Just Keep Swimming

I’m back! Again!

I wish that my crystal ball would accurately tell me when my depression is on the verge of breaking point. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy.

For the most part, I’ve accepted this part of my life. I understand that in order for me to ride through the wave, I need to prioritize. Very often, that means only the bare minimum is accomplished. And sometimes my writing has to be neglected. Pouring your heart out tends to be more challenging when your head is in a mess. Throwing anxiety into the mix, and things tend to get a lot more complicated. Depression drains your energy to the lowest it can be. Then think of anxiety as being the most annoying and clueless person in your life who tells you that you need to suck it up and deal with it.

I’ve been on this journey for years. There are weeks when I’m great and life couldn’t be more perfect. I can cut down on my meds and still experience everything to the fullest. Then without warning, I’m struggling to bathe or get out of bed or even eat for days on end. And my meds are doubled yet I still feel as though I’m floundering.

Simply remembering at any given moment that this too shall pass! And for this very moment, it has!

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Happy Mother’s Day to me!

A few nights ago, I dreamt October 17th 2008. I dreamt the weirdly colored pink pacifier because we lost the other one in the hospital. How could I remember that date so clearly? Because it was the day that I handed my 30 day old son to doctors, not knowing if I would get him back.

My son was born strong and healthy and even though I was a single mother, I had an exceptional support system. I was at home by my parents and being spoilt as much as their first grandchild. My milk was slow to come in so I chose to breastfeed and supplement with formula. Every morning, my mom would come and take my son from my room at 4.30am… feed him, change pampers, play with him and I got to sleep late.

But everything changed when he was 10 days old and he vomited for the first time. But that’s what babies do right? My inner voice told me that something was wrong but I was a new mama, so how much did I really know? Our pediatrician’s office became our second home and as the days slowly crept by, the vomiting got progressively worse. This was vomit spewing 3 feet away from a baby only 2 weeks old. We changed formulas countless times, I monitored my diet in case there was something in my system that was passing to him through the breast milk. But there was no change. I became completely overwhelmed… I wouldn’t let anyone feed him. Even though my dad was driving me and my mom to the doctor, I held my pain and wouldn’t let anyone know of the level of discomfort that I was experiencing just days after a C-section. The doctors could not find anything wrong to cause this extent of vomiting. So it became a constant guessing game trying to rule out possibilities. My son continued to vomit and with each day that passed, I blamed myself more and more. I believed that if I was a better mother, then my baby would be well and this would not be happening; even thinking that God was punishing me for my decision to be a single mother.

When my son was 27 days old, I was forced to rush him to emergency. He was severely dehydrated after being unable to keep down anything for almost 48 hours. I held my baby for countless x-rays, ultrasounds and a barium swallow (which I would not wish on an adult).

October 17th 2008, when he was 30 days old, I handed him over for exploratory surgery. While it was strongly believed that his condition was pyloric stenosis (an abnormality of the lower stomach muscle that causes the muscle to tighten and not allow for proper digestion, thus causing him to reject all oral feed), none of the tests had definitely confirmed their suspicions. So I had no choice but to sign away my son and pray for the best.

We were waiting for the time of surgery to be confirmed, so I pulled out my phone and snapped some pictures of him. My mom was with me and she initially moved his right hand, the one with the drips attached, out of the way. I put his hand back in place and she looked at me confused and asked “why are you taking pictures of his drips?” I responded nonsensically saying “he looks cute with it”. The truthful answer, which I never said out loud was “ I don’t know if this will be his last moments and I need this memory exactly as it is”.

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The moment that I handed my son to the doctor for surgery will stay with me for as long as I live. In that single moment, I understood the saying that “to be a mother is to forever have your heart walk around outside of your body”. Physically ripping my heart out of my body would have been less painful than what I experienced.

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To this day, I can still remember that anguish as if it happened yesterday. And I can still remember the overwhelming relief and incredible joy when my baby was returned to me, full of life as if nothing had happened.

It was confirmed that he did in fact have pyloric stenosis, but with no added complications. He recovered quickly and continued thriving.

This was the first of several trials that we have had to endure. With this first situation, he proved to me that he is a fighter like his mama and with the support of his mama, will triumph regardless of the challenge.

I am honored and blessed to be your mama đź’™

Education or Torture

Yesterday marked the annual Secondary Education Assessment (SEA)… that revered examination from which a child’s future success is determined. The test that almost always decides the advancement of children in today’s society. Yes, there are those who did not achieve their desired results and went on to incredible success later in life. But the reality is that for many, this examination is the beginning of achievement or struggle.

SEA came about in 2001 as a supposed improvement over the colonial Common Entrance exam. Call it what you want but it’s not improvement. In Trinidad, up to 1968, secondary school education wasn’t free to the general population. However, a select number of students who achieved success through the College Exhibition, were granted the opportunity to free secondary education. The College Exhibition was later replaced by the Common Entrance Examination, but even with the introduction of free secondary education, there was a prestige established by the exam. The previously existing schools catered to the higher classes of society, who had the financial resources to pay for their children’s education and it was of paramount importance to maintain that standard of separation. Additional secondary schools were established, but they were not on an even footing. They didn’t have the finances to be properly run, inexperienced teachers and a system still being fine-tuned.

50 years later and we still can’t figure this out. The prestige schools in the 1970s are still the prestige schools of today. Parents are known to bestow huge rewards on their children for success and to severely punish if their placement is not to the desired standard of excellence. Primary schools focus only on language and mathematics, to the detriment of art, music and sports, because those activities will supposedly have no bearing on success at SEA. At home, children are subjected to hours of homework and revision, with no time for play or relaxation. Children from the age of 9 are suffering from anxiety, nightmares, headaches, depression and countless other behaviors, stemming from this examination. Children have committed suicide due to the pressures arising from this day. And as much as some parents may try to hide their own emotions, they are also contributing their negative energies to an already volatile child.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not blaming parents. I believe that the vast majority are doing their best with the skills that they have. They believe that a “prestige” secondary school is going to provide a doorway to better. They know that their kids are under pressure but in many instances, don’t know what to do about it. My question is… why aren’t we pressuring the government and ministry of education to make changes? Why isn’t this a more prevalent issue at election time? Strength is in numbers and if 18000 children are sitting this exam annually, that’s a lot of parents whose voices can be heard if they unite.