The Flip Side of Motherhood: Postpartum Depression

Vol 5 - Issue 2 The flip side of MotherhoodIt’s the moment most women wait for – entering the coveted domain of motherhood! Tired of pregnancy pains and restrictions, the expectant mother excitedly anticipates the arrival of her baby, thinking that she’ll be fully able to enjoy her ‘bundle of joy’ once it’s all over. She can’t wait to cuddle and gaze at the life that has been kicking inside her for months.

Yet, merely hours or days after childbirth, most women couldn’t feel worse. Amid the congratulatory phone calls, text messages, flowers, gifts and visits of relatives and friends, the ‘new mama’ feels a cloud of gloom looming over her life. Like a whirlwind, the baby has disrupted her routine, usurping the lavish attention and care showered previously to her. She’s lucky, if she can sleep uninterrupted for more than three hours at a time.

So what are the ‘baby blues’? It’s when the mother feels overwhelmed by the burden of parental responsibility, over-worried about the baby’s well-being, displeased with her weight gain, at a loss of control over daily activities and disgruntled with the lack of quality time with her husband – all of this, plus physical weakness and dependence on others during postpartum, makes her tearful, edgy, short-tempered and over-reactive about trivial matters.

“Moodiness, tearfulness, anxiety and fatigue are all common on the roller coaster of emotions women may experience after giving birth,” says obstetrician and gynecologist Susan Spencer, M.D. “Postpartum blues are a normal consequence of adjusting to a huge life change and the sleep deprivation that comes with it.”

For some, this phase arrives days or weeks after childbirth; for most, though, it happens just after delivery. “At the hospital, I just wanted to take off all the IV drips and run away. I felt so chained and helpless,” says Nabeeha. She refused to hold her baby, due to the physical pain of a Caesarian-section surgery. “For the first two months, I couldn’t sleep, until my baby did. Even if she was lying in the cot playing, I would sit nearby, watchful.” After returning to her husband’s home abroad, she frantically called up her parents in tears, panic-stricken that she wouldn’t be able to do it alone. Hours of her mother’s consoling restored her composure.

Struggling to establish breastfeeding, constantly changing diapers and dealing with a spouse, who is unhappy with her new figure and her constant preoccupation, a new mother is terrified of making mistakes and of failing as a parent. Putting up with recurrent advice of older women is another headache: “Don’t hold the baby that way”, “use cloth diapers – it’ll save money”, “swaddle tightly for the first six months”, “press baby’s head into the right shape”… It’s no wonder then that the motherhood brings with it a great mental and physical fatigue.

Triggered by drastic drops in hormonal levels after delivery, the baby blues are experienced by 85% of new mothers. However, if this condition lingers beyond two weeks, so that it adversely affects the mother’s ability to take care of her baby, it can be attributed as postpartum depression (PPD).

“About 10 to 20 percent of women actually develop postpartum depression. The difference is in the degree and duration of symptoms,” says Dr. Susan Spencer.

PPD has more chances of occurring amid certain factors, such as: a difficult and/or unwanted pregnancy, a difficult older child, financial difficulties, poor relationship with spouse, lack of family support, or history of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) before marriage. How does one know that PPD has onset?

A significant change in mood and/or appetite, an inability to concentrate, excessive fatigue, inability to sleep even when a support person is there to care for baby are common signs of this more serious condition.

The signs of PPD are noticed first by the spouse or other relatives. It is very important not to dismiss them as trivial, because PPD is an illness requiring non-medication treatment and therapy.

“Becoming a mother is the most beautiful experience, but it doesn’t come without paying a price. Allah (swt) would not just throw heaven at our feet,” says Amna. “Dealing with sibling rivalry, if there’s an older child, maintaining (the latter’s) school and activity schedule, doing chores expected by the in-laws, having to cook and clean the house, losing the mental enrichment derived from a previous purposeful job, feeling estranged from spouse, if he is not supportive enough… it takes a good six months, or may be more, before you are able to settle down with the overwhelming responsibilities. You can only survive it by pouring your heart out before Allah (swt).”

What can be done? This writer also confesses going through the same phase twice in the past 3 years. That’s all the more why I would like to share the ways of helping women experiencing these problems.

Acknowledge that the problem exists

For the relatives: if you see your daughter or daughter-in-law acting as described above, empathize with her. Recall the pain you felt, when you delivered a baby (the stitches hurt, whether the delivery was normal or C-section) and don’t reprimand her for her outbursts. Also, try not to say: “I never went through this,” because you were fortunate. Other women have erratic hormones, even if you did not. And it’s not their fault that they do.

