We are starting a new series titled #PPDMyStory where we will be sharing life stories of moms with Postpartum Depression, their motherhood journey and how they are recovering/ recovered. This is in line with our efforts to sensitize the community on maternal mental health and to raise awareness for Postpartum Depression (PPD).
Today’s entry comes from one of the moms who we have had in our support group sessions. She requested anonymity, so we will simply share her story as she did.
You recently had a baby, how was pregnancy?
My pregnancy had few complications. However, I enjoyed the last two trimesters because I did not experience intense morning sickness like I had been experiencing in the first trimester. In the last few weeks, I experienced some intense feelings of physical discomfort and this was made worse when I got really bad news about two weeks before I gave birth.
Your baby is 2 years old now, how has the experience been with him?
My experience with the baby has been more blissful than I thought it would have been. Initially I thought that I was never capable of loving this new human being but I have grown to learn what he likes and what he doesn’t. I have also grown to dedicate moments where we spend time together just to bond and appreciate each other’s existence on earth. Being a mother to my son is the most amazing experience ever.
A few months after birth you started feeling that something was off, that it was more than just baby blues. Please share with us about that period.
Getting sad news just two weeks to delivery made me question if I was ready to be a solo parent. It made me question my capabilities and I gradually started to feel like I had let down a small human being who had no idea of what I was going through. I gradually sunk into a state of physical numbness and emotional turmoil, and stopped enjoying activities I used to love like writing or going out with friends.
Waking up was dreadful, and during some moments I would play out thoughts of cutting my existence for good. I felt worthless. My self esteem took a plunge and I could not bring myself to work (as a freelance writer) because the voices in my head were constantly playing out situations that were far-fetched and independent of my reality.
When did you learn that it wasn’t just feeling off, that you had Postpartum Depression?
I came to the realization that these were not baby blues or just feeling off after 9 months of stagnation in my daily life. Things were crushing in my reality. I got to a point I could not effectively handle the bills, all my savings were almost depleted, I was in a constant state of despair, guilt and regret and to top it all I never wanted to live any longer.
What symptoms did you experience? What did you feel during this time?
Some of the symptoms I experienced include:
- Feeling helpless and out of control
- Poor memory
- Lack of interest in activities I once enjoyed
- Intense guilt and feelings of regret
- Weight gain
- Constant exhaustion but total lack of sleep
- Constant sadness and moments where I would cry without a distinct reason
- Feeling like I am a bad mother for not being happy and grateful for this new bundle of joy
- Intrusive thoughts of harming myself and having someone better take care of the baby
How did you get help? What kind of support did you receive?
I was referred to Samoina of PPDKenya by a mutual friend and after a few weeks of direct communication with her, she recommended that I attend some group therapy sessions that were organised for both young moms and dads with signs of PPD. Initially she had recommended that I seek individual counselling sessions but I was a bit hesitant to open up so I eventually felt like the group therapy sessions would help me open up. After attending the group sessions I was subscribed for a series of additional individual sessions with the therapist for about three months and I was accorded thorough emotional and psychological support.
What about your healthcare provider? Was anyone able to pick up your symptoms?
My healthcare provider at the time did not pick any symptoms mainly because when a mother goes to clinic after childbirth the focus is normally on the wellness of the baby. There is also the general assumption that is made, that the mother is okay, while they may not be.
Looking back, what risk factors do you think predisposed you to PPD?
My biggest risk factor that triggered depression was an unsupportive partner. This drained me a lot. In addition, I was constantly exhausted due to lack of good sleep.
What positive coping mechanisms have worked for you in your recovery journey so far?
Positive self-talk is a winner for sure. I used to love myself before conception but when PPD hit me hard I hated how I looked and even how I felt inside. After therapy, I am able to refute negative thoughts about my being and during moments when I feel overwhelmed, I always remind myself that I am in control (among other positive affirmations). I have grown to embrace meditation as part of my daily routine where I get in touch with my soul and I also get to let go of what no longer serves me.
In addition, I also engage in daily physical exercises which play a big role in breaking tension in moments when I feel otherwise. I journal long-term and short term goals to keep me motivated to work and achieve something tangible. I stick to a distinct schedule which also includes time for me to take naps and a quality time to sleep. Also, I have gradually revived my spiritual life which was typically dead.
What encouragement would you give to a mom who has PPD, or an expectant woman on how to take care of her mental health during pregnancy?
Post Partum Depression (PPD) is a mental health condition that should not necessarily be a death sentence. As a woman, many factors can predispose one to PPD hence one should be keen to look out for distinct symptoms and at the onset of PPD seek psychotherapy/counselling. In addition, there are various inexpensive ways of seeking professional help as offered through PPDKenya.