shifted focus to my new bundle of joy (although my new bundle came with more tears and confusion than it did joy). In my case, it has been a struggle, a constant uphill task to come to terms with loving my son because he was never a bad child; mommy suffered from a bad mental condition. He was never a mistake, but I admit I did find it hard to enjoy a healthy loving relationship with him. I lost it on many occasions, the frustration, the sleeplessness, the new loneliness that most moms suffer from, the hopelessness, all these culminated in a relationship that placed both my son and I in jeopardy.

“The intrusive thoughts of killing my son, my own suicidal thoughts, it was too much to handle.”

One of the most persistent traits of living with PND for three years was waking up with absolutely no zeal. It was hazy. Living seemed to have lost meaning, and all I did was exist, mechanically shuffling between soiled diapers, dirty bibs and tear-soaked pillows. The worst aspect, admittedly, was feeling alone. The thought that no other mom could possibly want to harm their child like I did haunted me. In its vice-like grip, this loneliness prevented me from enjoying my son’s milestones, from appreciating the beautiful moments that we had.

I had the internet, and that is where I got help (albeit virtually). I was so overwhelmed and frustrated that all I could think of, that fine day, was Google ‘Why do I hate my son so much?’

“I was more than overjoyed to find out that, at the very least, I was not the only mom who suffered from this condition. Many others did too.”

I read, amid loud sobs, stories of hope, of courage and of conquering PND. This gave me the boldness to ask for help. While I am grateful I got help online, and I am now on the path of healing, I write this with the hope that research will shed more light on the impact of PND on mother-child relationship, as well as how this mental condition affects children later in their lives.

Looking back, I wish that screening for depression during antenatal clinics would be more stringent. Perhaps researchers can delve deeper into this field and help come up with multiple screening tools for expectant women who are at risk of postnatal depression. It would be comforting to know that there are ways in which the likelihood of PPD can be diagnosed before moms find themselves caught up in this hazy stage. Aside from the questionnaires used presently, it is my hope that reliable techniques can also be incorporated into this screening process. More importantly, medical practitioners can be more equipped to handle women diagnosed to be at risk of PND.

Research has steered strides in the mental health department, no doubt, but I am hopeful that improved techniques can make it easier for screening during antenatal clinics. I imagine that new moms would be better placed to deal with PND if it is diagnosed during the pregnancy. This way, moms will be better equipped to handle the challenges of motherhood in case they are predisposed to PND.

I am doing my part to change things, and I will continue to raise my voice, creating awareness for PND in Kenya through my blog; reaching out to new moms who may feel alone in this journey, one post at a time.

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Always amazed when I look at this lil’ man <3 <3 (Image taken at Olooseos)

Day 10 – Angst

This is Day 10 of my 30 day writing challenge. A third of the challenge done *insert the Sauti Sol lipala dance here*. It is as exciting as it is eye-opening. I have met and connected with so many other strong moms online. I am grateful, humbled that my PPD journey would encourage a mom, and let them know they are not alone.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and this brought to memory my struggle with feeling suicidal at a time when everything felt so overwhelming. Anyone who has felt suicidal before knows too well the hopelessness that comes with this choice; the utter darkness that engulfs one’s world, so that day and night cease to be different. Below I share my experience.

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That Monday began like any other, only that as the hours progressed (snail paced if you asked me), I figured this is how heavy pregnant bloated elephants must feel. EDD was just two days away, and all I wanted was the baby out, ouutt, outtttt! So, aside from my super cravings and 6 miles-a-day walks, I’d done all I could to ensure pregnancy went well, especially after that threatened miscarriage 8 weeks into my pregnancy.

The contractions came, first at intervals, then seemingly every second. The night seemed so so long, I knew the hour was near. Hauled my bag into the car and got to hospital about 7am, wheeled into the labour ward. At this point, unprintables coursed through my head because there really are no words to explain that pain. Physically though, I broke into singing wakorino songs, I could even hear the drum beats in my head.

45 minutes after I got wheeled into the ward, my son was born weighing about 6.5lbs. I couldn’t believe this was done. It was a beautiful moment, and as I was wheeled to the recovery room, I couldn’t help but envision the start of a new chapter. Motherhood was right here. It was beautiful to hold him in my hands, his then-light skin (he has since plastered enough dust on his face and turned to mocha brown) creating a sharp contrast with my dark ebony glowing post-pregnancy skin. His tiny hands, his hair, his eyes… everything about him was beautiful.

