[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes to us from a Warrior Mom in Kenya. It’s a beautiful, hard, and tiny bit scary look at an unplanned pregnancy, depression during pregnancy, and postpartum depression. We know other moms have felt this way, thought these thoughts. You are never alone. -Jenna]
Every June, I have a silent anniversary of sorts.
This June was no different.
It doesn’t help much the fact that this blurry anniversary coincides with my birthday.
* * *
I have vivid memories of that day back in June 2011. In the months that had passed, I lived in a bubble of sorts; reality still hadn’t dawned on me. How’d I been drinking Famous Grouse & Malibu all along without knowing it. It never crossed my mind, at least not at 22. I had these lofty dreams, my career was on an upward trajectory, and there were all the signs of a well-heeled lifestyle. The realization that life as I knew it was going to change had me floating in a palpable fog.
I’d had nightmares every so often since I saw those two lines—piercing screams in the dead of the night, a bloodied mess on my hands, an obsessive worry-packed train of thought that seemed to amplify my incapability to transcend life’s hurdles, and the very nagging thought that I probably wouldn’t pull through alive. I was scared. With every new day that drew me closer to one of my life’s most changing turning points, I grieved at the life I had left behind yet couldn’t embrace with gusto what lay ahead.
It was a yo-yo of sorts. I was going to be a mom—totally unprepared, and completely flustered by life as I knew it. As the days whizzed by, I felt like a puppet in life’s hands; going through the motions, pretending to be unfazed, but really squirming on the inside.
* * *
That Wednesday morning began like any other: a stark indecisiveness in reporting for work (I had some inexplicable fatigue and some cravings that can only be likened to those of a one year pregnant elephant). (Funny how none of these cravings were costly, you know. No croissant cravings, or gelato, or pizza or something. Just #teamavocado, peanuts, copious amounts of tea, occasionally steak… and beans, of all things! I digress…)
In the background, the hustle and bustle of the working class drowned in a cacophony of blaring matatu (public buses) horns, kids giggling excitedly as they boarded their school vans and the unmistakable rumble of heavy road work machinery on the then unfinished Super Highway a few meters from my apartment. The smell of fresh mandazi by the roadside wafted into the air. Yet amidst this entire normalcy, something felt terribly off. And it was not just because I was growing one year older. I’d find out soon.
The urgency of bathroom breaks when one is pregnant is as amusing as it is annoying. I trudged sleepily to the toilet, and that is when the horror of all the queasy feelings unraveled. There it was, a bright red blob right staring back at me. For a moment, my world stopped. All the sounds of normalcy faded into a distant horizon. Tears welled in my eyes. I knew something was wrong immediately I saw the blood because, two months along, I was not meant to be bleeding.
I remember sitting down and breaking down—heavy mucus-filled crying, ugly crying only punctuated by a rumbling stomach. I needed to eat, but how could I when it was evident I was almost losing my baby? How could this be happening? Was it because I still imbibed (unknowingly) a few weeks into my pregnancy? Or was it because, a few days before, I had tripped and fallen by the roadside? Wasn’t I good enough a mom-to-be? Oh no, dear God!!
All I could think of was: I am losing my baby. This emotional turmoil I cannot quite capture in words. I was scared; scared and alone. Alone because, for the most part, I had only disclosed the news to my unborn’s dad (and I use the term dad very loosely) and a few friends. I had to muster courage and go to hospital, immediately. But my feet felt like they had been cemented to the cold apartment floor that dusty dry morning.
In between getting dressed, making a few phone calls, and arriving at the hospital, all that remains of these memories is pretty hazy. I checked into hospital, glad to be in the company of my heavily pregnant friend (forever thankful for her support in the days that followed). It made for solace, really. Tests, scans, physical examination, questioning. In the end, the report read: threatened abortion. The moment I read those words, a hard lump knotted in my throat.
Part of me kept thinking: You are to blame. Loud, audacious voices in my head, placing the blame squarely on my inability to be more receptive of the journey I was on. I couldn’t hold back my tears, sitting in the doctor’s room, trying to wrap my thoughts about the report he had placed on my hands. Prescription medication and mandatory bed rest to ensure that I had a viable pregnancy were provided. I went home, still dazed.
My thoughts swirled around the fact that there was a possibility I would lose my baby. There was some silent grief of sorts, but mostly a cloud of guilt hanging above me. For not doing enough for my unborn child, for making the wrong decisions, for the inability to be excited I was going to bring forth new life into this world, for the fact that I would be facing this alone.
* * *
While the rest of my pregnancy went seamlessly, the guilt of it all continued to haunt me. Looking back, this was one of the triggers for the postpartum depression that would later ravage my life. Coupled with the trauma of labor and childbirth, this guilt plunged me into the miasma of confusion, scary anger, intrusive thoughts, and the intense hatred for motherhood that I could not seem to shake free. Postpartum depression had a vice-like hold on me, a position which often felt like the infamous choke-hold, always feeling like I was peering through chlorinated water in the glare of the midday sun, suffocating, flapping my hands to survive to no avail.
In my son’s first year, I got help online from Postpartum progress. I have always been encouraged to do what Katherine Stone has done with this organization, because I know it gave me a lifeline, for which I am eternally grateful. I hope to do something in this regard here in Kenya.