What you need to know:
- My aim is to reach more deaf mothers and I work closely with Pumwani hospital who call me whenever they have a patient who is deaf.
- Being a new mother, a deaf one at that, can make one even more vulnerable to mental health problems.
On one cloudy day in June 2018, I received an unexpected call that disturbed me for a while and changed my life’s trajectory. A weak voice on the other end of the line informed me that my father had died.
Years prior to that, he had been diagnosed with hypertension but for the most part of his life, he had been healthy. No one saw his death coming and I requested for a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of the death and to help me solve the “puzzle”.
When this happened, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy. At the morgue, as other members of the family were being taken through counselling, I was resting in the car.
I remember my friend calling me to go inside and the first thing I saw was my dad’s body. I was so shaken that I started to bleed. Days later, I tried to join the family in making funeral preparations but I found that difficult. I was no longer functioning alright. I had periodic headaches and frequent stomach upsets.
My doctor concluded that I was suffering from shock and trauma attacks. Various tests also revealed that I had lost too much blood and was on the edge of becoming anaemic. I ended up losing the pregnancy and picked up an infection that left me worried that I may never conceive again.
Thankfully, I became pregnant again after four months. This time, the milestone found me taking care of a close friend who had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer.
While trying to accord her the best care, I didn’t think much of the baby that was growing inside me. Then, four months later, she died and I retreated into a world of my own. I became a stranger even to my husband and family. I was sinking due to the heavy weight of grief.
On June 27, 2019, I gave birth to my second born daughter. I remember asking very many questions and being very paranoid as a result of fear. I had lost two people who really mattered to me and I feared that I would lose her too. The fear started out as distant thought and before I knew it, I was exhibiting obsessive behaviour.
I didn’t want her out of my sight and even going to the bathroom was a big deal to me. I remember there was a day I spent the entire night holding her on my laps, willing myself not to fall asleep for fear that I would find her “gone”. I became easily irritable especially with my husband because he didn't understand what I was going through.
A short while after that, I realised that I had a problem. I didn’t know anything about postpartum depression and a particular nurse helped me understand that I was actually going through it. She encouraged and walked that journey with me when I started using anti-depressants and anti- acids for my stomach upsets.
The diagnosis prompted me to put an end to the self-blame. Only after that was I able to focus on raising my children. Writing became my chosen form of escape and my husband, members of my family and friends were there to support me. To date, my first born child asks me every day, “How are you feeling now? Are you okay mum? How can I help you?” She has been become my greatest cheer leader.
Due to the nature of my work, I interact with a vast network of deaf individuals. As I was going through depression, many of them visited me. I discovered that most of them had no idea what I was going through.
Sometime last year, I received a call from Mama Lucy hospital regarding a deaf girl who was stranded at the labour ward and was about to deliver. I took it upon myself to help her through the journey, until now. I’m proud to say she has overcome PPD and her baby is very healthy.
My encounter with her was an eye opener that there could be many deaf mothers struggling with the same issue. With limited information and many barriers to communication, they remain disadvantaged. I decided to enlighten them by creating Talking Hands Listening Eyes on PPD (Thlep).
My aim is to reach more deaf mothers and I work closely with Pumwani hospital who call me whenever they have a patient who is deaf. I have become a voluntary social worker.
Being a new mother, a deaf one at that, can make one even more vulnerable to mental health problems. As we do the little we can as an initiative, I continue calling upon policy makers and especially the Ministry of Health to be intentional in establishing the right structures to support deaf mothers who struggle with PPD.