Sitting barely able to sit in the recovery ward, and I envisioned how perfect my imperfect life would be. The next day I got home (it was a normal delivery) and the reality of motherhood sunk. See, you just can’t wake up and decide you putting been a mom on hold. You remain one to the end.

The thing which I perhaps overlooked was the change of sleeping patterns. One day you are barely able to sleep because the elephantine belly has a life of its own nudging your bladder and giving your stomach a hi-5; the next day you can’t sleep because baby deems it fit to sleep during the day and stare blankly in the dead of the night.

My son, in his first month or so, slept at intervals of 15 minutes. 15 freaking minutes, he is snoring, the next two hours he is awake, only to sleep for another half hour. I figured I might as well sit on the couch, I’d never sleep at that rate. Only then did I learn that sleep deprivation has the subtle capacity to make one go nuts, least of all a new mom.

He’d cry a lot ( I was stressed during my pregnancy, in retrospect, it may have affected his first few weeks of life), and many times, I’d cry with him, out of frustration, out of anger, out of just-what-the-hell-is-this? Aren’t-moms-meant-to-get=their-act-together? Those bouts of tears, hot tears that create a lump in the throat, the kind of tears that make you choke… those tears. Many times I did not know what to do when I’d burped him, changed his diaper, breastfed him, yet he would still cry incessantly.

This bit brings tears to my eyes. One particular instance is etched in my memory. As was with many days, the memories of my son’s first few weeks are hazy, like peering through sea water with your eyes open and you can’t quite see clearly… He’d cried for hours on end. I was home alone, I changed his diaper and fed him. Then burped him and rubbed his tummy. And he just wouldn’t stopped crying. I rocked him, God, I rocked him for hours, and nothing changed.

I could feel that all-so-familiar bitterness and frustration welling inside my heart. It shot from the deepest part of my heart, right through to my tear ducts. And the torrential tears came down, landing on my son’s shawl. This angst I couldn’t bear. I looked at him, no, he didn’t deserve a (bad) mommy like me who couldn’t get her stuff together. He deserved better, but why couldn’t I just be that mom? I was trying so hard but these bouts of incessant shrill sharp cries were driving me crazy. I knew I needed help, I just didn’t know what this ugly dark, dreary, desolate phase was (later learnt it was PostPartum Depression, PPD).

I took off his shawl, stared at him in the face, shouted something I can’t remember, and beat him. At five months. His fragile diapered bottom bore the brunt of my frustrations. No one could understand me, what I was going through, the bitterness, the anger, the frustration. The more I beat him, the more he cried, the more I cried. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I closed my eyes for a moment. In that moment, I walked to the kitchen. The knife on the window sill glistened in the mid-morning sun. My son’s cucu had sharpened it a few days ago. It would be ideal, quick, and it would end this silent torment. I picked it and walked to my son, still swaddled in the beautiful shawl grandma had bought for him. This would be real fast, I’d slide it into his fragile 3-week old back. I could feel blood in my hands, fresh, warm and scarlet. But how’d i live with my actions? I wouldn’t live, suicide would be the answer. I opened my eyes, and in that moment, I knew I wanted life to be over, for both of us.

***

My son is now 5, and I count myself blessed, because when I was on the edge, my fam’s presence and support (unknowingly) kept me hanging on. That, coupled with a vibrant online community of warrior moms who had made it through and ultimately, God’s grace (even when I couldn’t see it or feel it) kept me. It is why I am passionate about PPD, so that if by been vocal one mommy out there can know they are never alone, then let me talk about it. Grateful for now, for healing, for the miracle that my son is in my life.

PS: This post was inspired by the need to create awareness about PPD and suicide. So much stigma is associated with people who have had suicidal thoughts/ those who have died from suicide. It is time we stopped the stigma, one post at a time. My good friend Kimberly Zapata shares her journey too at Sunshine Spoils Milk. Yall should also check out Sitawa Wafula’s work too on #openspaces this weekend at the Sondeka Festival.

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Day 8 – 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

This is Day 8 of my 30-day writing challenge. I am loving it thus far because apart from staying accountable (having declared it publicly in this post), it also causes me to reflect on nuggets of wisdom I may have missed out in my Postpartum Depression Journey.

When I was pregnant, apart from the constant cake craving I had ( I ate cake for 7 days straight up till labour commenced), one of the things that’d nag at the back of my mind was the anxiety of bringing a child into this world. Granted, I had helped babysit a couple of my cousins, but apart from that, there was not much I could relate to. How do you fasten the diapers? What do you do when you suspect they have a bad stomach? Pray, tell, how will I cope with co-sleeping? Won’t I roll over the baby if I dozed off? And on and on my questions rolled.

