When I Met My Greatest Joy with Depression
It had been fifteen long days since my daughter entered the world, but the depression continued unabated. We were still in the hospital; my daughter was in the NICU, needing special care, and I, with 20 plus internal stitches, my body still attempting to recover from childbirth, was unable to breastfeed my child. I could feel myself falling into this darkness, without anything to grab onto and the tears just wouldn’t stop. Was it my baby being kept under bright light, subjected to frequent pricks, or the fact that I could barely move my neck because of excruciating pain or just the mere homesickness, that made me feel so miserable? Whichever one it was, I had to stop crying. People stared at you for being ‘over-sensitive’, nurses smirked and commented: ‘Does she really think she’s the only and first one?’ But instead of stopping, my tears flowed more freely and with greater persistence.
When I walked into my mother’s home from the hospital, I felt comfort, perhaps for the first time after my baby was born. All I could think about was crashing, and all my daughter could think about was feeding and throwing tantrums. She just wouldn’t sleep! Some would advise me to sedate her, some would suggest sending her to her paternal grandparents’ house. The suggestions continued in vain but not one helped me. It came to a point where I literally could not even HEAR my daughter crying; even when she was at her loudest. All of this made me cry even more.
In contrast, being pregnant was the best feeling in the world (in spite of all the discomfort and nausea). The thought of life growing inside me, dependent on me, waiting for its time to enter this world and bring wonderful meaning to my life, was fascinating. I just wanted to be best friends with my daughter. All of this was so exciting – the changes in our room, shopping, ultrasounds – so surreal. In retrospect – my dream post-pregnancy life was just that – a dream. All those expectations in my head made the adjustment to reality even more difficult.
‘What an unfortunate child she is that her mother doesn’t even care or feel anything when she cries.’ I thought to myself. I would look at other mothers who would visit me and wonder: ‘How can they have that bond with their child? How did they develop their feelings for them?’ I even asked a friend who said: ‘It comes naturally. Every time you see your child your heart fills with love and a hundred other feelings – overwhelming you.’ So where were my ‘overwhelming feelings? What was happening to me? I felt sorry for my daughter for having a mother like me.
It took me almost a year to learn about postpartum depression. I had never heard of it. In fact, I could never relate depression with childbirth. ‘What was there to be depressed about? Childbirth is an everyday miracle and I should be thankful,’ I said to myself. But the constant depression took a toll on me; emotionally and physically. I had even forgotten how to smile. Sometimes my therapist and I would just sit in the room and I would ask him to teach me how to smile. I would ask him to tell me something funny and wonderful – anything to stop the tears and bring back my smile.
Looking back, I now realize, that the feeling I suffered from, was postpartum depression. No one told me what I had been going through, probably because they didn’t know either (lack of awareness). I stumbled upon an article a couple of years post-delivery and figured it out myself. But I had no idea how to cure it. Had I known, I would’ve visited my doctor earlier, and maybe she would have referred me to a therapist then. I would have sought professional help earlier, only if I knew.
The lack of knowledge about postpartum depression in society is frightening. If not treated, it may turn into chronic depression, anxiety or stress. This not only hurts the parent but the child too. An unhappy parent can never bring up a happy child. As soon as family and friends notice something odd in the mother they should try to give their full support rather than telling her to ‘snap out of it’. Two small words of support can mean the world to someone suffering from depression.
How did I recover from the depression?
For a change in my routine, I started teaching when my daughter was almost 4 months old. I recall being a bit nervous at first, yet so relieved, to be doing something other than nursing, nappy-changing, burping and hushing a colicky child. The first week, when I left her at my mother’s house, I cried all the way. I couldn’t believe what I was doing to her. ‘My daughter deserves so much better than me.’ I said to myself. Even though my mother was very supportive I still felt so guilty about leaving her. However, I soon realized that going back to work helped me bond with my child and keep the depression at bay.
My work would make me miss my daughter and that guilt would push me to do things for her which I wasn’t able to do, like changing her diaper, bathing her etc. I did not know I was suffering from PPD, so I had to work on myself NOT KNOWING what I was going through, not knowing it was a medical condition because all I was told and thought was that: ‘I’m ungrateful and not acting like a mother should act.’ (Well, I didn’t know how to be one to begin with, since I didn’t have a guidebook). So, what did I do? I would think of all the good mothers I knew and would act like them, and do things they would do with their child.
How do you know you are suffering from PPD?
If you feel you’re falling ‘short’ of expectations about being a mother, or not having ‘motherly’ feelings towards your newborn, or you are unable to get back to feeling happy and relaxed, then find a confidant. Someone who you think will listen to you without judging you. When you talk it out, you tend to hear yourself too, which gives you clarity and a path to go forward. I have realized with my experience that I am not the first one to have felt this way. There are so many people who go through the same and much more, and most of them fight it out, one way or the other. Be your own hero.
How to overcome PPD?
Talking about how you’re feeling, is the best therapy. Some people find it better to pen down their thoughts. Whilst others find talking to themselves helps. Do whatever suits you and helps you but don’t let it fester inside you. Get professional help. Praying to Allah to help me find a way out, and, most importantly, to make me realize the love for this blessing, helped me. Today, I can proudly say that I love my daughter with all my heart. Would my life have been different if she wasn’t in it? Absolutely. Would I want to trade it for anything? No way! She is my pride and joy. She is now four and half years old and every fifteen days we take some time to be without each other even if it’s only 2 hours. That short time away makes us both realize how much we miss each other, and our reunion is always a happy one. One day soon, I hope to hear these magical words from my daughter, ‘Mama you’re my best friend!’
This article has been published as a personal story. The writer or FUCHSIA Magazine are not certified to give medical advice on Postpartum Depression or Postnatal Depression. For more information, please read about Post Partum Depression or Postnatal Depression Here.