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Postpartum depression survivors on pandemic parenting | Maternal health



I had known the school cancellations were coming. But the news still pummelled me, sending waves of despair through my body. The cancellations felt like a cage descending from above.

Being confined with my family during a global pandemic is not something I have experienced before. So why does it feel so familiar?

In my late 20s and early 30s, I craved motherhood. I would place my palms to my flat belly, imagining it ripening into a firm ball of baby. I daydreamed of motherhood: I would brim with love and patience as I stretched into a new version of myself.

But parenthood is almost never what we imagine it will be. Like any love, it is full of texture and nuance, complexities we could never articulate until they have arrived on our doorstep, fully packaged.

Just days after my long, slow and traumatic labour with my son, a heavy hopelessness enveloped me. I would swaddle, nurse him and set him in his bedside bassinet. I would listen, vigilant for his soft snorts, as my skin hummed with anxiety and my mind buzzed and barked: “You’ve made a terrible mistake. You’re not cut out for being a mum. You’re trapped.”

With my history of anxiety and depression, I had known I was at risk for a postpartum mood disorder. But just like I could never have conjured my son, with his stunning slate blue eyes and restlessness, I could not have imagined how bleak it would feel, how dangerous. I did not know that thoughts of hurting my beautiful son could blaze through my mind, uninvited. Or that instead of feeling motherly, I would feel like a caged ocelot, pacing and jittery, incapable of adapting to my sudden and startling lack of freedom.

Pandemic parenting

“Does pandemic parenting remind you of postpartum depression?”

I tapped out the text to a few friends who, like me, had struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety.

Like then, the days slide into one another, a blur of questionable hygiene. Forced back into the intensive parenting we thought we had graduated from, we attempt to juggle work, parenting and self-care. If our partners are the breadwinners, as mine is, we are again suddenly responsible for the vast majority of childcare, which can jostle our sense of identity in a way we have not experienced since first becoming mothers. The learning curve is, just like with new motherhood, painfully steep, as we step into new roles as teacher, tech support, therapist and fetcher of all the snacks.

The answer from my friends, over and over again, was a resounding, “Hell, yes”.

Karen Kleiman, a licensed clinical social worker, says that since the pandemic began, many of her clients have been reminded of their battles with postpartum depression. Other past traumas have also resurfaced.

“The social isolation and lack of distractions and stimulation is causing women to sit with their thoughts in a dark spot that is reminiscent of intense suffering,” Kleiman explains.

When we spoke, Kleiman had recently talked with a client who was having flashbacks related to sexual abuse that had happened 25 years earlier. “I said, ‘Why do you think this is happening now?’ and she said, ‘Because I’m terrified and I’m vulnerable.'”

For Jen Simon, a writer and mother in New York City, the trigger that reminded her of her journey with postpartum depression and anxiety was an Excel spreadsheet.

When her first son was born in 2009, her husband designed a colour-coded spreadsheet for her to fill out during her days at home with the baby. “Green was for sleeping, yellow was for eating, and so on,” Simon recalled.

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

Simon’s husband is a lawyer, accustomed to billing in crisp six-minute increments and keeping immaculate records of his time. It felt natural to him to track the minutiae of their new son’s days. But their son had not got the memo. “We didn’t know that newborns didn’t have schedules,” she said.

Simon’s postpartum anxiety flared up a few months after she gave birth, when her son began waking up at 4am every day. Since he already woke frequently in the night, the crack of dawn rising proved to be the tipping point for Simon. “My anxiety was so different from anything I’d ever experienced before. It was very physical – I describe it as being electrified,” she said.

“As soon as we heard school was cancelled [because of the pandemic], my husband wanted to make a schedule for the boys,” Simon said. Instantly, she was reminded of the spreadsheet he had designed when their son was a newborn. “The hair on the back of my neck went up,” she said. Her husband backed off quickly when she explained how much the idea of a schedule reminded her of the overwhelming first months of motherhood.

Laura Huddy, a banker, mother of two and founder of the Maternal Health Alliance of Maine, noticed the physical warning signs of anxiety as the COVID-19 virus crept closer to home. “When I first came home from the hospital with my daughter, I just felt funny – it was this tingly, prickly feeling on the back of my neck. I noticed that pretty early on [in the pandemic].”

