My two-week-old baby was breastfeeding for what seemed like the millionth time, with sleep deprived eyes, sore nipples, and a foggy brain, I wondered why my baby was feeding so frequently at such short intervals. I made a mental note to discuss this newly developed hunger with the health visitor. Still sore from childbirth, I waddled into the bathroom to change my hygiene pads, and I caught a reflection of myself in the mirror. My goodness did I ever look so weird.
I was wearing a pair of garish green velour track bottoms that had holes in it, but they were my most comfy post pregnancy clothes. My naturally fat cheeks were fatter, and my complexion was probably two shades darker than my usual dark self-sigh!
I stopped to have a good look at the reflection in the mirror of this person who didn’t look anything like me. Who was she? The longer I stared at the mirror, the sadder I became, tears streamed down my face. I was beside myself with so many mixed emotions that it was impossible to identify them. I thought about my poor vajayjay and how battered and stretched it must be, after all, a human head just passed through it. I must have stood in that bathroom for about ten minutes staring at the mirror until I heard the shrilling voice of my baby again. Jolted back to reality I hurried to answer his royal call. In my haste, I forgot to wipe the tears off my face, so my husband noticed that I was crying.
There was panic in his voice as he asked me if I was okay, I assured him that I was fine. You see, this was our first baby, so everything was brand new, and we were learning the ropes. After breastfeeding again! I found my voice and the words to express my dismay about my changed body and my stretched vajayjay. After looking at me like I was speaking Greek, my husband reassured me that I was beautiful and he was proud of me for being so strong and undaunted by the new experience; he added that I would lose the weight in no time. PS, I’m still waiting nearly ten years later.
Thankfully for me, those depressive moods didn’t last long, I soon got busy with buying and decorating our new home plus my mom arrived from Nigeria. It didn’t take long before I stopped throwing the pity parties and I gained some confidence in myself and in my ability to be a good mother. Sadly for many women this is not the case.
The birth of a child can trigger dangerous levels of depression and depressive moods. Feelings of inadequacies, self-doubt and insecurities can mount up and weigh on the mind of a new mother. For some women, it can be the inability to breastfeed, the lack of sleep, the lack of a support system, previous history of mental health issues, pressure to return to work, choosing the right child care arrangement and many other factors can cause depression.
I remember a story my mother told me of a woman who suffered a mental health breakdown after the birth of her second child. That woman was ostracized by all her neighbors; they branded her a witch amongst other things. Unfortunately, her husband couldn’t take the shame, so he sent her away and shortly after remarried. Stories like this are not uncommon; I am sure you hear these stories in one form or another nearly every day.
As a society, we seem to forget the modern-day pressure and demands of being a woman. There’s the pressure of wanting to do the right thing by your spouse, extended family, in-laws, friends, neighbors, work colleagues, bosses and nearly just about everyone. Not to mention the expectation to look a million dollars all the time. If you add the deeply engrained competitiveness that exists between women, to that already overflowing mix, you have a volcano waiting to erupt. Speaking from the perspective of a black woman, that dangerous cocktail of emotions becomes even more complicated. Black women are expected to be strong and in control always. Sadly, we have been trained to take on the elusive persona of an alpha female, our guards are always up, we suppress our feelings and insecurities for fear of being judged by others as being weak.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that this fakery doesn’t benefit us neither does it benefit those around us. We must learn to seek help and admit that sometimes we are overwhelmed. Depression whether clinical or otherwise is terrible.
If you are reading this article, today I call you to action. If you see a sister that needs help, I urge you to please lend honest and genuine hands or ears to that sister. If you can’t, that’s okay but please do not make a mockery of her situation or engage in ungodly misleading gossip.
To all the overwhelmed sisters out there, if you need help, seek help! Whether it’s therapy, counseling, psychiatric intervention, just ask for help! Who cares what your friends think of you? If they cannot assist you during your weak moments, then why have such fake friendships in your life?
Only the very brave seek help, a courageous person is one who confronts their fears and inadequacies and seeks help to conquer them.
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