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My Mother-in-law Called Me A Witch; A Mothers Story Of Post-partum Psychosis

By – Uchechi Iroakazi

Mother and child

My name is Seyi (not real name). In 2015, I put to bed, and was delivered of a beautiful baby girl. She was my bundle of joy. She still is. She made me feel complete. However, two weeks after I had her, my life took a dramatic turn.

My mum is late, so my mother-in-law opted to come for ojojo omo

She helped me ease up. I didnt even feel stressed out as most of my friends did when they had their first baby. Everything went down well, until I started acting weird. First, I started feeling on top of the world. I became hyperactive. I would dance for hours. Initially, my husband thought it was the joy of having my first baby. But then, I started staying up at night. Sleep was not coming forth. Sometimes, I would yell at my husband or mother-in-law for no reason. I was easily irritated.

As weeks progressed, I got worse. I started hearing voices, seeing things and even perceiving things that my husband and his mum couldnt. I became paranoid. I felt like everyone hated me, even my baby. So I stopped breast feeding her. She would cry, but I wouldnt respond, until my mother-in-law forced me to.

How could a good mum deny her daughter nurturing and care? You are a witch. Aje. she would say.

My husband was frustrated. He could not understand the abrupt change in my behavior, and it affected our marriage.

One morning, I had a voice in my head. The voice said Seyi, if you dont run away, your husband, his mum and the baby will kill you.

I waited till my husband left for work. Then I packed my clothes, shoes, and bag. It was while I was putting my belongings in my car boot that my mother-in-law called my husband on the phone to come home. And she quickly instructed the gateman to padlock the gate. I started screaming for help, because I thought they wanted to kill me.

When my husband arrived, he was baffled that I wanted to leave our home. He didnt understand what was going on, so he angrily said

Its not enough that youve put up a strange attitude, you also want to leave! Seyi what have I done to you? Havent I been a good husband?

Then I thundered you, your mum and baby would kill me if I stayed. You all are murderers!

Luckily, after I explained my reason for wanting to leave, my husband connected dots and figured that something might be wrong with me. So, he quickly reached for his phone in his right pocket, and dialed our family doctor.

When the doctor arrived, he and my husband went aside to talk for about twenty minutes. Then the doctor walked up to me and told me he wanted to take me somewhere safe, so that my husband, his mum and the baby wouldnt kill me. I didnt know it was a ploy to take me to the hospital.

At the hospital, I was given drugs and injections that the doctor said will make me feel safe and better. It was later he told me they were anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs, because I was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis; a rare illness that affects women 2-4 weeks after delivery. He explained that women with this illness often present with certain symptoms such as:

  • Mania: feeling over-excited, high, active, and energetic, not needing sleep, feeling irritable, and agitated.
  • Mood swings.
  • Hallucinations: hearing voices, seeing or smelling things that other people cannot see or perceive.
  • Delusions: false beliefs that are firmly held e.g. being sure that my husband, his mum and baby would kill me.
  • Paranoia
  • A lack of insight: usually women experiencing this illness may be unaware that their behavior is odd in any way.

The doctor said the common cause of this condition is a dramatic change in pregnancy hormones.

He called my husband and explained my condition to him. My husband is an understanding man, so he availed himself for me while I was rehabilitated in the hospital for three months. As I got better, the doctor advised that my baby stayed with me as well. Usually a nurse monitored me from time to time.

In retrospect, I thank God for saving me. It was not an easy experience. Please, husbands, mother-in-laws and close relations should take their new mums to see a doctor if they notice an abrupt change in behavior that tarries for long. She is not a witch or a bad person, she may be sick. Save a life ejo!

*ojojo omo is a tradition amongst the Yoruba, where a mother or mother-in-law or a close member of the family takes care of the new mother, so she can regain her pre-pregnancy body. More so, the new mum learns how to take care of her baby.

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