Hurt to Healing Exclusive with Fudia Muhammad
Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): First, I must congratulate you on your first and newly published book “Children Of The Most High: Giving Birth To A God & The Science Of Child Rearing” and your current book tour! How has the response been and how has it been being on tour with this unique approach to a topic like motherhood?
Fudia Muhammad (FM): All praise is due to Allah (God)! Wow, thank you so much, Sister Ebony – the response has been so wonderful, I am truly grateful! The book was released on March 28, 2019 and the excitement from others about its release was immediate and overwhelming. We are just getting started on the book tour, so we have only completed three cities out of the seventeen stops currently scheduled, but with each location, the response has only been positive and encouraging.
There is nothing like having an unrelenting passion for something, growing it to a vision; going to work to make that vision a reality, and then it gets taken to another level because your Brothers and Sisters support you in that effort. But I have to say, the most thrilling aspect of this entire experience is to be able to witness young people and those who are not familiar with this aspect of The Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, become completely rapt and intrigued by learning something so profound that they have never heard before. I am so grateful to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for giving me that same experience as a new Believer when I heard his five-part lecture series, How to Give Birth to a God, for the first time!
EM: May is pinned as Mental Health Awareness Month as well as the month where the world is observing Mother’s Day. I thought we could combine both and discuss the topic of Postpartum Depression (PPD).
FM: Yes ma’am. It’s a very important topic and I would be happy to have that conversation.
EM: For those who are familiar with the term but unclear of what it means, can you please explain what postpartum depression is?
FM: Yes ma’am, certainly. Postpartum depression is an illness. It’s a mental illness that can build slowly or manifest instantly after a woman gives birth. It should not be confused with “baby blues,” which is a brief period of sadness, anxiety or frustration that some women experience after giving birth which has more to do with the dramatic and sudden shift of hormone levels. Baby blues only last for two to three days. However, with postpartum depression the symptoms are more intense and last much longer. Symptoms of depression that manifest within six months after giving birth and last for more than two weeks is likely postpartum depression.
The symptoms vary from woman to woman and range on a spectrum. Women may experience extreme mood swings: feelings of sadness, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, or anger. They may lose interest in those things that typically brought them joy, they may lack energy or motivation; which leads to feeling guilty, hopeless and worthless. Physically, women may experience excessive crying, insomnia, sleeping too often; or there can be a loss of appetite and extreme weight loss or weight gain. Women may also show very little interest in their new baby or can even feel that life is not worth living.
EM: What exactly causes PPD, and is it more prominent in some versus others? What determines whether one will experience PPD?
FM: Unfortunately, the exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown. We do know that all women experience dramatic changes in hormone levels during and after pregnancy, which can certainly produce a chemical change in the brain. However, some women are able to navigate that shift better than others. So, there are many factors involved. But, based on the physical health of the mother before and during pregnancy, her family history of depression and other mental illnesses, her current family dynamics and her level of stress during pregnancy may predetermine which women are more heavily inclined to experience postpartum depression.
According to mental health experts, postpartum depression is most likely to occur if the woman has previously experienced any type of depression; if her pregnancy was unwanted; if her relationship with her spouse or the baby’s father is strained; if she does not have close family or friends to depend on; or if she is experiencing financial difficulties. Women may also be predisposed if they experienced severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS); if they experienced any stressful life changing events during pregnancy; if they had a difficult pregnancy, complications with labor and delivery; or if their baby was premature or had any health problems.
EM: You are a mother of four amazing children; three boys and a girl. What are their ages? To the degree that you’re comfortable, please share what it was like regarding your experience overcoming PPD.
FM: All praise is due to Allah (God)! Yes, ma’am they are indeed a joy and a tremendous blessing – I am so grateful to Allah (God) for continuing to guide and protect them. My oldest son, Aquil, is 21; Rashad just turned 20; my daughter, Nadiyah, is 15; and little Halim is 7.
Wow, this is my first time sharing this with anyone outside of my family and a few of the Sisters in the MGT who were around at the time; but here we go.
I experienced postpartum depression after having my daughter. At the time, it seemed to come out of nowhere and it literally shook me because prior to my experience, I was so ignorant and judgmental about the whole thing. I always wondered: How could anyone be depressed after experiencing the majesty of childbirth; what’s wrong with these women? I didn’t even recognize right away what was happening and I certainly did not want to admit that what I was experiencing was in fact postpartum depression.
I didn’t recognize it because I always thought that postpartum depression meant you were suicidal, or you wanted to harm your baby, and neither was EVER a thought in my mind. I felt no detachment or resentment toward my daughter at all. In fact, because I was struggling mentally, I probably overcompensated with overt expressions of love, hoping that would shield her from my issues.
But there was no denying the physical and emotional symptoms. I was crying about everything – and I am one who is always smiling and happy. But I was so sad and overly anxious. I had no appetite, but I forced myself to eat because I was breastfeeding. I was jealous of my husband, who went to work everyday and had adults to talk to. And worst of all, I could not sleep – my mind raced all night long. The smallest issues seemed completely overwhelming. And my perception of how others viewed me was completely warped. My poor husband didn’t know what to do. He called my mother and she came running. Her physical presence and comfort helped each time she came, but it wasn’t enough to get me all the way back to myself.
