Postnatal depression (PND) is one of the hardest issues that new moms may experience. Unfortunately, it is a problem that is often undiagnosed, especially in a lot of African countries. Often times, it is disregarded as an actual mental health problem when shared with others.
It is important that women are made aware of what it is and how to find help when you think you have it. Brenda Malinki and I shared our own experiences. Be sure to comment your own experiences to create more awareness on the issue.
How Did You Know You Had Postnatal Depression?
Brenda Malinki’s Undiagnosed Postnatal Depression:
So, you’re having a baby. Everyone has much to say with very good intentions about the birth, sleep, food, skin, teeth, savings, and much, much more. One or two people might even mention the baby blues. The visiting midwife might mention it and give you a pamphlet. You make a mental note of it and go ahead with the business of preparing for the birth. The very serious business.
Once the baby arrives, quite literally, nothing feels the same. Everyone is happy. Ecstatic. The happy hormones are coursing through your veins, and you never want to not feel like this. And then the visits slow down, and you’re doing more for yourself. Your body is healing from giving birth.
That great feeling, it starts to disappear. But you know to expect the baby blues – is that what this is? It’s most likely the lack of sleep. And the physical exertion needed to keep the baby fed and alive. You start to rationalize the lack of energy. And you’ll do the dishes later. And showering? Well, you’ll just do a quick wash today, maybe later before bed. And your hair? Well, you’re not going anywhere so what is the use? Visitors? Maybe next week. Housework? Who has time for that when you’re keeping a new-born alive. And yes, you’re feeling irritable because you’re tired. And the crying? Why are you crying when the baby is crying?
That was me. For weeks on end. And it didn’t pass. And no one picked up on it. One morning, I knew something was very wrong. I picked up the courage and called the doctors for an appointment. I turned up, and my regular doctor was away. I said, “I think I have postnatal depression”. I remember exhaling hard. And shaking my baby on my lap. He said: Why do you think that? I replied with all the above. And I started to cry.
And here’s the bit that ‘til today, I don’t understand, and I’ll never have any answers to. The doctor (male, white – this is important) said: “Well, you can’t possibly have postnatal depression, your baby is 10+ weeks old and you’re articulate, maintaining eye contact and you’re smartly dressed.” He prescribed sleep.
He was wrong. But I didn’t have the energy to go again. I was even more confused because now what? Am I going crazy? Did I imagine all of those? Did myself diagnosis on google mislead me? So, I returned home and carried on. I didn’t get better. I managed but I didn’t get the treatment. This ultimately, I believe worsened over months and was the start of something that culminated in a full diagnosis.
Postnatal Depression, to me, was easily the biggest overlooked risk factor in my journey to motherhood. I talk about it often and remind new mothers that those feelings that last for weeks are not normal and it’s ok to seek help. To not fear that their baby will be taken away from them. And if left untreated, it can and will lead to life altering outcomes. Tell you mother, brother, sister, cousin and friend about it. Tell them to tell a friend too.
I am a new mom and I am dealing with postnatal depression now. Initially, I had planned this blog post for guests only because I did not feel ready to share my own experience. However, I feel it is important to share a bit of the raw experience that I feel now.
When my child was born, I was ecstatic that he was here. The first few weeks were terrible, he had to spend a week at the nursery because of an infection he had caught right after birth. That was when I cried the most, and honestly thought it was done.
When he clocked five months, suddenly the tears were back and for no reason. I often gets bouts of sadness during awkward times of the day and need to cry it out. Sometimes, I have to leave my workstation and go to the toilet just to wipe off tears.
I have had so many panic attacks which are triggered by the simplest of things like not finding his pacifier. This then turns to more bouts of sadness because I kept trying to understand why I was acting like this. Which in turn brought anxiety.
Then my sleep pattern changed. I could only average two or three hours of sleep which made me tired throughout the day.
I have not been able to look at myself in the mirror for months since I gave birth, I do not love the reflection I see which makes me cry too. I am learning to love myself again, but it is hard because there is a voice that tells me otherwise.
A major problem I had and still have is telling someone about it. There is a fear that I won’t be believed or my experience will be invalidated. When I feel sad, I’ll dial a friend’s number and just chat about random things and laugh a little. She does not know that that’s the reason I call, but the phone calls get me through the worst days.
One thing I have learned is that postnatal depression is not kind to anyone. There are women that will harm themselves and their babies because of PND. This is why it is important for the African demographic to take this issue seriously and help new moms through it.
Ever experienced PND, share your experience below.