Baby Blues, Depression & Anxieties

This is not a call for help nor seeking for attention. This is to share that what most moms are experiencing are real and I am here to share my story. This might be a trigger to some so read with caution.

Back story: Without indulging too much information, know that I do have a history of depression and anxiety that was unfortunately not diagnosed. I supposed just like most people, we sometimes dismissed it as being 'too emotional/ moody' and try to 'get over it'. 

I did overcame depression after knowing Jhon. The thing is, I feel that we can never really get over the trauma or depression. It will always be there; simply locked in a room, in a little corner, just waiting for the right key to open it again.

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So when I was at my final trimester in my pregnancy, I did dread and wonder if post-natal depression would be that 'key'. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting or getting ready to have it. I did try thinking positive thoughts, focusing 1 thing at a time and all that jazz but clearly, it was futile.

Baby blues hit me first. To be honest, initially, I didn't realized I had it. I thought I was just being tired. I thought I was just in pain and focusing on trying to get well. It was days later when I was at home and alone with Sarah, I didn't have that warm connection mothers "should have".

When I looked at Sarah, I somehow cannot make sense that she just came out from me; that she was MY baby. I barely took photos of her and although I made a fuss of her such as feeding and such, it was only because I knew it was my responsibility. When I looked at her, she was a baby I had to take care and love but not necessarily MINE to. 

2-3 weeks in, I was getting better. I moved around more, but slowly, the feeling of dread crept in. I was struggling with breastfeeding. I was physically and mentally tired. I was already struggling as a first time mom and my surroundings was not a relaxing one. Imagine barely getting yourself together and someone is using you as a psychologist to dump stress on. 

Yes, I started to think suicidal thoughts again. I even joked about throwing Sarah away as a punishment for not sleeping well but I was a tiny bit serious about it. I was not in a good state of mind and thinking back, I still feel bad.
I was not okay.

On top of that, I also started to wake up with breathlessness; it felt as if I had stopped breathing and would wake up from deep slumber frantically gasping for air. I would cough viciously with bouts of nausea. I would sometimes feel light-headed or dizzy. These episodes were actually nothing new as I had experience this countless of times before. Back then, I didn't connect it to anything. To me, my body was doing that weird thingy again.

Jhon knew the comings and goings throughout my confinement but he didn't knew how deeply it affected me. He had been nothing but fantastic; being a great, hands on dad and husband.

It was only that 1 night out of many, he caught me inaudibly crying inconsolably. I eventually told him about my sinful thoughts and expecting him to think I was a horrible person. Of course, he didn't and insisted I ended my confinement early (barely reaching 44 days) and headed home. I refused at first but after I got to go out to send Sarah for her 1st month immunization and had a trial independent run/ stay back at our house (without outside help), I felt so much better. 

Being out of a negative surrounding helped a lot with my depression. Unfortunately, my random nights of breathlessness and dizziness wakes were still active even after the confinement and went back to our place. It would happen 3-4 times a week and it would got so bad until I felt numbness on my limbs. 

I eventually looked up my symptoms on the internet and the diagnosis for anxiety was plastered all over it. Of course, I was in utter denial and this continued until my post-natal check up with my gynae. Jhon insisted I brought it up to her and she confirmed it; post-natal anxiety, the unspoken cousin of post-natal depression. She naturally, recommended me to a psychologist and Jhon agreed. 

Now, here's the thing. 
I was skeptical about psychologists; I even told my gynae about it.
It's like what are they going to say that I don't know? 

Think positive thoughts. 
Take 1 step at a time.
Get over it.
Surround yourself in a good environment.
Eat healthy.
Don't think about it.
Pick a hobby. 
Talk about your thoughts and feelings.
Bla bla bla. 

My doctor and Jhon simply nudged me in a comforting way to just give it a try. I told Jhon I would try 1 appointment and if I find it crap, I am done.

It turned out that my first consultation was just an intro and analysis of my situation. It was 2 hours long of me sharing whats going on in my brain. Of course, the water works came like a tsunami and I was glad Jhon was with me as my support system. I went to the root of my problems and declared I don't want to be on medication as I had a bad history with them. 

Oh and nobody knows about this consultations except for Jhon (now, you all know lah). I feel it's always hard to explain to people who are either not empathetic or had never experienced bouts of uncontrollable emotion; especially more the elders. People just dismiss us thinking we are weak or there are people who are in worse situations and we are being dramatic.

