Rashida Vera On Postpartum Depression, Raising a Child With A Disability, Healing & More

Meet Rashida Vera. While editing Rashida’s post I had to take a moment and thank her for being so transparent and vulnerable. She shares her experience on motherhood, postpartum depression, her beautiful son being diagnosed with Down Syndrome, being treated unfairly by medical professionals and healing. It is not uncommon for women of color to be receive horrible medical treatment while receiving prenatal care and beyond. Though it is not uncommon, it does not mean that we deserve the mistreatment. Women of color have to fight for proper care and recognition. This is why a lot of women of color are turning to having medical professionals that look like them and/or home births. I am most certain that many women can relate to Rashida’s journey. Rashida, though it may not feel like it sometimes, just know that you are doing an amazing job. Thank you for your story.

Tell me a little about yourself. (How many children do you have, what do you do for a living..etc.)

My name is Rashida. I’m 44 years old. I have three children. I became a mom at 20 years old.  My children’s age ranges are: daughter -24, son-18, son- 5.  For 16 years I had a career in the insurance field.  After the birth of my youngest child, I began having a different outlook on life.  I no longer wanted to just work, I wanted to have a purpose with my work. My five year old son Sean was born with down-syndrome and came into this world with cardiac issues.  Due to my experience caring for him, I decided to change my career to nursing.  I’ve been a pediatric nurse for one year and I really enjoy not only helping my little patients but being supportive for their parents as well.  

How are you feeling? At this particular moment, are you happy?

At this particular moment I’m feeling good.  Everyday is different…some days are more challenging than others. Some days I feel overwhelmed, sad, or tired. Today was a good day.  I’m happy that I am able to be present for my kids. Today I attended virtual schooling with my 5 year old and later took my 18 year old driving to prepare him for his road test and now I’m watching a cooking show with my daughter…so today was good.

I’m happy that I am able to be present for my kids.

If you don’t mind me asking, how has parenting a child with a disability been for you? How has it been during this pandemic?

I’ve experienced many, many emotions since having my son. In the beginning there was a lot of fear. Fear of the unknown…I didn’t know anyone with a child who was disabled that I could talk to and I felt isolated. The start of my fear began with the doctors. The gynecologist I initially started  prenatal care with gave me the worst prognosis. I felt pressured to end my pregnancy and in fact he advised me to do so. Although I had this fear I felt like I needed to continue my pregnancy and to do so I needed a medical team that was supportive of my decision.  I changed my ob/gyn when I was three months and it was the best decision I ever made.

 From that point on I felt like not only did I have a doctor who was supportive but she helped me get in contact with specialists who prepared me for what was to come. It’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions but once he came into this world I knew I had to be his biggest advocate. I never asked what was best for him…I demanded the best for him.  He has had nothing but the best doctors/nurses/therapists and in the best hospitals. 

 This journey helped me find an inner strength I never knew I had.  I found strength and patience and so much compassion for others. There are so many parents who go through struggles far more complex than mine and I admire them and feel for them at the same time. I’m still learning and educating myself all the time about Down Syndrome; I don’t think that will ever end.  

I remember when my son was one week old,  a doctor looked at me and said he had a tough road ahead and he was so right.  It’s hard, consistent, and repetitive work.  We have come a long way but we have a long way to go.  What comes naturally for most kids, may take my son one year to learn.  The pandemic was a blessing for my family because I was able to be home and participate in virtual learning. When you have a child with a disability it doesn’t end with classroom learning, their school day includes speech therapy, feeding therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.  

I have to admit it is exhausting and some days I just wanted to lay in the bed and not log on….in fact some parents did log on to virtual school lying in bed with their kids lol..and you have to laugh because we all know it’s challenging and it wears on you…I can describe it as a full time job but I’m grateful because I get to help and see firsthand what the teachers and therapists do with my son and I can implement what I learn in our daily routine.

I felt isolated. The start of my fear began with the doctors. The gynecologist I initially started  prenatal care with gave me the worst prognosis. I felt pressured to end my pregnancy and in fact he advised me to do so

What is something you remember about giving birth to your child(ren)? How did you feel? How did people around you make you feel? (Whether a doctor, family member, spouse..)

I can remember each birth as if it were yesterday from beginning to end…I was excited. My family was also excited. My first birth was calm and quiet.  After I gave birth my doctor said to me, “ You are so young, why did you want to have a baby?” At that moment I felt like I had done something wrong.  

