Why I refuse to sit in the boat of depression

Something strange happens when people hear about someone dying. They automatically assume the family members are going to be depressed. I accept the grieving process needs to occur for everyone that’s affected and it’ll be different for everyone who is affected, however, if it’s a blessed death (clickety click on the link) then how about being positive and sending congratulations instead?

A woman came round to give condolences for our baby son passing away to God. She asked me how I was. I replied “All Praise is to God. It’s all good.” She then asked me how it happened. I replied with a smile “God Willed it. There’s no other reason.” She then looked back at me shocked, and shouted: “You shouldn’t be happy about this. You should be depressed, feel low and sad!”

Her words, in all honesty, disappointed me… especially as I never invited her to my house. My mother looked at her as if to want to pounce on her but wisely she didn’t. Nonetheless, I’m glad this situation occurred as it made me appreciate having faith. In that moment, I realised there was no need to battle this woman as she was a small trial of mine and not part of the bigger trial of losing a baby during labour. She never carried my son for 41 weeks. She never fed him, played “kick my hand” with him, felt his movements inside of her, conversed with him, nurtured him in her womb. So maybe she would be depressed, low and sad if she lost a child but me? Nope, that attitude isn’t for me right now.

My son fulfilled his purpose – to remind us of the station God has gracefully gifted The Hubby and I. He is now being taught and entertained by Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings upon him). And All Praise is to God, due to my intentions to nurse our baby for two years, He has appointed a wet nurse from Paradise to nurse our son. So really, what do I need to be depressed about?

Yes this trial is hard but I know God, out of His Mercy and Generosity, wouldn’t trial The Hubby and I with anything we couldn’t bare. It’s hard battling with the fog inside of my head – the autopilot that every mother goes through with a new born –  thinking “do we have enough nappies for tomorrow?”, “how long till the next breast feeding session?”, “should I put on a load of dirty baby clothes in the washing machine or can we wait a couple of days more?” only to realise these scenarios aren’t required for my actual situation.

We had geared ourselves to be a family of 4 only to come back from the hospital remaining as a family of 3 so naturally it’s going to take time to get back to our usual routine. I’m having to deal with postnatal bleeding, weakness and fatigue post delivery, “the fog”, milk being produced in my body for a baby who isn’t present, and to top it up negative support/”well wishers”. However, we are not going to complain, shriek and wail like we have lost all sense, and be depressed about a beautiful gift from God.

Most parents go through their life wishing good for their children, hoping they be someone great, and praying they enter Paradise (if they’re people of faith). The Hubby and I were saved that anxiety and instead have been guaranteed a son who is good, great and of Paradise. So really, am I going to be depressed about this?

Finally, there are many people who say good reminders but don’t really mean it. Often when people hear of a Muslim dying they will console the family by saying “It’s as God Willed it”. That’s true to say, however, if you’re going to follow up that comment with “So how did it happen?” or “Was the death caused by something you did?” then surely you’re questioning the Will of God?
Neither do I understand the follow on statement: “If God Wills, you will get a better son soon and everything will be fine” – like seriously, what’s better than Paradise? Why is there unnecessary pressure to conceive so quickly? And how does having another child makes things better? We don’t need another child to replace our son because we know our son has his own station just like any future children will have their own station.

Please look at yourself, your words and the actions that follow. If you can’t be honest then it’s best not to speak at all. Yes, people grieve differently and there’s no right or wrong way of grieving. However, please don’t be saying to me to put my faith in God and then defy that statement with a silly comment indicating I need to stop living.

To live is to be grateful to God. Being “depressed, low and sad” just isn’t for me.

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From Paradise he came and returned

A week ago, on Tuesday 11th December 2012 at 1.58pm, we were blessed with a baby boy who passed away during the calm labour process. I say calm because, even after 41 weeks of a really good, normal pregnancy, I had gone into labour with the acceptance that I may not come out of it alive. My will was signed, letters to loved ones written, most of my debts cleared and those that were outstanding were written down, and instructions on how to look after Rosey were discussed.