Huddy’s anxiety is accompanied by insomnia, just as it was when she became a mother 11 years ago. As a commercial banker, she is currently working extra hours to assist small business owners affected by the pandemic, while also homeschooling her two children. “I’m incredibly exhausted, but still not able to shut my brain off,” she said.

A feeling of powerlessness over our collective, global situation also echoes Huddy’s postpartum struggles. “There’s this desperate feeling of wanting to go back to how things used to be, and knowing we can’t,” she explained. “It smacks me in the chest.”

Regina Booth, also a banker and mother of two, agrees. Since the pandemic began, she has noticed a resurgence of the waves of doubt about herself as a mother that echo her postpartum anxiety. For Booth, the panic first hit when her husband was returning to work after her first son, now aged five, was born. “I remember wondering, how do I get out of this? How do I return this baby?” she said. With time and support from her family, Booth’s anxiety ebbed, and the worst of it subsided by the time her son was about eight weeks old.

Attempting to balance work and parenting amid a lockdown has brought those feelings rushing back.

“I learned early on that I wouldn’t be a very good stay-at-home mom,” Booth said. “Now, all of a sudden, I’m forced into this role that I didn’t choose and would not have chosen for myself.” For many, the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last adds to the distress. “If someone told me it would be two weeks or a month, I’d suck it up. But that feeling of ‘Is it going to be like this forever?’ That’s a very overwhelming feeling.”

Pandemic parenting illustrations

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

The path out

The path out of postpartum depression is often murky. I can not tell you exactly how long I suffered from it, or the day I knew for sure that it was over. There was no magic potion to tame my hormones and lift the fog and panic, no crisp homecoming to the version of myself that existed prior to experiencing it, because that woman had not been a mother.

My son is 11 now. Eleven! He plays video games. The first stirrings of facial hair flicker above his upper lip. He is sensitive and determined and witty. Still restless, still stunning. My love for him is a scarf that is constantly being woven, revealing unexpected hues and stitches, endless in length and depth. I can still feel the tangled knots of our early days together when I reach deep, the scar tissue where we are both tender and strong.  

The road of recovery from a global pandemic, too, is blurry. We can not yet tally the scope of the damage, or discern which slivers of our old lives can be reclaimed and which, like casual handshakes, might be forever banished.

The only thing we know for sure is that what we are experiencing now will shift.

When I asked Simon if her journey with postpartum depression and anxiety taught her any lessons that are transferable to the current pandemic, she said, “Even if I can’t see it yet, I know something different will happen.”

Simon shared that acceptance is another tool she practises. “It took a really long time for me to realise I couldn’t change when my son was waking up. All I could change was my reaction to it.”

Booth is taking the advice she received from a friend during the peak of her postpartum anxiety. “Instead of asking how am I going to get through another month of this, I just focus on what I’m going to do to get through today,” said Booth. “Or even the next hour, if a day is too much.”

Therapy and medication became Laura Huddy’s primary armour against postpartum depression and anxiety. Now, these tools help her deal with her anxiety about the pandemic. “People go through crises and don’t know what’s happening to them. Now I have tools to deal with it. Now there’s a road map,” she said.

Huddy noted that naming her feelings rather than being swept up in them helps, too, as does sharing her feelings with those she trusts. “Being open about how you’re feeling and naming it can be disarming – and you’re going to find that almost everyone is experiencing similar feelings.”

Kleiman recommends mindfulness techniques for those struggling with difficult emotions which are triggered by past trauma. “What are you feeling, smelling, hearing, and tasting? Can you feel sunshine on your skin?”  

She also recommends strong doses of self-compassion. The emotional load mothers are carrying during the pandemic is impossibly heavy, and yet many of us expect ourselves to shoulder it with grace and ease.

“At this moment of crisis, the best thing for women to do is give themselves permission to let go of whatever burden they place on themselves to be perfect. Perfectionism is just another way of being anxious,” said Kleiman.

“Getting through the day is enough. If you’re safe, if you’re resting and feeding yourself and your children, that’s all you need to do.”

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye



The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.



Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the is the full statement:


By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge



Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.



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