The first apartment where my husband and I lived had six stories, and we lived on the sixth floor.  I remember this clearly because in the months after my first son was born, I spent way too much time hanging out laundry and hoping that somehow, just somehow, I would accidentally fall off our sixth floor balcony and die.

Astaghfirullah – there wasn't anything really wrong with my life, and I had no reason to contemplate suicide even in such an indirect way.  My husband was loving and supportive and adored our new son.  I had very few responsibilities other than taking care of the baby, the house, and myself.  I had enough food, enough money, and comfortable shelter over my head, but unfortunately, I also had postpartum depression.

Our well-meaning, traditional matriarchs might ask what all this postpartum depression nonsense is all about.  After all when your baby is a newborn you're SUPPOSED to be miserable – they call that the baby blues. You're sleep-deprived, learning how to feed your baby for the first time, constantly worried about temperature, safety, illness, and of course, the routine running of the household. You can be expected to feel a little challenged – that's what new motherhood is all about – but suicidal?

There are differences between the baby blues and postpartum depression, and these differences are important.  Both postpartum depression and the baby blues can leave you feeling out of sorts in a variety of ways, but the baby blues usually get better on their own within two weeks.  Postpartum depression doesn't.

Postpartum depression can last for months, and it can take away your ability to eat, sleep properly, interact with family and friends, or even bond with your baby.  This is all made worse by anxiety, feelings of guilt and inadequacy given the task at hand, as well as dangerous thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

In my case, PPD meant that I alternated between wishing I would die and then feeling terrified that something would happen to me, leaving my newborn son without a mother.  I was chronically sleep deprived, but when my son finally went to sleep, I lay in bed wide-eyed, jittery, and unable to sleep or stay asleep for very long.  I would hear him crying for me -even if he was dozing peacefully in his bouncer or out for a walk with his father- and the sound of his wailing haunted me.

Sometimes people tell you that there is no depression in Islam.  I'm not sure why they say this, because Allah would not tell us that our hearts would find rest in remembering Him if our hearts were not restless in the first place.  Allah would not give us a healing for our hearts if our hearts did not need healing -but from a cultural point of view, admitting to depression is taboo.  So, I told no one but my husband, and all I told him was that I was struggling a bit.

Alhamdulillah as the weeks passed slowly into months my son grew, I slowly regained control, got over the insomnia, and stopped wishing I would die. I told no one else though, until a year later when a friend of mine called and said, straight to the point, “I'm taking a survey on postpartum depression.  My mother in law says it doesn't exist, but I can't sleep, am mentally paralyzed and don't eat for 36 hours at a time. How about you?”

When the baby cried, I did too. And baies cry alot.

When the baby cried, I did too. And babies cry alot.

How about me? Well, I had PPD after my daughter was born as well, and this time it was so severe that I would have sudden panic attacks, complete with chest pain, overwhelming hopelessness, and the feeling that life would never, ever be normal again.  When the baby cried, so did I.

I love my children -after Islam I consider my children to be the biggest blessings Allah has bestowed on me- but the combination of fluctuating post-pregnancy hormones, sleep deprivation, and newborn stress does something to my brain that is not normal.

How did I get out of PPD? Alhamdulillah, I never needed medication, but I did need my husband's help and understanding.  And of course, I needed healing for my heart- I needed Qur'an.  When I felt like the walls were closing in on me and I could feel anxiety closing tightly around my throat- I would start reciting Qur'an, and I wouldn't stop until I felt better.

Sometimes, I recited Qur'an for a VERY long time, but I knew that was the only thing that would let me breathe more freely, remember Allah's blessings upon me, and calm my heart in a way that reason cannot ever begin to explain.  I began to memorize new surahs, and I began to fall in love with ayahs that spoke directly to my pain.

Two years after my daughter's birth, I had a miscarriage.  Outwardly, I managed to keep things together, but I spent months crying alone and feeling guilty for wanting something that Allah had not decreed for me. I found myself needing more than Qur'an to pick up the broken pieces of my well-being.