But that's not fair.
Just because there are others who had suffered more, does not mean our pain is not valid. 

Anyways, I ended up having 3 more consultations with my doctor. She just knew the right words to say. She learned and understood how my brain works and speak in a "language" I understand.
Logic and harsh truth. No hippie positive crap. 

The reason it ended at 3 consultations was because it was getting too steep financially but mostly because our last consultation was a heavy one. I spent a good amount of time needing to process what she said and trying to apply it to myself. I knew it would take time and I didn't want to keep coming back with nothing much to say.

Oh, and those decades of being gassy, nausea and dizzy spells? It was all anxiety based. Apparently, it was so bad, it affected my health. It totally made sense why I miraculously stop having those symptoms after I quit my job those many years ago. 

Anyways, after my consultations, my hives and/or anxiety attacks which I always get 3-4 times a week slowly subsided. I do get them but at least it's once every few months when I get stressed.

[This was drafted many months ago and as I type now, I am happy to say I don't get my hives anymore. I can't say the same with the anxieties though but being aware of it helps with coping it]
So.... yeah. That was my story. Perhaps some of you can relate while others think I am being overly dramatic. Say whatever you want because again, that does not mean my feelings are invalid. I strongly suggest to seek professional help even a little if other forms of healthy coping does not help.

I am okay now; in a general sense of it.
Sometimes, I am not and that's okay too.
If caring too much is a problem, I rather be that way than being heartless.

Life with Nur Sarah (Month 11)

Time for blast from the past!! I mean, I had started documenting Sarah's entire year monthly and I was just left with 1 more month before she turned 1 year old before I went MIA for a while due to technical difficulties.

Don't worry, I won't continue monthly updates after 1 year old. I only do the first year because it has the most changes physically, mentally and emotionally. Alamak, looking back at these photos are making me feel so nostalgic. Sarah tak ada gigi and only started teething!

I was getting more and more confident going out with Sarah more besides going out nearby. Anxieties aje. Looking back now, ya, I could tell I was being silly. Sarah was and is still an easy baby to deal with. I just worry too much.

Muka masam baru bangun tidur.

I remember this shot. I started to exercise again and with hijab for the first time. It was great and it was a plus point as Sarah and Jhon was there to 'cheer' me on.

ROC packages. She was always keen to 'help'. Fast forward to 1 year later, she knows where the packages should go.

I still love taking photos of her sleeping back then.

This commemorates the day Sarah's hair was long enough to do pig tails. It looked funny, cute and weird at the same time. hahaha The next series of photos were mostly of Sarah in her stroller as we go to Mak's place. It's definitely easier compared to carrying her on the baby carrier as Sarah was definitely growing heavier.

I just love hand me downs, even more when they are books!
Sarah loves books, can you tell?

These photos were taken when we accompanied Jhon to renew his SPass. Sighs, His PR application still in limbo.

This was the moment I was amazed with Sarah's self-control. She could stroll up and down Toys'R'us without demanding or even asking for anything. She would pick or touch something and put it back down. I could not say the same for Jhon though.

Okay, I remember this as a swimming trip but don't remember where. I definitely joined on this one or there would've have photos there.

Advanced birthday gift from her Papa because he got too excited when he saw Sarah enjoyed playing with this one the other day.

Wet towel on head always means on coming fever. Yes, I always detect fever very early as in low-grade fever so I can monitor her. This way, her fever never got worse.

The day we welcomed Azril Zidan! Look at Sarah's face. hahaha

This was the period we were obsessed with going to the arcades more than usual just like our dating days. I think it helps release our steam and desire of dating before Sarah was born. haha

Look at that face.

This was the time Sarah started to sprout her teeth. Late in the game as most kids get their first tooth at about 9 months I think if not earlier. I don't mind though, less stress on teeth maintenance, at least not until at a later age. The only thing was, her teeth would sprout in pairs or multiples. Fortunately for us, teething period was not that bad for us.

5 Recommended Educational Apps For Toddlers

There are parents who don't allow screen time until at a later age and there are parents who let the their kids have all the access. As for Jhon and I, we are in the middle. We introduced Sarah the handphone at 17+/- months in terms of apps.

