Philo (an experienced Therapist) was astounded when she attended the 50th birthday bash of her bosom friend, Mina. The party was well organised and gave all invitees a time to remember. The crème de la crème was all present and the guest list sported dignitaries from all walks of life. Philo felt honoured to be part of the occasion. However, the shocker that tugged at her senses and emotions came when Mina rose up to respond to a well-delivered toast. After extolling the virtues displayed by her father, his love and dedication in nurturing and caring for her, he went on to state that he acted the role of both mother and father… not because her mother was dead, but rather in her words “my mother starved me of love and care. Right after delivery, she behaved as if I did not exist and failed to carry out any maternal responsibility towards me. For her, it was I did not exist but I thank God for my dear father who took on the role of a doting mother”. The silence was palpable and it took a while before invitees responded with any form of applause. Philo was shocked to the bone but made a mental note to seek out her friend and elicit further details about what she blurted out.
A week later, Philo was opportune to be in Mina’s neighborhood and stopped by on a visit. After the usual small talk, she approached the topic of her intent…” Babe, what was all that talk about your late mum shirking her responsibilities regarding you, especially at such a public forum? That was a mean thing to say and importantly, we shouldn’t speak evil of the dead”.
Mina responded with “Philo, you can’t imagine how I have felt about it through the years. I felt like an abandoned child and seeing her every day turned my insides. I finally got it off my chest and got some release but I assure you, I still wonder what my birth meant to her, for her to behave that way toward me”.
Philo exhaled slowly and explained “I can only imagine how you felt but have you thought of how she felt knowing she was not acting right yet unable to help herself? Given your explanations about her behavior I believe she suffered from undiagnosed postpartum depression which resulted in psychosis. She was grossly misunderstood and deserves your empathy. Unfortunately, most persons are uninformed regarding postpartum ailments that may affect a mother post-delivery and postpartum depression is not often understood”.
She explained further “Postpartum depression can be described as a severe form of depression occurring after childbirth and sometimes during pregnancy. It typically occurs within the first three weeks of delivery although it may present later. The symptoms range from severe mood swings, excessive crying, change in appetite, intense irritability and anger to insomnia, fatigue and apathy. In severe or extreme cases, it leads to psychosis whereby the mother neglects or refuses to bond with the baby, suffers anxiety disorders and panic attacks and may even seek to harm the baby or contemplate suicide”.
Mina was immediately remorseful and exclaimed “May the Lord forgive me? You know, I can relate with a number of the symptoms you described. I guess mummy actually needed help and not condemnation. If only we knew what you have just explained”, she broke down weeping. After Philo succeeded in calming her friend down, the two friends spoke at length about the ailment and determined to set up an NGO for the purpose of enlightening women specifically and the public in general on Postpartum depression and to assist those diagnosed with it as well as their family members to better enable them to cope with the challenges it presents.
Havilah is of the opinion that antenatal visits to the hospital should better prepare would-be mothers for some of the postpartum challenges they could be faced with and how to recognise and handle them. Undoubtedly, birthing children is a joyous thing, however, occasionally, one may be faced with daunting challenges, post-delivery.
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For readers requiring help on this subject, you can find resources on Summit of Peace’s website: https://summitofpeacecounseling.com/resources/
Also from Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress’ website: https://postpartumprogress.com/womens-mental-health-treatment-programs-specialists-us-canada-australia
These provide information for national centers in the US, Canada and Australia.
The Postpartum Support Network Africa (Located in Lagos): https://www.mhinnovation.net/organisations/postpartum-support-network-africa provides support for Africa.