I felt ignored during my first two births, There was an incident where my health was at risk after I gave birth.  I just didn’t feel right. I told the nurse and she basically brushed off my concerns and walked out the room.  I began hemorrhaging and I didn’t know what to do.  I was trying to get to the call bell but couldn’t because I was dizzy. Luckily my doctor came in and immediately saw I was in bad shape and she took care of me.  But why was I ignored by the nurse? 

I still felt ignored during the birth of my second child.    I would tell my doctors I’m experiencing discomfort or my morning sickness is really bad, I was basically told to get over it so guess what ….I changed my doctor in my 7th month. Then I told the second doctor at the end of my pregnancy I think I need to have a c-section because my baby is going to be big…she ignored my concerns and told me my son was barely 6 lbs.  My son was a whopping 8lbs 12 oz, Im petite 5’1” 115 lbs at the time. She later told me she didn’t realize my son would be so big and I should’ve had a c-section…it took three months before I felt completely healed.  

My third pregnancy I was older but received pity because of my son’s diagnosis.  It was a horrible experience at the hospital where I delivered my son. I got sad looks from the doctor’s when they confirmed he had down syndrome. I had to tell them, “Look I’ve known my son’s diagnosis since I was nine weeks! What is the next step to help him progress?” I had to fight with the doctors at the hospital where I gave birth. My questions and calls were ignored. I was sent from one doctor to the next and finally I said enough is enough…if you can’t help my son I’m transferring him to a hospital that can.  I’m experiencing all of this while trying to recover from a c-section, swollen feet and breastfeeding.  

Why were my concerns ignored a second time? Was it my age? My race? I don’t know.  

Once I made my demands clear,  their mood changed but it was too late. I had him transferred to the best children’s hospital and it was like night and day. As soon as I arrived the technology was bar none! I didn’t have to ask any questions because I was informed, respected and included in his plan of care every step of the way and that’s how it has been for us ever since and I expect nothing less. God put the right people in our lives and we are forever grateful!

 

Did you experience postpartum depression with your child(ren)? If so, when did you realize you were experiencing it and what steps did you take to heal?

Postpartum is a silent beast! lol.  When I had my daughter I was 20 and no one took the time to explain to me what postpartum was.  I remember she was 2-3 weeks old (I took 4 month maternity leave) and I started feeling really sad, like I didn’t want to be left alone.  Not because I would harm her but I didn’t want to be alone. I would get so happy when a family member would come home. I felt more secure when surrounded by others,  in case something happened to this tiny being sleeping in her crib.  I didn’t understand those feelings at the time and it didn’t last long…maybe 1-2 months and then I started feeling like my normal self.  I know I cried because I was a single mom and I didn’t want to be.  Her dad was present in her life but it wasn’t the happy family I wanted or how I grew up. When I had my second son at 25 years old is when I realized what I had experienced with my daughter was postpartum.  I experienced it with my second pregnancy as well. I felt sadness and fear before I gave birth and after; crying for no reason. I was married this time but I still cried and felt sad…..I didn’t have the happy family I pictured in my mind.  I remember looking at my newborn son and 5 year old daughter feeling fear like “wow I’m responsible for these tiny people!”.  

I went back to work after six weeks and emotionally and physically I didn’t feel ready but I had to push through.  When I had my last son I was much older…39 years old so I was prepared and educated and knew what to expect with postpartum.  My son was in the NICU for 5 months so from the beginning I didn’t have time for self care. I had to be there for him but the nurses were so kind and understanding and very supportive. They gave me so much advice and when I had my breakdowns (crying) I was able to talk to a therapist who would come visit me each day at my son’s bedside. I can’t tell you how great that was. 

Talking to a therapist helped me to heal, understand and be accepting of my feelings.  I wish I had that with my first two pregnancies.  I recommend any mom whether you have a healthy baby or a baby with health issues to talk to someone even if you think you are feeling fine….postpartum sneaks up on you in such a weird way.  For some, it may be mild but for others it can be really bad.  In current times I think doctors are more aware of mental health as opposed to when I gave birth in 1998.  As I have gotten older I’ve become a big advocate of self-care and mental health.   

 I recommend any mom whether you have a healthy baby or a baby with health issues to talk to someone even if you think you are feeling fine….postpartum sneaks up on you in such a weird way.

