By Onikijipa-Faruq Suaad 

Many Africans have no idea what post-partum depression (PPD) is. I myself had no idea till a close friend shared her experience with me. For the most part, culturally, people are convinced that PPD is a family illness in its extreme and many women have little or no knowledge about this. This therefore makes it almost impossible when they come to explain what could be wrong, that is, if they are aware of something being wrong.

PPD in its simplest explanation is depression that occurs after the birth of a child.

Normally, the birth of your child should be the happiest event of your life, but sometimes new mothers find themselves lost. Their experience includes not being able to understand exactly what is wrong, not being able to wrap their heads around it and not being able to express themselves. To make things worse, many Africans have no idea this happens, so how do you explain yourself to a partner, friend or family member that has no idea what you are trying to say when you yourself cannot  find the words to describe it?

How do you explain yourself when you do not know what is wrong?

You look at the creation you brought to life after months of anticipation and you know what you should feel and how you should feel, but you just don’t feel those things.

You fake a smile because it’s expected of you to be happy, you carry, feed, and bathe the child and  everyone is convinced you are fine because you are doing what’s expected and nothing is wrong.

Birthing a life is the greatest thing any individual can ever do, this is an indisputable fact. However, what they don’t always tell you is that it changes everything, from your body to your mind, everything changes. You are so overwhelmed by the thought of bringing forth a new life that you think you have accepted the changes, and a part of you is certain you’ll get right back after the birth, but you don’t and while this sinks in, you might start to lose yourself.

Dear new mother, that loss you are feeling is not evidence of your ungratefulness, that feeling of emptiness is not you hating your new born, and the confusion is only because you are convinced this is only happening to you, but it is not. Thousands and millions of new mothers have been through this, and many more will go through it after you. You are not abnormal, if anything, you are strong, so strong, and you are capable of doing anything and everything including admitting you are not fine, getting the help you need from the right person and choosing to heal for your sake and that of your child’s. 

At the end of the day, you really cannot pour from an empty cup, you can’t show your child how happy and full of life they can be if you are not a reflection of that yourself.

Whatever version of yourself is the new you, you are as beautiful as you were before the child, even better, your body is a badge of honor that should be celebrated and worshipped, and your mind is a garden filled with every colorful flower known to man. You are beautiful, your whole being is beautiful and you shouldn’t forget this even for a second of your existence.

If you find yourself feeling empty, numb or lost after the birth of your child, it is okay. Acknowledging that something is wrong is the first step to healing. You can take some time to yourself to find that part of you which seems lost; the part you are used to, the one you don’t want to put an end to but you feel you need to. You do not need to erase your old self. You don’t have to let your old self go to accept the person you are becoming; you don’t have to stop living because you gave another life. You still matter, you always will, and this in no way means you love your child any less; you only need to find yourself in order to be completely there for them.

And please, always speak up; however way you are feeling, speak up and always remember, the voice of a loved one will always be better than the echo in your head.

Please speak up.

Dear friends, family and members of the community at large, we have come too far to keep letting such ignorance take our loved ones from us. We need to have an open mind towards happenings of the world, so we won't keep shutting off the reality of these events which inevitably affect us, while choosing to believe what we have always known as cultural beliefs. A withdrawn and lost new mother is not crazy; she is not flawed and should not be stigmatized. She needs to be reminded of how much she means to you, how powerful she is and how much she is appreciated. This awareness must start in our homes so it can cut across the community, nation and the continent at large. This way, we listen to those around us that might be hurting without them having to say a word. We can tell when something is wrong and we can help them right when they need it. 

PPD is a global issue, it’s not restricted to Africa alone, the way we choose to treat and combat it is the only way we can choose its effect on us.