Ask for help

Whether it’s your husband, mother or mother-in-law, don’t feel guilty about asking them to take the baby for some time, so that you can relax and unwind. Pamper yourself: you need to recover from one of the biggest physical experiences ever. Go out, exercise, eat your favourite dessert or call up a friend, especially one, who has also recently given birth.

Remember Allah (swt)

If you cannot recite Quran, pray or fast, engage in extra remembrance of Allah (swt), particularly the Adhkar that repel the Shaitan. Remember Him, when you cry, when you feel the physical pain, when your toddler misbehaves or when the house is a mess. Remember Him, because He knows how you feel:

“And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years.” (Luqman 31:14)

Have faith in Allah (swt): help is near

Even if it seems impossible right now, it’s just a matter of 5-6 months for you to become ‘normal’ again. Your baby will start sleeping through the night, you will have ‘free’ personal time; you will lose weight and gain energy; you will enjoy leisure hobbies and your husband will revert to being more than a male-nanny.

Sister, remember that also this shall pass…

 

Depression in Teenagers

By Naba Basar

Depression is one of the most common psychological problems, affecting nearly everyone at any stage of their lives. It causes pain and suffering, not only to the one affected but also to the ones close to the sufferer. Serious depression can paralyze lives. One should distinguish the thin line between general sadness and serious depression.

Signs and symptoms of depression in teens:

  • sadness or hopelessness
  • irritability, anger or hostility
  • tearfulness or frequent crying
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
  • changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • restlessness and agitation
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicide

If you are a parent and see similar symptoms in your teenager, take action right away. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better. Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:

  • irritable, sudden outbursts or angry mood
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • withdrawing from some, but not all people (unlike adults)

What are some of the problems that depression can cause in teens? The effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. In fact, many problematic behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression. Remember that untreated depression can lead to: problems at school, running away from home, drug and alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, eating disorders, Internet addiction, reckless behavior, violence or self-injury, which can lead to suicide.

The question remains – what are you to do if your teen is depressed? The first thing you should do, if you suspect depression, is to talk to your teen about it. Share your concerns with your teenagers in a loving and non-judgmental way. Let your teen know, what specific signs of gloominess you’ve noticed, and why they worry you. Then, encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through. As any parent knows, getting teens (depressed or not) to talk about their feelings is easier said than done. If your teen claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to diagnose or rule depression out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

Tips for talking to a depressed teen:

  • Offer support. Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there fully and unconditionally for them. Hold back your queries but make it clear that you are willing to provide whatever support they need.
  • Be gentle but persistent. If your adolescent shuts you out at first, be persistent. Talking about it can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level, while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
  • Listen, don’t lecture. Resist your urge to criticize or pass judgment, once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is communication. Avoid offering unsolicited advice.
  • Validate feelings. Their feelings or concerns may seem silly or irrational to you, but don’t try to talk teens out of their depression. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling.
  • Your job here is not over. Then it’s your responsibility to help your teenager out of depression. Your support is greatly needed at this point. It is now more than ever that your teenager needs to know that he or she is valued, accepted and cared for.
  • Be understanding. Living with a depressed teenager can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Be patient and understanding.
  • Encourage physical activity. Encourage your teenager to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of melancholy, so find ways to incorporate it into your teenager’s day. Something as simple as walking or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.
  • Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes gloominess worse, so encourage your teenager to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your teen out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, etc.
  • Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your teenager is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your teen’s condition and call the doctor, if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.
  • Learn about depression. Just like you would, if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression, so that you can be your own ‘expert.’ The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed teen.
  • Encourage your teenager to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed teens realize that they’re not alone, and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

 

I would like to recommend a book by Aiadh Ibn Abdullah Al-Qarni entitled “Don’t be Sad.” This book contains verses from the Quran, sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sa), of his companions and of wise people throughout history. “Be happy, at peace, and joyful; and don’t be sad” is the essence of this book.

Review: “Taare Zameen Par”

By Ruhie Jamshaid

It really is not the norm to find a review of a movie amongst the pages of “Hiba” magazine, but we make an exception here and for deserved reasons. Read on…

There are many movies one may feel guilty of watching, but none can claim to look into a child’s mind and heart like “Taare Zameen Par” does. This movie isn’t the standard better-to-be avoided Bollywood potboiler with jarring music and mindless story-telling. Produced and directed by Aamir Khan, “Taare Zameen Par” educates about the very real but often misunderstood learning disability of dyslexia.

