According to Oxford Living Dictionary, Post-natal Depression is defined as “Depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue.”
Postnatal depression is very common amongst new moms; but due to the kind of society we are, and live in, we tend to cover up a whole lot of things by putting up a brave face.
The arrival of a new born should bring joy and happiness into a home. Sadly in most Nigerian marriages, this usually becomes the season of family duels.
Extended families uses this opportunity to intrude into the marriage of the couples, they use this opportunity to flex muscles and play power. No one cares to understand that the woman has just undergone an excruciating season of pregnancy and delivery. All they care about is exerting their authority all around her… at a time she needs every form of understanding and care. Issues ranging from who chooses the first and second name of the child becomes an issue. She must enter into the kitchen immediately after getting back from the hospital and resume her homely duties. This becomes a topic and an expectation. Her demeanour is even judged in some instances, and conclusion is drawn on how she does not want anyone in her home.
In Nigeria we see lots of new mothers going through emotional pains, because people around them are not empathetic. They expect a new mom to snap out of the forlorn mood of delivery, this is very common amongst our old generation moms.
They use words like “oun k’era” (you are being too sensitive to pains. A woman should be able to bear all kinds of pain) Our threshold for pain differs. They spur the woman to quickly recover and be strong. There is nothing wrong in spurring her, in love. They don’t give her the chance to feel pampered, tended, celebrated and well loved.
They forget that our own generation didn’t have to go to the farm or eat organic foods like they did in their own time which made them very strong.
The three most important things a new mom needs is empathy, validation and care.
Anyone who cannot empathise with a new mom has no business staying around her when she delivers because her reaction to the pain of healing and dull expression might irritate and piss you off, and this might cause you to create friction in her marriage. Some women can hide their pains and confused feelings after delivery by putting up a brave face. The ones who cannot, are very touchy and out of ignorance can misbehave to anyone when they feel overwhelmed by this depression.
I heard about a new mom who fought with her mother because she felt she was being bullied to observing her sits bath every day and the mom kept saying “idi e ma baje, o je je ka joo dada” (your vagina will get rotten, let’s press it very well) you better heal up quick so your husband doesn’t start flirting around, the mom was practically on her case every moment with harsh words and expectations. She felt choked. She couldn’t bear the disparaging comments again after a while and just told her mom to leave, according to her after all she would have peace and heal up easily without having to deal with her constant bullying and disparaging comments.
The feeling of post-natal depression is not pleasant. A new mom feels so open down there. Where she has had a caesarean section, there is deep excruciating pain. Don’t forget a human being just came out from there – a human being who has compressed, enlarged, mixed, shaken, scattered and changed her whole her body for 9 to 10 months. She feels very exposed and light. Her stomach and back are suddenly like that of a stranger… after the journey of 9 to 10 months. She has not regained her gravity and feels overwhelmed by the array of new emotions popping up. She feels very weak and fatigued, due to lack of sleep which she never envisaged would be that bad. Hormones are shooting up to the high heavens and all she wants is to just curl away somewhere from the whole world.
All she needs this time is deep understanding from her husband and everyone around.
It is no time to read meanings into her words and actions. Most times after delivery, a woman does not act herself. Although our society has taught us how to pretend as women, and keep mute about our feelings, but post-natal depression is uncontrollable for a woman who is susceptible to it.
I never knew I was going to experience it…even though I had read a lot about it. After I had our baby, I was messed up. I wanted to run away. We had to go out every day to get some registration done over here in Europe where we live. I was weeping uncontrollably every day we were out. My husband was so confused and helpless at the display of torrent of tears; it was very much unlike me.
I felt so tired, so weak and so sad due to lack of sleep. It took a while before I got excited about our baby and his arrival. Before then, I was just like a zombie and robot pushing through each day as it comes.
A new mom needs someone who can validate her feelings. Speak out what you think she might be feeling, ask her questions on her health and how she feels in specific places. Make sure you encourage her to carry out her sitz baths and all the treatment accurately and promptly. Don’t pass comments with an intention to hurt her. Serve her morning breakfast in bed… even if it’s for a week.
Encourage her, just show her absolute total care. She would deeply appreciate you. She would recover quickly and she would never forget your act of kindness. This would also enable her and her husband to adjust quickly and easily to their new roles as parents, without any friction or fights.
Note, if the feeling of depression persists consistently and horrible thoughts begin to come to your mind about hurting yourself or your baby, please see a doctor who would then refer you to a therapist immediately. Sometimes counselling by a professional will do, if the feeling is not lifted after a while, medications would be prescribed which you have to take so you can get well and get excited about life again. Hugs, and stay encouraged.
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