Motherhood is beautiful. It’s a feeling like no other. You think you’ve loved, but wait until you have a baby and you’ll know what true love really is.
These and many more are some of the comments that most expectant mothers and any woman who is planning to be a mother will get.
But what happens when you feel none of that? What happens when the bundle of joy you delivered doesn’t live up to its name?
Not all women experience a love like no other when they receive their baby for the first time.
Some take a day, others months.
The story of 24-year-old Kitengela, Olivia Naserian, accused of disembowelling her child has shaken many. Some wondered how a mother could do this to a child while others wondered what triggered such an action.
Jane, who chose to call herself by her first name due to the nature of her story, says that in addition to feeling like a failure and unworthy of being a mother, she hated her baby. The screams triggered her the most.
“I hated my baby so much. When he cried, I pinched him and even slapped him.
He was 4 months old at the time. “There were times when I thought about throwing it up multiple floors,” she says.
Jane decided to seek help after an incident. It was around 8 p.m. and she was home alone. It was the nanny’s day off and the baby had started crying because she had refused to breastfeed him.
“I slapped him so hard he fell off the couch. He fell with his back to the floor and didn’t cry this time. He just looked at me with sad eyes. I’ll never forget that look for the rest of my life. It was like he was asking me, why are you hurting me when you’re the one who’s supposed to protect me? I hugged him and cried so hard that my whole body was shaking.
Jane Googled “Why I Hate My Baby” and decided she needed professional help.
“I was put on medication. I never told this story to anyone.
Chebet Birir, a 29-year-old mother of two, says she started to feel uncertain about everything.
“I was scared I had just finished college and was having thoughts of having an abortion but my boyfriend who is my husband has now advised me against it. I graduated while pregnant with three months,” she said.
Chebet gave birth without complications and headed to her in-laws after losing her job.
Staying with her new family, she says, has brought a lot of uncertainty.
“They took care of me but I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to behave. I was trying to do chores and they said I shouldn’t because I had just given birth. I started to feel that I was not worthy, not important.
What triggered her the most was a party organized for the baby.
“I felt guilty. I thought they brought the gifts because I couldn’t afford to take care of my own child. My husband also didn’t have a good job at the time,” she says.
Chebet began to believe she was the devil and had suicidal thoughts. “I wanted to kill myself and leave with my baby because who would take care of her?”
She would later return to her mother’s house in Kericho and it was there that she first attempted suicide. She went to the kitchen and took a knife.
“I felt so helpless when I was holding the knife, my hands were weak. Then I heard my mother’s voice calling my name,” she says.
She was delirious. Besides not showering for days, she thought the baby wasn’t hers.
The second time she attempted suicide, she had traveled to Nairobi with her husband. The husband’s friends came to visit, taking a lot of groceries with them, which triggered her.
“I felt so guilty that I couldn’t help my husband with the finances and that his friends had to buy things for us. So I took my baby who was six months old at the time and went to the balcony to jump from the fifth floor. A friend of his was outside so he got in the way of my mission.
She was taken to hospital when her condition worsened.
“I could hear my baby crying everywhere. Every face looked like my child’s, even when I saw an old man’s face in the obituary section of the newspaper.
During her second pregnancy in 2020, the family was on the lookout for symptoms. However, with the second child, the depression was different, she “felt like Jesus”.
“The first time I was the devil with negative thoughts, this time I was Jesus and I would carry all the problems of the world. I would shout come on I will give you rest.
Chebet says she sang praise songs out loud and wanted to do it all. “I was manic. I wanted to enroll in a master’s degree and play basketball. I talked too much, I dressed too well and I always wanted to breastfeed the baby. I shouted to the neighbors: “Come, you who are loaded, I will give you rest”.
She received medicine and went to her mother’s house in Kericho for a week. “My mom and my husband are my biggest support system.”
Pasqueline Njau started an organization in 2017 called Calmind Foundation which promotes maternal mental health through education, support and advocacy. This was after her experience of postpartum depression.
“After my recovery, I decided that I would no longer sit and watch other women suffer in this darkness and in silence. It was then that I decided to share my story on various platforms to encourage more women to speak out in order to raise awareness and reduce stigma,” she says.
After the birth of her second child, Pasqueline says she felt overwhelmed by everything. “Little stains made me want to break down and cry.”
“There were nights I cried myself to sleep. My baby had severe colic and every time she cried I found myself crying with her. One moment I will be happy and the next minute I will will be so sad,” she said.
She felt like a bad mother and her children were better off without her. But the idea of ending his life was too scary.
Her husband knew she wasn’t well but he didn’t understand exactly what was going on. According to him, she had just changed.
It took a friend to realize that she might be sick and needed to seek help. A counselor was recommended who told her she was suffering from postpartum depression. “The fact that I had hyperthyroidism increased my risk of becoming mentally ill. That’s where my healing started. It walked with me until I was fully recovered.
Know the signs
Being aware of and knowing the signs of postpartum depression helped Pasqueline when she conceived her third child.
“I wasn’t ready to have another child soon and I was afraid of slipping back into depression. However, I was determined to help myself. So I did things very consciously. I hired an extra nanny to help me with the baby so i could find time to rest and take care of myself, i also used self help techniques which effectively helped me navigate without falling in depression,” she says.
According to Dr Pacifica Onyancha, a visiting psychiatrist at Nairobi West Hospital, postpartum depression occurs within the first year after childbirth, but it usually develops within the first few weeks or months. It is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability and fatigue.
“Postpartum psychosis, on the other hand, is a more serious condition that can involve hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized behavior. This condition is less common than postpartum depression, but can be more dangerous if not untreated,” she said.
Onyancha says the exact cause of postpartum depression and psychosis isn’t well understood, but it’s thought that changes in hormone levels, particularly a drop in estrogen and progesterone, may play a role. role.
Stress of motherhood
“The stress of caring for a newborn, lack of sleep, and changes in routine and social support can also contribute to the development of these conditions. In most cases, there is usually a family history of mental illness, postpartum psychosis or other mental disorders like schizophrenia,” she says.
Onyancha adds that any woman can experience postpartum depression or psychosis, but certain factors can increase the risk. Women who have a history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder are more likely to experience postpartum depression or psychosis.
Other risk factors include a difficult pregnancy or childbirth, lack of social support, and financial or relationship stress.
In Naserian’s case, attorney Cynthia Benson says it’s the prosecution’s job to prove intent.
“However, we know that there is no sane mother who would kill her own child or cause any form of harm. It is difficult to prove that the woman intended to kill her child. .