One of the main reasons why I started this blog to have a platform where I could share my motherhood journey and experiences with fellow mums. I’ve had so many beautiful moments in this journey so far, most that I’ve proudly shared with anyone who was willing to listen, taken pictures of to have long lasting memories… then there are particular moments that I wish I could erase from my memory. Moments when I’ve doubted my ability to be a mother, and motherhood seemed like the worst thing to have ever happen to me. Well, I’ve never had courage to openly talk about it until now… I suffered from post-partum depression!
Post-partum depression affects a large number of new mums, some are courageous enough to speak about it, while others, like myself, hide preferring to suffer in silence. Only a handful of people knew about my post-partum depression, my doctor, our paediatrician, my sisters and a couple of friends. Most of those reading this post and happen to know me personally will be reading this in disbelief, that’s how well I hid it from everyone. The few that knew about it will not have known the full extent of how badly off I was at the time. You can imagine this is not going to be an easy post for me to write, as it takes me back to a place where I’d rather not go, it brings back memories that I’ve struggled to bury into a forgotten place, it opens up healed wounds… wounds that had damaged me. But I’ve decided it’s time to talk about it… if only to help but one reader who might be going through the same.
Yes, I was hit by post-partum depression just a few weeks after Imani was born. When I had her, she suffered from a back issue that caused her a lot of discomfort and pain, due to this, we had major problems with breastfeeding. She never would feed properly, and would latch and unlatch several times during a feed. She’d be pulling on my nipples so hard that I’d scream in pain, resulting to them being very badly damaged and bleeding constantly. She’d never have enough milk to fill her up, and would need another feed barely an hour later… meaning the painful process, for both of us, all over again. It felt like torture! But I refused to give up!… giving up meant I was failing at my role. I already blamed myself for her back issue, in my head, all her suffering was my fault… so I couldn’t give up. That’s when it started, I’d lock myself up in the bedroom and cry buckets. I was not eating, I never could leave her, she had to constantly be by my side.
After witnessing all the suffering and pain we both were in, my midwife, somehow, managed to convince me to start pumping and bottle-feeding her breast milk. My milk supply was dropping and if I didn’t pump regularly, it would eventually stop. I had no choice but to agree to do it, with the conviction that I had failed. I was not giving my baby the best possible start to life, which was breastfeeding… as I had been told over and over again by advise-givers. What kind of a mother was I? I felt miserable, I didn’t even deserve her. I wished someone would take her away, give her to a mother who was more deserving. I had failed! I was completely rubbish at being a mum. Then I’d find myself at home alone with her, and I’d cry all day long. However, whenever someone would ring, or stop by to check on us… I’d put on my game face and pretend it was a smooth ride. I went to the extent of lying to my doctor, whenever he’d ask how I felt, I’d lie and say I felt much better. There was no way I was gonna let the world know that I was crumbling on the inside. They couldn’t know… how would they see me after that? They’d judge me! I cared too much what ‘the world’ thought… to hell with my sanity.
At around 4-5 months, and after several chiropractor visits, Imani’s back was mended. I was still pumping religiously and exclusively feeding breast milk. We had gotten into a routine, she was sleeping through the night and all was going well… so I thought, until my milk started drying up. I couldn’t get enough milk for a whole day’s feed and had no choice but to start supplementing with formula. And that’s when I hit rock bottom! Formula was poison… I knew that, because I’d heard it so many times before… again from the advise-givers. Here I was poisoning to my baby… what kind of mother does that? I hated myself so much, I started to have suicidal thoughts. I can’t tell you how many times I watched her, peacefully napping, and a little voice in my head would whisper, ‘Do it! Do it!’.
Luckily, it’s at this point that my sisters came over to visit and help out with the baby. Finally, I could talk to someone without fear of judgement. We would sit up late, chatting, laughing, crying, and suddenly all my worries seemed so insignificant. My eldest sister, Linda, shared her own stories from when she had my nephew. Just having them there made a whole load of difference. My baby was growing well, and was healthy… so why was I being so hard on myself? It took my sisters coming all the way from Kenya to make me snap out of it. I wasn’t alone anymore, all I’d needed to do was to open up. I realised I was trying too hard to be the ‘perfect mother’, I’d let the fear of judgement push me to a place where I wished for death. My sisters saved me, just talking to them, and them being there to listen, pulled me out of that very dark and lonely place. Linda, Caro… I will forever be grateful.
As a new mum, things get pretty overwhelming, pretty fast, especially if you try to be ‘perfect’! Perfect mothers don’t exist. You’ll have sleepless nights with a screaming baby and you’ll want to scream yourself… that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother. You’ll have difficulty with breastfeeding and you’ll feel like giving up, that doesn’t make you a bad mother! You’ll make the decision to formula feed from the get go, that, neither, doesn’t make you a bad mother. Let no one tell you or make you feel like you’re a bad mother, because you are not! All the decisions you’ll make for the benefit of your own sanity, and that of your baby, only goes to show what a great mum you are! The crying and sleepless nights will pass, that baby you fed formula to will grown up as normal and healthy as all the other babies. Seriously, don’t beat yourself up! People will always have something to say about your parenting style… block the negativity! There’s no ‘motherhood manual’ and no one should make you think they know how better to raise YOUR baby! Go with your maternal instincts, take only advise you deem positive for you and your journey.
Remember, for your baby to be at a good place, YOU need to be at that good place yourself. You cannot be trying to raise a happy and health baby when you, yourself, are in the gutter! Believe in your ability to raise that baby and raise them well. And please do me a favour, when things become too much, ask for help. A lot of people are there for you, and are genuinely willing to help! If all you need is to talk, open up to someone, anyone, even your postman… they’ll listen. Don’t worry about being judged by ‘the world’… even if you were ‘perfect’, people will still find something to bitch about! Be YOU! And also know that there are professionals out there who can help… when all else fails.
You are the best mother to your baby… Let no one tell you otherwise!
Have you been affected my post-partum depression? Or know someone who has and are willing to share your story? Please send me a message here. I’d love to chat.