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

 

Taking care of my mental health during the school holiday

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

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

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

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

  • Planning

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

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

  • Taking time for ME

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

 

  • Spending time in the outdoors

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

Read More: My selfcare routine

  • Spending time together

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

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

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

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

Burn Out

It has been a while since I posted anything on here, not because I didn’t want to, or didn’t have anything to say… Truth is, I have been struggling these past four weeks. For whatever reason, it has been an incredibly hard season with parenting. I have stumbled, waddled, and fought through these past couple of weeks. And you know what is so scary about it? The fact that I could feel myself losing a grip on me; it is that all-so familiar feeling when things are about to spin out of control.

Having suffered Postpartum Depression before, this is one of the scariest things as far as my mental health is concerned. There is always that lingering thought at the back of my mind, “could it be depression, again? What am I not doing right? What am I missing? OR perhaps I have let go of my self-care toolbox and I am paying a mighty price for it…”

It is almost cliché, parenting does not come with a manual, you learn on the go – always learning. And yes, I know I have written that 5 was the best year yet… and it was. Until this depressive episode knocked me off my feet. (NOTE: Not depression, depressive episode, it is temporary, it will lift off, it is lifting off). The realization that my son is growing up way faster than I am probably adjusting hit home hard. And with it comes the independence, the ability to structure thoughts and articulate himself, and of course, the need to push boundaries and limits.

Read More: Why I kept my Postpartum Depression A Secret

And these, admittedly got to me. These parenting struggles. ( I am a single mom, and we recently moved away from home to live on our own. Needless to say, while it seemed like my son had settled well in school and in our new neighborhood, the upsetting of family structure as he knew it started to unravel in a myriad of ways, among them epic meltdowns and legend tantrums. I am talking punch-you-back-because-you-are-not-getting-me-this-snack-and-so-i-will throw-food-in-the-bin – doesn’t help kid takes tae-kwondo classes at school…)

A good part of me could not reconcile the lessons I learned during my therapy sessions with what I was going through. For many reasons, this child seemed not to take any correction from me, and at the time, no one could step in seeing as we were in a new hood. And I started to feel that all-so familiar sense of overwhelm, the one that starts to gather small clouds of haze in true depressive-style.

There were all the red flags: I stopped going for my morning walks, I stopped journaling, early mornings became a thing of the past and the food cravings hit hard and proper. I have struggled with emotional eating before, so the moment I fall back, off early morning runs, off conscious eating, I know I am teetering on the edges of a depressive episode. Add to these the pressures of working from home and I was a proper mess.

Read More: Planning to visit a new mom? Here are 8 things to remember

I am slowly coming out of this depressive episode. I am finding myself, first as an individual, then as a mother – because you cannot pour from an empty cup. I am looking at my selfcare toolbox once again. It is a work in progress. I am easing off pressure with work. I am looking at options on how to get help with parenting – grateful to have a support system around me. I am grateful the people I never thought would come through, and understand this phase I am in, showed up for me. I am doing something about it, and that is what matters.

Why am I sharing this? I am doing this to remind myself that a depressive episode is not a relapse and to keep in mind that I am not a bad mother. This is to remind myself that it is okay not to be okay, but it is not okay to build a home there. That kicking PPD in the butt does not mean I will not struggle with parenting some days. And to let moms know, it is okay to ask for help. It matters.

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