The protagonist of the movie is eight-year old Ishaan Awasthi (played by master Darsheel Safary), who often gets lost in his dream world. Scribbling drawings and day-dreaming seem to be all he does the whole day. Everyone from his teachers, neighbours to his parents seem to be at their wits end trying to figure out and straighten his ‘irresponsible’ behavior, as they perceive it to be. He often has no answers in class, never does his homework and is not able to write legibly. After much deliberation, Ishaan is sent by his parents to a boarding school with the hope of inculcating discipline in him much to his unhappiness.

At the boarding school, nothing much changes. On the contrary, Ishaan’s situation gets worse. He withdraws into his shell. Feeling abandoned by his family, he is unable to perform effectively in his academics. It is at this point that his teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh (played by Aamir Khan) enters Ishaan’s life and discovers that Ishaan has an exceptional artistic talent and is actually very intelligent. Ram ascertains the fact that Ishaan is struggling through school and life at large because of dyslexia. The rest of the movie is about Ishaan’s strivings to rectify his learning disability with his teacher’s support, understanding and love, bouncing back to meet his true potential.

The movie is touching and heart-wrenching. One can’t help but feel overcome by emotions watching Ishaan’s struggles. “Taare Zameen Par” enlightens the viewers about dyslexia and the ways, how this learning disability can cripple the otherwise untapped talent and intelligence hidden in an innocent child, marring his self-esteem and progress in life. It reminds us to accept the fact that every child is created different, and that we need to curb our adult tendencies to force our children to conform to norms, without understanding our children as individuals.

“Taare Zameen Par” is surely an eye-opener for every parent out there. This movie can be recommended for its excellence in teaching about dyslexia and for its strong message of unconditional acceptance, which is conveyed in simple and touching terms, without the trappings of a typical movie.

Dyslexia: The Reading and Learning Disability

Imagine picking up some reading material and not being able to see the letters as they are. Imagine seeing sentences without spaces, letters formed backwards or words broken up or jumbled together. That is how text appears to someone, who has dyslexia. It is a reading disability, a condition that prevents a person from reading, spelling and writing a language.

Why a dyslexic person is unable to read successfully can be understood better, if we disseminate what the brain does during the reading process. The brain recognizes different letters by associating them with their sounds, joins them together to form words and comprehends what the words mean by generating images. A dyslexic person’s brain is unable to decipher images of letters and to connect letters with their sounds. A sentence may appear to them as a string of letters below:

I tisv er yd ifficu ltf or meto re adthi s. (“It is very difficult for me to read this.”)

Dyslexia does not indicate mental retardation, lack of intelligence or a deficiency in vision. A child or an adult having dyslexia may be very intelligent, highly creative and possess a high IQ. They are also physically normal development-wise. It’s just that because of a malfunction, their brain cannot translate images seen by the eyes into a language that they can understand.

The cause of dyslexia is usually genetic disposition: the condition can be passed on through the genes of the family. Very rarely, it can be caused by some trauma in life, hearing problems in early childhood or by deficient brain-cell development in the mother’s womb. Dyslexia can be overcome or worked around using alternative learning techniques, but there is no physical cure.

A child with dyslexia feels very frustrated within a traditional school environment. The teacher might notice that even though the child comprehends everything well and is overall smart, he finds it very difficult to read a book or write notes in class. Since later school-learning focuses more on taking notes, studying books and writing assignments, dyslexic students eventually need to have a separate, special reading and study group, in order to keep up with others. They are taught with flashcards or audio lectures.

It is said that Albert Einstein was dyslexic. The actor Tom Cruise is also a famous dyslexic person, who memorizes his dialogues for films by having his lines read out to him. This condition is, therefore, only as much of an obstacle in a child’s intellectual achievement as it is allowed or perceived to be.

Dyslexic children have an extraordinary long-term memory and exceptional learning skills. Some go even as far as to call them gifted because of their high creativity. Their need to learn via images and sounds (as opposed to symbols, letters, numbers and words) makes their minds multi-dimensional. They excel in outdoor sports. However, since they have difficulty in reading, spelling, writing and speaking a language, they experience shyness, frustration, anger, isolation or even embarrassment at being ‘the different children in class.’ They need extra support and love from both family and teachers, in order to feel confident about themselves.