So in my mind, the contractions were manageable, the panic on the faces of others were manageable and I calmly accepted the loss of my son even before the consultant had called it (when a mother tunes into her instincts it’s hard to be wrong)… I just needed confirmation from the consultant so that I could support The Hubby and remind him to praise God. And then against the wishes of all the medical people in that room, I delivered our baby son the way I wanted him to be delivered (naturally, peacefully, in a good warm setting, away from any medical intervention). We named him Muhammad. I held him in my arms watching him sleep and then waited for my own passing to God.

The latter part clearly didn’t happen.

I’m still here.

I’m grateful.

I’ve accepted it wasn’t my time.

One of the amazing reminders I received when we were at the hospital was from a Muslim doctor named Amal. Amal means implementation. She came in to witness there was no heart beat, looked at me with such love, recited the dua of gaining God’s Lutf (Gentleness) and left with a reassuring gaze that God was with The Hubby and I.

Her name carried on in the first phone call I had with a dear teacher of mine who called to say:

When we learn knowledge Allah trials us more so that we can actually implement that knowledge. And this is your trial which He wouldn’t burden you with if you didn’t know the knowledge to implement.

Another reassuring reminder I received was from a dear friend who reminded me my son had gone straight to Paradise and will ask for us to join him in Paradise when our time was up on this world. Our son had become our token to Paradise. What greater gift is there?

Furthermore, we were told Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) looks after, plays and teaches the children who pass away in their infancy. This made me happy because as a mother I’m constantly thinking about how Rosey should pass her time in the best of ways. So knowing our son was spending it with Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) just filled my heart with joy.

These were the reminders that have helped me to positively plough through each day. If I’ve cried then it’s mainly been out of feeling overwhelmed by Allah’s Love and Grace rather than being upset with His Decree. Our son is in a better place and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s going to be a difficult journey for The Hubby and I, especially when having to deal with people who don’t share the same mentality as us, however I’m sure with the faith we do have we can get through this together.

I hope, in writing the above, I have brought some comfort to mothers who have lost their baby during labour. Comfort that I hope will help them heal and accept their situation better. And verily in the remembrance of God do hearts finds rest.

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The 4-6 month Blur

The 4-6 month “blur” is something that isn’t really talked about during pregnancy but when mothers get talking about their feelings they realise that they shared the same experience as other mothers and in hindsight they weren’t alone. Unfortunately, mothers probably only start talking about it after the blur has passed because during the time of experiencing such heightened emotions, “fight or flight” keeps kicking in and all she can think of is surviving the day in her PJ’s.

I’ve seen this blur occur in new mothers as well as “experienced” mothers. I’m not sure if fathers go through this blur too, though credit where it’s due, they do have to deal with their wife being “not her usual self” and I’ve seen a few good men out there who take on the extra duties of looking after the baby so their wife can relax/de-stress/”do whatever is needed to go back to normal”.

So what is this “blur”? It’s more of a feeling of being alone (even if there are a million and one people around you), being on high alert in case something goes wrong with the baby whilst he/she is in your care, not knowing what day you’re on because all you can think of is when to feed the baby/nappy change/help baby to sleep, realising after a long day that you didn’t brush your hair in the morning and you’ve stayed in your pyjamas not out of choice but out of forgetfulness, feeling like you can’t cope, and being so overwhelmed by all the new information that you don’t know where to start.

It seems for the first 4-6 months of mothering a new baby the mother experiences this blur and then after this period of time she “finds herself” again. Some mothers have it really bad and others plough through it. So here’s me telling all mothers out there with a new gift in their life to accept the blur, embrace it and know that you’re normal!

Give yourself (and your relationship with your husband) 4-6 months leeway and don’t be hard on yourself (or your husband) during this time. It’s a passing moment. You will find “normality” at the end of it. For now you are figuring out your baby (and your baby is figuring you out) and a routine takes time (and never really works in the beginning three months if you’re baby led breastfeeding). Try to enjoy each day and don’t pressurise yourself to feel like you got to be superwoman doing everything! If you need something doing then ask those near and dear to you; otherwise write it down, decide if it’s a task that can wait for another moment, and do it when you’re ready.