Previously, it was only through video calling Jhon's family in the Philippines and photo/ video taking. We decided to let her play educational apps only on gadgets and if we are watching Youtube, it will only be watched on the TV with us. No toy reviews or watching games plays too. Her tablet, which has more apps, is for home use only for a limited time. Of course, we don't just rely on apps to teach Sarah. She loves books and other forms of learning. She plays with blocks, draws, love sticker books and more. I believe in letting her learn in all forms.

This is a safe place so no judgement. Do what works for you and you think is best but one thing for sure, Jhon and I are about moderation and being aware what Sarah is playing/ watching. So without further a do, here's my recommended apps that we had so far discovered.

* All apps are free and does not need internet unless stated. I am well aware that there might be better versions of the apps but can't expect me to try out every single one available, right? If you know one that is better, feel free to share!

Kids Balloon Pop Game

This is one of the basic edu. app we downloaded. You simply pop the balloons as they float up. A great one if the toddler loves balloons like Sarah. As the balloons are popped, there are random animations and sounds. But what makes them educational is you get to choose a theme between normal, colors, numbers, alphabets (lower or higher case) AND choose what language for it to speak in. If you pay for premium, you get shapes too but we didn't.

So as a balloon is popped, the app will call out the color, number, alphabet or shape. It is basically learning by playing. It was one of Sarah's favorite apps to play before we introduced the more comprehensive apps.

Interface: Straightforward and easy
Educational level: Basic stuff and perfect for new learners.
Shortcomings: Need to pay just for shapes category. No Malay language (although have second best which is Indonesian) and Chinese language.

First Words 18+ Months (Baby Flashcards) and 24+ Months

First Words has many versions but we only downloaded these two. It is basically flashcards but digital. This is perfect when you are out and about. Sarah loves this app and learnt plenty of words through here. It covers from feelings to fruits to furniture to colors and much more.

Interface: Basic
Educational Level: It covers the bases and it sets the foundation for Sarah. When I communicate with her, she understands easier without much explaining.
Shortcomings: Interface can be improved but it's a non-issue though.

Colors & Shapes - Kids Learn Color and Shape
This is slightly on a higher level compared to the first 2 apps as it requires more interaction from the toddler. There are 6 mini educational games; Painting, Collecting, Look-a-likes, Matching, Tracing and Building. These games provide basic training such as recognizing shapes and colors by problem solving. There are mini incentives where you get to collect stickers as you go.

Interface: Straightforward and easy
Educational Level: Definitely better than than the first 2 mentioned apps as this has problem solving games.
Short comings: I don't know why they make it troublesome to go back to main page. You have to hold and slide left.

Kindergarten Kids Learning: Fun educational games

One of the comprehensive educational app on my list and one of Sarah's favorite. It has almost everything under the sun. Problem solving, tracing, ABCs, shapes, games, colors, some nursery rhymes, coloring and even interactive charts about the body, fruits, vegetables, animals and even the solar system. I could go on and on how much info this app can provide.

Interface: Looks overwhelming at first but easy to navigate.
Educational Level: For it's array of educational and fun content, I absolute love this app. In fact, you can just download this one app for it's variety.
Short comings: I have no complains for this one. Sure, it may not look professionally done interface wise but what is important is the easy usage and content.

Khan Academy Kids

Khan Academy Kids is the most professionally done among all the apps. Kids can learn reading, language, writing, math, social-emotional development, problem-solving skills, and motor development. Open-ended activities like drawing, storytelling, and coloring encourage creativity and self-expression. Sarah's other favorite app, she especially love the storytelling, videos and drawing.

This app does require the internet but it had just released an offline section. Albeit, the variety is significantly smaller compared to the online ones but it is better than nothing. It has main characters who will guide and teach the toddler. It also has incentives like collecting outfits, bath toys, insects and musical instruments for each character.

Interface: Professionally done and categorized well to ensure easy navigation. 
Educational Level: It covers almost practically everything that would benefit a toddler and more. Just like Kindergarten Kids Learning, you can just download just this app if you want to.
Short comings: When I drafted this post, I initially wrote that it sucked that it is an online app. But days later, Khan Academy Kids did an update to have an offline section. As mentioned before, it is not vast but I appreciate the attempt. Perhaps one day, they will broaden it.

And that's it!
5 educational apps that Sarah is currently using that I recommend to parents to download and try out.