Motherhood and pre- and post-natal depression


After many years of dealing with infertility, I finally gave up on the idea that I could possibly conceive naturally or artificially.

I had spent thousands of rands on fertility specialists and medication and a lot more time and sleepless nights than I needed to.

In that period, I wanted to switch partners because I thought maybe, just maybe we were a 'biological misfit' hence we weren't able to conceive.  

After batteries of tests, infertility medication, home remedies from traditional healers and countless prayer sessions with my mother’s prayer union; I still had no result. I was in my late 20s and infertile. I was infertile. 

I gave up and decided to focus on my career. I worked really hard, volunteered for all the projects that had travel assignments and withdrew socially from family and friends. A month into a new job, I finally fell pregnant without trying.

I couldn’t believe I was finally pregnant yet I just was not happy. I had wanted a child for so long that when it eventually happened, it winded me and I was unable to embrace it and rejoice.

I spent the next 8 months focusing on my work and not paying attention to the life growing inside of me.

I went through the motions of medical consultations, new parent classes, read the articles my gynae asked me to read, ate the food he recommended but refused to create a bond with the human I was to birth in months to come.

My partner and mother spent a lot of time and energy encouraging me to embrace pregnancy, read to my child, play the baby music, decorate the nursery or go shopping for the baby’s things. Their efforts fell on deaf ears.

Some of my friends noticed that I was less than happy and all consoled me with: "Don’t worry. You are just sad now but once the baby arrives you’ll be so happy".

I really wanted to believe that. The baby arrived and I kept waiting for that moment when I would finally be happy. In fact, I spiraled deeper into my depression. Life became a chore, motherhood was a burden and work was my solace.

With my professional training, I knew the signs to look for in diagnosing depression, yet I missed my own warning bells. 

Living in a family of matriarchs who literally took over my life, motherly duties and constant reminders that motherhood was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Their misguided support and words made it incredibly hard to own and recognize my own warning bells. I spent many months feeling absolutely horrid and guilty about being a bad mother because I just was not happy as a new mom.

I really tried the adage of "fake it 'till you make it" with my emotions. It didn't help. I love my daughter more than anything, but I did not enjoy her company nor had the energy to try and make it work.

In hindsight, there were many signs, I had insomnia, tearful outbursts, preferred my own company to that of others, really just wanted to sleep all the time and life lacked luster. My memory was horrendous and my emotional state started to show in my appearance.

Because I had been having the so-called "mommy-blues" long before baby arrived, those who loved me just thought it was normal. It took a visit to a former colleague, also a trained social worker, to set the alarm bells off.

I had had prenatal depression, which grew into postnatal depression. I reached out to my mom for help and she dismissed it as the dreaded mommy blues. She assured me that they would go away once the baby was big enough to talk to me.

My daughter will be two years old in October and I continue to suffer in silence. I now know what it is, have sought professional help and am going to gym three times a week to keep my mind and body busy.

During this journey, the women in my life have been less than kind. For them depression is a luxury that working black mothers cannot afford nor have the time to indulge.

Yours is to labour and take care of your family financially, physically and then emotionally but never recognize your own emotions and vulnerability. Depression is real, seek help and you are not weak for doing so. 

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