For anyone witnessing a family member/friend go through the blur: reassure them that they’ll be okay, offer them plenty of warmth (ie hugs/hold their hand) and help out where you can. Motherhood isn’t an easy process and can be lonely at times. I do feel the quicker people can accept this and see the mother as a separate entity rather than look at the baby all the time; the quicker the mother will feel like she’s appreciated and loved by those around her.

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What to say about your EDD

A tip to all mothers when answering the question “When are you due?”:

Don’t give out your estimated due date!

Don’t worry if the baby is early as no one really complains then. The “well meaning complaints” really come when the baby is late so if you don’t give out your estimated due date but instead give a comment like “sometime in month x” then you’ll be saving yourself a lot of hassle.

One of the worst questions to hear when you’re heavily pregnant, feeling lethargic already though trying to regain some calmness in mind, and have gone over your estimated due date is

“Is the baby not here yet?”

From one perspective, I’m sure people mean well when they say the latter comment but on a different perspective it brings a lot of anxiety and pressure to the mother so it’s best for her not to hear such a question. I believe, it becomes a bigger test for the God-conscience mother to stick to her belief that “it is as God Decreed and when the baby wants to come he/she will come”.

I remember the enormous pressure I felt when Rosey didn’t come on her EDD – the pressure was unnecessary and in hindsight a lot of remarks that were made weren’t really useful. Remarks like “Why hasn’t the baby come yet?”, “When will it all be over for you?”, “If you keep the baby in there for longer you’re going to have a difficult birth”, “it’s because you’ve not walked enough that the baby is lazy inside of you” and “Gosh you’ll get bigger and it’ll be harder for you to go back to your normal body weight” weren’t exactly comments I wanted to hear… on a daily basis by the same people who are meant to “care”.

Even statements like “we want to see our new family member NOW” is an inapproapriate comment … I know family members get excited about the newcomer but spare a penny for the mother please! She’s carried the baby in her for more than 40 weeks and so allowing her to positively carry the baby till God Decrees is surely better than pressurising her to get the baby out of her?!

Oh and a good tip to all the bystanders:

If you’ve never called the mother on a daily basis to ask how she is then don’t start after the EDD either – it doesn’t show you care about her and in fact could make her feel like you’re hindering her labour process.

For mothers who are overdue and looking of ways to naturally induce then there’s plenty on other websites to help you out there. My main snippets of advice would be:

Keep faith. You can do it. When God Decrees, your baby will bring light to this world. Enjoy these days of being pregnant past your EDD because there’s no safer environment for your baby to be in and when the baby comes out there’s a whole new world to deal with.

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“More Than a Footnote: Me, My Child, and Autism” By Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

A really insightful lesson from a mother who radiates warmth, truth in her speech and goodness in her character (may God reward her immensely in this world and the next. Ameen):

I never thought I would have a child with autism, a pervasive developmental disorder that affects critical areas of communication, cognition and social skills. Since I never considered this possibility, I paid little attention to issues of development and disability. Therefore, when my son was born, I thought all standard parenting tools would apply. I took classes, read books and faithfully subscribed to the big parenting magazines. I tracked my son’s growth and development in his baby book and diligently took him to the doctor.

However, as he progressed from infancy to toddler-hood something about him seemed different. He was not like my friends’ children who had been born around the same time. They played more ‘appropriately’ with their toys while he just lined them up. They also seemed more engaged with their parents and their environment. Most noticeably, they could talk, whereas my son did not. Well-meaning individuals attempted to reassure me. “Boys talk later than girls,” some told me. Others assumed, “He must not have much to say” or “He’ll talk when he’s ready.” As I would discover later on, my son’s lack of verbal ability was a huge red flag. Yes, child development is not uniform and growth/skills charts establish general parameters within which children can and do deviate greatly in terms of their development. Yet, my son didn’t just deviate from the charts. He was missing a whole set of skills.

Read more here.

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