Read More: 4 tips that helped me choose a school for my toddler

So, I read as much as I could on mom blogs, websites, magazines… whatever I could get my hands on. When the contractions began one fine Monday evening, it dawned on me that nothing could have prepared me better for motherhood, except, well, motherhood. Here are the 10 things I’d tell my pregnant self.

  1. Stop wasting your time organizing and picking at every little thing in the house.

I remember cleaning, scrubbing, dusting, wiping every surface. You know, because babies can look you in the eye and tell you it is dusty. All this cleaning, even when I felt 59 months pregnant and I couldn’t see my toes. Spend time relaxing and resting instead because for the next year or so, it is gonna be a marathon. Plus, once baby starts to crawl, organization starts to feel foreign.

  1. Enjoy you-time.

Fall in love with been alone, spending time in solitude. Shopping alone. Going to the park for reflective walks alone. Using the bathroom, alone. In less than 12 months’ time, you will not be able to do much of these without a little mammal trying to keep you company in the bathroom, and at the park, you are gonna have to run after said mammal 🙂

  1. NEVER question the mom whose kid is throwing tantrums at in the supermarket.

Stop rolling your eyes at her inability to stop the wrecking ball that is her toddler. Stop wondering aloud which kind of mom does not discipline her children. Because, this is a stage. As you will learn soon too, you cannot afford to cave in to Little One’s (LO) demand whenever they kick up a storm ‘cuz you didn’t put Kitkat and Lyons Icecream in the shopping trolley. Part of motherhood is gentle but firm decisions, and ignoring quizzical bystanders like you is part of that too.

  1. Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks.

It may look natural, but trust me it is not. The first few days before you get your footing are the hardest, physically and emotionally. You need to learn to help baby latch well. For Christ’s sake, use nipple cream to ease the pain. Nothing is more painful than suckling baby through sore, painful, dried scabbed nipples.

  1. Drop the superwoman ATT

You heard me right. Babies require attention, and you will get exhausted every so often. Don’t try to do it all on your own. If someone offers to help, snap the offer and run! If they offer to watch baby for a couple of hours, don’t reject the offer. Thank me later.

  1. Take time every so often to steal away for you (and your partner).

Before baby is born, you have all the time to schedule and follow your plan. Babies have this innate ability to turn your schedules upside down. Whenever possible, take some time off to rest and rejuvenate. It doesn’t have to be a whole day; even two hours will refresh you. Whether it is a spa session, or a hike outdoors, or a trip to the farm, whatever rocks your boat. Do not ignore your partner either, get activities to enjoy together.

Read More: Letter to a new mom

  1. You may not be able to bond with baby immediately.

Many moms-to-be will relate to the assumption that the moment baby is born there is an instant bond. For many, this is true, but not for all. Whether due to the events surrounding child labour, or the circumstances of delivery, or the trauma of the whole experience, some moms do not form that immediate attachment. And it is okay to give yourself time to appreciate the lifetime changes that have taken place.

  1. If situations transcend beyond just ‘not bonding with baby’, get help.

Get help because this could be indicative that you suffer from PPD. When you cannot connect and love on your child for prolonged periods, or are angry/bitter at been a mom, you may need to get help. Postpartum blues are common, and these do not usually last more than a few weeks. When they do, seek help. Read some of the symptoms of PPD here.

  1. Don’t dwell too much on the EDD (Expected Due Date)

Babies have a way of taking their sweet time as the EDD approaches. Don’t fuss too much over this (as much as you feel like a pregnant jumbo elephant with absolutely no way of shaving your lady parts :D). Just savor the moment when you can enjoy the kicks while they last. Soon, you will be dodging the kicks of a toddler who has the energy of combined nuclear plants!

  1. Children will grow, eventually.

Do not despair at the lack of sleep, incessant crying, intolerance to different ingredients and a temper shorter than the memory of a goldfish. It does not last forever. They do grow up, they morph into intelligent little human beings, in 3 years, you will be amazed that you can hold a conversation with them. You will be intrigued by the things that pique their interests! Learn to enjoy the different stages, snap the milestones, live in the present!

Do you relate to any of the ten things? What would you have told your pregnant self? Anything hilarious thing you thought pre-baby that would make you slap yourself in the face with an ice cream cone? Looking forward to hear your thoughts 🙂

That said, I feel like eating cake, and ice cream. Below is one of my fave pregnancy shoot photos, courtesy of Peter Cacah

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Featured Image Photo credits: ColourBox