Over six months ago I gave birth to my fourth child. I had believed I was done at three. I had two beautiful girls and an equally beautiful son. They are healthy, smart and a joy to be around, and trying for more would have meant pushing my luck. At least, that is what I believed. I was satisfied with what God had given me; it was more than I ever could have wanted for myself, or felt that I deserved.
Number four was a surprise, a difficult pregnancy that took a toll on my body and mental state. I was in constant pain. Exhausted. And not really looking forward to becoming a mother again. My three other children were still young (7, 5 and 2), and juggling it all was tough. Though they will probably not recognize it as such, I felt that I neglected them.
I gave birth through a scheduled C-section, my fourth. It all went flawless, the baby was (and is) beautiful and healthy. But I was not happy. I felt overwhelmed, constantly. Caring for four children, a task that mainly falls on my shoulders in my family, became a chore, not something that I actually enjoyed, or even really wanted to do. I would much rather stay in bed and wallow in my misery all day. But a sense of guilt feeling kept me going. The kids needed to be fed, clothed and the girls had to go to school. My husband did a lot, but for me day-to-day life remained a struggle.
I knew something was wrong. I had had some persistent baby blues before, but this dark cloud never seemed to lift. There was in my perception nothing to look forward to. Nothing that I did really made a difference and everything, literally everything, was overwhelming to me. I knew I had postpartum depression, and this knowledge has made things a bit easier for me, as I have survived depression before, and know I can beat this one too. It is temporary. There is nothing wrong with ME, but it will take time, and a lot of effort and counselling.
What I did not really expect, is how my depression has strained my relationship with my Creator. I have never considered myself a very spiritual person, rather a very practical believer: Islam just makes sense to me. But God now was so very absent from my life. The Presence a painful void. My worship, sparse and inconsistent, became empty. In prayer I would miss parts, and not even bother to fix my mistakes or even acknowledge them. Ramadan came up, and all I could think about was diapers. My failure at potty training was an example of how I failed at life, and at motherhood. Ramadan is an afterthought: iftars I have to made, and the Qur’an. While I knew I would not fast, using breastfeeding as my main excuse, I was hoping I could at least read the Qur’an from beginning to end, something I have done previous Ramadans too.
We are now days in, and I have not even touched the Qur’an. I do, however, pray most prayers on time, which is an improvement. I have cooked iftars too, often strained myself to outdo myself, making up for not fasting. I snap at the kids, am angry beyond what is reasonable, and once it is time for iftar I am done with it. Done with it all.
I am not my depression, and I will get over this. Next Ramadan will be a Ramadan for me too, God willing. Right now however I have decided to live my life like there is no Ramadan, in Ramadan denial. I will miss out on the blessings, will miss out on the “special feeling,” whatever that may be, but at least I hope to be able to get a grip on my life again and pray that things will go up from here. Eid ul Fitr cannot come soon enough for me this year.