Although not dyslexic, an inspiring example for Muslims is our ‘unlettered’ Prophet Muhammad (sa), who could neither read nor write. The method by which he learned and taught the Quran was Ilqaa – archangel Gabriel would recite the words aloud repeatedly, until they were memorized. The same method was used by the Companions to memorize the Quran.

Therefore, if a child cannot read or write properly, it is not the end of the world.

Women at Work – Part 1

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Women at work

Maneuvering her way through the maze of crawling traffic, Sara finally managed to park her car in a cramped parking lot. Having managed to drop her two children at school barely making it on time, she winced at the thought of facing the new supervisor at work. He appeared to be taking a keen interest in how she spent the day. Often, he would come in and inquire what her plans were for the evening. Lately, she was also feeling quite stressed out. A job opening in another organization came as a great blessing and a way out of the disturbing situation.

All women, however, may not be as lucky as Sara. Harassment at the workplace is one of the many problems that working women have to deal with on a daily basis. Often, their protests are not taken seriously, especially if the perpetrator is in a position of authority. The situation speaks volumes about the ignorance regarding the Divine Guidance on dealings with the opposite gender.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent.” (An-Nur 24:30-31)

Instead of solving the problem by dealing with it straightforwardly, many women simply opt out of work altogether. Some people assert that women are not allowed to work in the first place. What does Islam say about this issue?

Are women allowed to work?

According to several noted scholars, women are allowed to work.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states in his Fatwah: “Islam allows her to work outside the home in an appropriate job, which suits her nature, her concern and her capacity and which does not crush her femininity. Her work is legitimate within certain limits and certain conditions, especially when she or her family needs the outside work or when the society itself needs her work in particular. The need for work is not merely limited to the financial aspect. It could be a psychological need, such as the need of a specialized learned woman, who is not married, or the married woman, who has no children or who has a lot of leisure time and to alleviate boredom.”

The scholar further goes on to say that Islam does not forbid women to work inside or outside the home. He gives the example of the wives of Allah’s Messenger (sa), who used to work at home. They used to dye their own clothing and tan hides in addition to other household activities. He gives the example of Syedna Aisha (rta), who prepared herbal medicines, Asma bint Abu Bakr (rta), who used to work inside and outside her home, Rufaydah Al-Aslamiyyah (rta), who was the first female doctor in Islam, and Umm Mihjan (rta), who used to clean the Prophet’s (sa) mosque. In fact, the second Caliph of Islam Syedna Umar Farooq appointed a woman, Ash-Shifa, as a market inspector in Madinah.

The European Council for Fatwah and Research states: “We do not deny that some countries have very strict traditions regarding women, so that they become more like prisoners in their own homes, until death comes to them. However, even though some scholars may agree with this, it remains that clear, covert and correct legal evidence contradicts these traditions in addition to the objectives of Shariah, the interests of mankind and the development of age and people.”

Daiyah Zeinab Mostafa states: “We cannot forbid women from work and deprive the society from the benefit and knowledge that they have, under the pretext that Islam forbids women to work, which is completely baseless. If we return to the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet (sa) and his companions, we will find that they lived a happy life, when men and women worked together to fulfill their duties.”

Conditions for working

It is clear from the above rulings and opinions that women are allowed to work. However, they need to keep in mind certain conditions:

Work should be lawful, not forbidden or leading to the forbidden

Some of the occupations that are forbidden or lead to the forbidden include working as a flight attendant, which requires wearing provocative clothing and interacting closely with the opposite gender, working as a private secretary, requiring being alone with the manager, or working as a dancer, who excites physical instincts and lusts.

Maintaining Islamic conduct in dealings

The rules of modesty, as laid down by the Quran and the Sunnah, must be observed. The proper Muslim dress should be worn; one must not look lustfully but be serious in speech and decent in gait.

Work should not result in neglect of the primary duty

The Muslim wife’s primary duty is towards her family. According to Zainab Al-Alwani, instructor of Fiqh and Islamic studies in Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (Virginia, USA), educated Muslim women should strike a balance between work and family obligations by choosing a flexible job or choosing to work fewer hours. Daiyah Zeinab Mostafa further goes on to say: “Work can be obligatory for her, if she does not have anyone to look after her, and she is able to work and earn her living in a lawful way. It could be forbidden, if her work would lead her to neglect her duty as a wife and as a mother. It is entirely lawful and allowed, if the woman can strike a balance between different duties and obligations.”

Dealing with problems at work

A number of problems and dilemmas crop up, once a woman decides to work. Harassment, discrimination, travelling alone or choosing a career over marriage are just the tip of the iceberg.