Lebogang Xolo is not only one of my favourite peeps on Twitter (and a Naartjie Kids lover too), but is one of those courageous moms who is open about her postnatal depression and through honest blogging, has helped others too. Here she shares her experience. Find out more about Lebo on herher blog.
I have never ever been depressed in my life. Yes I went through the most difficult divorce. I then lost my dad who meant the world to me, but I survived it all. I read all self-help books, from The Secret to Who Moved My Cheese? I became a single parent in this huge fast-paced Jozi, and juggled a high demanding career as a chemical engineer. I was a superwoman, a fighter, a survivor, the typical woman you find in Destiny magazine. That there was me.
A couple of years after my divorce, God sent me the man I was supposed to be with. A year later he proposed (and of course I said yes) and we got married. We started trying for a baby and a year later we were finally pregnant, after a long draining journey for me. But it just wasn’t meant to be. What started as an amazing miracle from God ended up as an ectopic pregnancy claiming my left tube.
Three months later we (more like I) decided on an IUI. I thought if I could just fall pregnant now, I’d about my angel baby, and the pain of waking up in a hospital only to be told that “Sorry, you are not pregnant anymore” would be replaced by my new baby right? And so we were blessed on our first attempt. To say we were ecstatic is an understatement. Happiness was soon replaced by Fear. First we made sure our baby was in the right place. Then I was on oestrogen pills to try to prevent miscarriage. I insisted on doing HCG tests every two days to make sure the baby was growing according to plan. Overnight I became a control freak, planning everything from A to Z. Looking back now, I probably had antenatal anxiety which nobody picked up on. Besides the OCD/anxiety my pregnancy was bliss, and I enjoyed every moment with my husband.
When I was 33 weeks, I started having complications, so the doctor decided on a C-section at 35 weeks. My beautiful baby boy was born just two days after my birthday. A minute or two after his arrival he turned blue, then yellow, and he was rushed to NICU. All I could think was “Here we go again, I’m going to lose another one, my baby is going to die”.
This is one memory that will never leave my mind. I didn’t see him for a whole two days. On the third day I forced myself to walk to NICU and insisted on breastfeeding. I automatically got into superwoman mode. I’d pump, breastfeed, bath the baby, drive home, pump some more, back to hospital, spend the day, pump, pump, pump.
My baby finally came home after two weeks. And then things changed. I’d been one of those unlucky moms without milk, even with all the supplements in the world, but for some reason I thought I’d control it this time. And so I drank “Jungle Juice”, I took breast milk pills, pumped and pumped and I’d produce 30ml. I became obsessed with pumping, sterilising bottles and checking if my son was breathing.
When he was five weeks old, I wasn’t sleeping, eating or showering. I didn’t trust the nanny with my child, nor my friends – just my husband and close family. I became agoraphobic. At six weeks I had a full blown anxiety attack, and it felt limy heart was jumping out of my body. I called my gynae, who immediately diagnosed me with postnatal depression and referred me to a psychiatrist. And my long road to recovery began.
A week into my treatment plan things got worse. I wanted to pack my bags and vanish, even if I didn’t have an idea where I was going. I then started having images of my son falling down our stairs and dying. And soon afterwards I hit rock bottom. I thought: “How lovely would it be if I just got hit by the car, my kids would still get insurance money and they wouldn’t have to deal with such a psycho mom, they deserved better, my husband deserved a better wife.” After six weeks the meds started working, slowly but surely.
Now a year later, I’m still on meds and seeing a therapist, but doing amazingly well. I have a new perspective on mental illness and I’m very humbled by my experience. I realise that a mental illness can happen to anyone, it really doesn’t matter. But a mental illness does not define who you are – you can survive it and you can get better.