What are your five favorite ways to take care of yourself especially during this pandemic?

I have learned that self-care is a MUST!  The pandemic can be very isolating, so I like keeping in contact with friends and family via text, phone or video chat.  I do things I enjoy…my favorite is pampering myself..making sure my hair, nails are done…doing facials at home.  I have also made time to be patient with cooking and enjoy my favorite dishes. I grew tomatoes in the backyard for the first time during the pandemic.  My goal is to create a small garden of different vegetables.  I love listening to music and binge watching shows. Initially I made time to exercise but I did not stay consistent.  I actually don’t like to exercise but I know it’s necessary. I have done a few virtual yoga classes. I also really enjoy online shopping (haven’t decided if that is good or bad lol)…UPS and Amazon are probably tired of delivering to my house lol. 

The pandemic can be very isolating, so I like keeping in contact with friends and family via text, phone or video chat.

What advice would you give a new mom?

My advice for a new mom is to take one day at a time. There is no such thing as a perfect mom. There will be days where you absolutely love being a mom and days when you may say omg what have I done lol….it’s ok because we are all human. Raising a child is hard work and trial and error. Also take time for yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup.  We check our physical health all the time but what about our mental health? I think it’s important to link up with other new moms to share experiences or get advice. 

 There are so many ways I have linked up with other mom’s through texting, in person, but mostly online.  I joined several support groups on facebook for moms and moms with children with down syndrome. I log on frequently and it helps me every day. Mom’s post real experiences and gave advice that has been helpful.  If a mom is having a crappy day they will post it and I may say you know what I had a crappy day yesterday so I am sending you hugs and support to get through the day.  It’s not just about sharing the rough days but we celebrate milestones of children’s birthdays, graduations, first day of school, taking their first steps….it’s a great online community. 

What advice did you receive when you became a mother?

When I became a mom I don’t remember receiving that much advice.  I had good examples watching my mom and grandmother so I pretty much copied what I remember them doing. They always took care of their family and made us feel secure. I wanted to provide that feeling and be a good example for my kids. I remember being told when my baby sleeps, I sleep. I was told what bottles to use, how to sterilize them.  I remember thinking wow…I have to do this every day! Yikes!!  I remember my dad said I didn’t know how to be a mom (duh…who does for the first time smh lol).  But when I have naysayers I prove them wrong. I was happy when I became a mom so I put my all into my kids and guess what years later my dad told me that I was a great mom.  Hearing that validation made me feel like a million dollars.

 FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out. Have you felt that you were missing out on anything when you became a mother?

I became a mom at 20 years old. I missed out on the opportunity to figure out my path before I became a mom. I lacked knowledge, confidence and clarity when I was younger which I don’t think was fair to my kids. We have had a good life but if I was older, settled with more experience, I think it would’ve been better for them.  

 What does self care mean to you?

Self-care to me means putting me first. It allows me to be the best version of me. Self-care means having a positive, healthy mind. I believe everything starts there. 

How do you show up for yourself vs how do you show up for your family?

I show up for myself by taking time for myself, even if it’s for 15 minutes of quiet time. I journal my thoughts which I have done since I was 10 years old. I hold myself accountable to whatever goals I set for myself. I’m learning that it’s ok to say no.  I show up for my family by being supportive emotionally, sometimes physically and spiritually if they are open to that.

How do you stay encouraged and inspired ?

I stay encouraged by listening to that inner voice nagging me to not give up. Will I have regrets if I don’t push myself to do all that I set out to do? Yes! So that’s what keeps me going…an inner drive. I stay inspired by watching others (peers, celebrities) and seeing what they have accomplished or experienced.  Learning from those who are where you want to be even if it’s from afar. Iron sharpens iron.

As you look back at your life, what are you most proud of?

Looking back I am most proud that I never gave up. I’m proud of being a good mom.  I’m proud of my accomplishments(college graduate, graduate of nursing school, homeowner, business owner) even when those close to me had doubts.

What are you most grateful for?

I’m most grateful for family and friends.  Through my journey I have learned so much from those who I have crossed paths with.  I’m most grateful for spiritual growth.  Looking back 10 years ago being spiritual was something I couldn’t comprehend but now I have come so far and I’m in such a happy space. I’m grateful for being able to hear God’s voice and my ancestors’ advice.

I’m grateful for my physical and mental health and

having strength to keep pushing forward.

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