My depression was triggered by two major changes in my life that took place near the end of my third pregnancy. I had been a member of the Nation of Islam for over eight years at that time and I served as the local Student MGT & GCC Captain for seven of those eight years. I chose to officially step down from this post during my maternity leave from the mosque because as the soon-to-be mother of three children under the age of six, I did not think I could balance it all and my children were my priority. Even though it was my decision to step down, I realized that my identity as a Muslim was tied to my post. I didn’t know how not to be in charge.
The second major change was that my husband and I bought our first house. We literally moved in three weeks before my daughter was born. I was so excited and relieved to be in a brand-new home; but in hindsight, a brand-new baby and a brand-new house was too much in too short a time span. Our home needed everything to get it in order and so did my baby.
There was a period of about three months where my symptoms were very intense and scary. Then gradually, due to a combination of real spiritual, mental and physical work, I could see that I was getting better with each week and month that passed. But if I am being honest it took nearly a full year before I could say with confidence that I had no signs of depression at all. I don’t know this for a fact, but it may have taken me so long because I did not seek any professional help.
EM: What key elements were significant to your successful rise through and above PPD?
FM: I want to be very careful here because what worked for me may or may not work for someone else. For some women, their symptoms are so severe that if they do not seek professional help, it could lead to postpartum psychosis and real attempts to hurt themselves or their newborn.
I was blessed to be a student and follower of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, under the leadership and guidance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. What that meant was that even during the worst moments of my depression I was fully conscious and aware of the reality of God and I never doubted that He would in fact get me through. I knew that I was in the midst of a severe trial and that Allah (God) had the power to help me through it.
I remember at the time, I kept meditating on words I had recently heard from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan…He said that when we go through a severe trial, it will either make us better or worse; but we will not remain the same. Well that was it for me. There was no way I was going to be worse so I was determined to deal with some painful things so I could get better. I knew from The Teachings that at the root of my depression and all depression is ingratitude. My ingratitude was exacerbated by comparing myself to others, having irrational fears and not feeling appreciated.
Taking medication was not something I was willing to do because I was breastfeeding, and I did not trust the long-term side-effects on my mind and body. And unfortunately for me, at the time, I was ignorant to the value of essential oils, teas, herbs and other naturopathic healing remedies. If I had known a psychologist who was also rooted in the Teachings, I would have gladly seen him or her; but the last thing I was going to do was trust the enemy with my private thoughts.
So, I began writing when I couldn’t sleep. I jotted down all of my thoughts so I could address them one by one at a later time. Every time something came to my mind, I wrote it down. The act of transferring my thoughts to paper allowed me to fall asleep!
Though it was so painful at the time, I now know it was a blessing that I couldn’t hold anything in, all my stuff was coming out. I had atonement sessions with some family members and Believers that I had both real and perceived conflicts with and felt lighter and freer with each completed session. I talked to my husband about all my insecurities, irrational fears and weaknesses so that he wouldn’t unknowingly say or do something that would trigger them. I literally could not handle hearing about his day at work for a long time.
I made sure to make myself exercise with regularity because I always immediately felt better afterward. It was a struggle, but I went through the motions of keeping up with my obligations at home and at the mosque until it was no longer a struggle. I had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other every single day. Thankfully, I never stopped praying. I was very aware that I could not get through this without Allah’s (God’s) help and I could feel Him healing me. It was as if every lecture I listened to by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was tailor made for me and my current state; so, I kept feeding on his words.
EM: What should women know about the likelihood of PPD ahead of conception, while they’re expecting and after they give birth that may not be common knowledge?
FM: They should not be afraid or overly concerned about having postpartum depression, but they should definitely be aware of the possibility of it. We are taught that every physical law has a spiritual counterpart. Therefore, we cannot prepare the body for pregnancy and neglect the mind and the spirit. Issues on the spiritual and mental plane often manifest physically. Seek a healthcare practitioner that focuses on holistic health, healing the whole being (mind, body, spirit). Focus on seeking balance in these areas before conception, during pregnancy and postpartum.
EM: I was with a postnatal massage client who recently gave birth and said she thought PPD was normal and was the only way to feel after having children. How would you respond?
FM: That’s really sad and unfortunate that she feels that way because it means she has not had the pleasure of experiencing the pure elation and joy of bringing life into the world. It may be common, but it certainly is not normal to be depressed after childbirth. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said the brain was created to think right. When we are depressed, the brain is not doing what it was created to do. Postpartum depression is a sign of mental or chemical imbalance. I did not experience any depression or prolonged sadness during three of my four pregnancies, so I know for a fact that it is not the only way to feel.
EM: To those currently battling PPD and feel as though they are losing the fight, what words do you have for them?
FM: Allah (God) can never be left out of the equation. Go to Him first and not last. No matter how impossible a situation may appear to you; it’s easy for Allah (God). He is possessor of power over ALL things. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan reminds us that when we pray to Allah (God) we cannot have any doubt that He will answer our prayers. Pray and then get the help you need. That may mean getting professional help; going to therapy and even getting your chemical levels balanced (naturally). Reach out for help and do not give up. This is a mental illness that can be overcome.
EM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
FM: Allah (God) fashioned us with the capacity to handle all trials, misfortunes and challenges. He is Merciful in that way. He does not give us more than we can handle. Do not be afraid of the process that may lead to a better you. If Allah (God) did not manifest our defects, we would not know they exist. And if we are not aware of their existence, we cannot correct them. So, trials purify, and purification brings us closer to oneness with God; which should be our ultimate goal. How else can we bear witness to the reality of God and His power to save if He does not send us through a severe trial that only He can get us out of?
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing. https://www.givebirthtoagod.com/)