“I had my first son 4 years before this my last pregnancy. The experience was great, and without much stress. Being my first time then, I had expected the worst. Alas, it turned out well! Three months after his birth I was back to work and running. We had my mom come over to the house to help us out with ómùgwó till he was 7 months old.
Because of that experience with my first delivery, I wasn’t afraid during this pregnancy. More so, I already had an experience in child bearing, I thought. I felt it should be much easier this time.
My second son joined our family 4 years after our first son was born. Because I married quite early, at 23 years old (although my husband was 11 years older than me), we thought it necessary to allow the gap so I could rest and use that period to earn more as my husband was experiencing some down time in his business a year after the birth of our son. I worked two jobs. One full time, the other online from home. While hubby even did more since the main business wasn’t bringing in any income. We were careful not to reduce our standard of living, and not to bother any extended families.
Few weeks after the birth of Emeka, our second son, I became quite restless. I would find it difficult to sleep mostly at night, and at day, not able to do much activities. I felt I was very unhappy but we couldn’t quite place it. This continued for over three weeks. Eating became difficult. I would just wake up and stay there on the bed, no energy to do anything. Carrying my baby was hell. His cries would even upset me then. I fet very irritated. I recall wishing I could just run away, sometimes. I remember one particular night vividly. I was busy during the day with my first son’s assignment because my husband had gone for a business trip for two days. That night, my eyes were heavy but sleep eluded me.
The feeling was terrible. My mother-in-law who had come to stay with us have been very helpful in the best way she could. But on this particular night, she was fast asleep. She was already a 71-year-old woman so I was always careful not to bother her with much work. My mother was supposed to come stay with us but for my husband. He feared if his mother wasn’t allowed to come this time it may lead to some family issues since my mom was the one that came for ómùgwó during the birth of our first son. I didn’t have issues with his mother coming. My challenge was her age and health concerns. My mother was much younger and vibrant.
That night, the baby sucked the heck out of me. This wasn’t the issue though. I already knew how to survive times like this. Usually, I would find a way to ‘permanently’ fix his mouth round the nipples of the breast while I slept off. But it didn’t work this night with me. While the baby was sucking, I was counting the tick of the clock. My eyes were open till almost 3 am when I could no longer help it but burst into tears. I had headaches by this time. It was a feeling I still can’t describe. The next day was even worst. But I couldn’t place what the issue really was. I felt lonely during those periods too.
My moodiness continued for weeks. I even refused my husband sex because I didn’t derive any form of pleasure from anything. He would often ask me what the issue was. Neither of us knew what was wrong. We were only aware that something was definitely not right. Because I wasn’t suffering from any physical ailment, we just concluded it was due to the stress of taking care of a new baby.
After some time, I heard my mother-in-law reporting me to my husband. She was saying many things but I was disinterested in their conversation until I heard her telling him she was becoming afraid of leaving me and my baby alone without a third person to watch out for us.
Upon hearing this, I didn’t know what happened to me. But I recall the anger that came out of me and what transpired thereafter.
Just after this incidence, I became easily irritated at anyone. I would often assume something bad was going to happen to my baby or me. This made me more anxious and terrified.
The whole thing took to a new level one night I was alone with my baby and my husband was in the bathroom. I had tried to sleep for few minutes when the baby started to cry. By this time, the baby was about 10 weeks old. I woke up not willing to breast feed or carry him. I was just there, starring at him. That was all I could remember about that event until I was later told what happened at the hospital.
According to my husband, as the baby continued to cry I carried him as if about to strangle him. I still can’t imagine how I could have attempted to do such despicable thing to my own son. But that was what I was told. I spent the next 3 weeks in the hospital and more than 10 weeks on therapy. For the next one year after the incident I was still on anti-depressants.
I got to know later that I had suffered from Post-Partum Depression (PPD). Prior to that time, I had never heard such terms. I swore never to have babies again. These two are enough for me. Emeka is 4 years old now. I’m off anti-depressants, although still going for therapies once in a while.”
Post-partum depression or PPD like the one Nkechi experienced above is a type of depression that affects some women after delivery. It is often a complicated mix of physical and emotional changes after the child birth period, and affects 1 in 10 women.
Although no studies have confirmed exactly the cause of this form of depression, scientists say it is mainly due to the rapid drop in hormones during delivery. The levels of Oestrogen and Progesterone (the female reproductive hormones) increases to about tenfold during pregnancy. Then drop sharply after delivery.
It may begin 4 weeks after delivery. This is not to say any woman experiencing some sharp mood changes during this 4 weeks’ period has PPD. Doctor’s confirmation is required.
Some of the early symptoms of PPD may be similar to the usual baby blues that occurs within two weeks post-delivery. However, with PPD, it can be more severe; with difficulty in sleeping, frequent mood changes, loss of pleasure, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness. It is usually accompanied with similar symptoms of major depression.
It is quite unfortunate that some people still assume the strength of a woman is usually determined by how well she ‘behaved’ during pregnancy and after delivery. With some women being termed weak when they get sick during most of these periods. This has made more women to put in all efforts at being a super woman during this time. Some may even cover up how they may be feeling in order to appear very strong. It is not uncommon to hear some women describing with much pride how well they did at their pregnancies. Such mindset is ridiculous!
No woman who is able to carry a nine months’ pregnancy, however the event might have panned out, should be considered weak. I don’t think birthing another soul is something weak people do anyway. Let’s be considerate to the experiences of all women and show them love regardless of their personal responses during this crucial period.
Factors that may increase the chances of PPD are history of depression prior to becoming pregnant or during pregnancy. Age can also be a factor. It has been proven that PPD is more common among younger women.
Marital conflicts during pregnancy and after delivery can also trigger PPD in women. Women need all the love and care before, during and after pregnancy. When the home front isn’t as supportive and loving, it can affect their moods and may increase their chances of having this disorder. Other factors may be unavailable social supports from loved ones during delivery. A woman who after giving birth is left to do everything by herself, or living alone, has more chances of developing PPD.
The good news about PPD is that it can be treated medically and with counselling, like the case of Nkechi who used both antidepressants and further counselling.
If you find yourself as a pregnant woman experiencing more mood swings and anxieties during pregnancy or after delivery than you think is normal, it is good to let your doctors be aware. No need trying to fake being strong. You are already strong being a woman.
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