Alhamdulillah, my husband pushed me to start attending Islamic classes, and the light of new knowledge pushed the darkness away, even if the darkness had more to do with loss than a crisis of faith.  Here I was struggling with my own depression as well as raising two young children- I was in pain that had nothing to do with 'Ilm, but the more 'Ilm I sought, the smaller my pain became.  Eventually, it was replaced with joy and lightness in my heart that I have only ever felt when my iman is on a high, and to this day, I know that if I start to feel darkness creeping in on me, I need to look for light.  Whether I find it in the Qur'an or in 'Ilm, I need to find it and hold on to it until the darkness goes away.

That's my experience with postpartum depression, and every mother who struggles with it will probably have a different story to tell.  The blessing of being a Muslim though, is that every one of us can benefit from the healing that Allah has placed in the Qur'an.

“Verily in remembering Allah do hearts find rest.” The Holy Qur'an, surah 13 Ar-Ra'ad, ayah 38

If you are a new mother, you're probably over-worked, exhausted, and damp with baby body fluids of one kind or another at any given moment- but you should not feel hopeless, depressed, afraid or resentful of your baby, or worse -suicidal.  You shouldn't be afraid of reaching out for help, whether to your husband or to a close friend.  You would be surprised how many people have gone through postpartum depression, and the support that an experienced friend can offer you is priceless.  Most importantly, you should not underestimate the power of du'a and Qur'an on a bruised and broken heart.

If you're a new father, please be aware that postpartum depression is real, and so is the social stigma and shame that might prevent your wife from telling you that she needs help.  Please take a moment to learn more about it, because the healthier your wife is, the happier and healthier your entire family will be.

May Allah strengthen us all and give us the patience to see our hardships through to the ease He has promised, and help us to remember Allah's promise that no soul will be burdened than more than it can bear.

Editor's Note: If you are experiencing anything similar please do consult a medical doctor, psychiatrist, counselor.

43 Responses

  1. Siraaj

    Jzk for sharing this deeply personal story with us, these are among many issues within our community affecting our sisters that we have to begin acknowledging not as some type of vudu science, but as problems requiring solutions, some of which you’ve provided, alhamdulillah.

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  2. Man from the Dark Side "The Undertaker"

    If depression can affect people with such religiosity, then shouldn’t I stay sinful? Need an honest reply. Thanks.

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    • Abu Asiyah

      Depression can affect both religious and non-religious, that’s not why people decide to take the religious path. Sure, there are perks, but the primary reason for avoiding sin and doing what is obligatory is understanding that we are all slaves of Allah and He can punish and reward. Being religious because it prevents depression is not sincere religiosity. However, being patient and reliant upon Allah in the face of difficulty increases one’s rank with Him. That’s the only real way of making something out of difficulty – people who don’t have reliance on Allah simply have a bad time but those who are reliant have something to show for it in the next world and often in this one too.

      I’d also like to point out that any excuse to not be religious and remain sinful is a ploy of the Shaitan. There is no excuse, we should do our best. It’s the Shaitan who seeks to give one false excuses for not pursuing the straight path.

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  3. Abez

    Hello Undertaker- I believe that if you don’t have religion to strengthen your resolve to not drop yourself off of a balcony, then you could become one of the mothers who ends up stepping off- or worse- throwing your child over it. A small but very real percentage of women with PPD develop proper psychological problems that result in suicide, child abuse, or worse- infanticide.

    That’s my honest answer. :)

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    • Man from the Dark Side "The Undertaker"

      then you could become one of the mothers..

      I a man, so can’t be a mother. :D I’m not religious, but the thing that stops me from committing suicide is that a person goes straight to hell if they kill themselves. Thanks for your reply. :)

      Regards.

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      • Abez

        “the thing that stops me from committing suicide is that a person goes straight to hell if they kill themselves”

        Well, you may not consider yourself to be “very” religious, but you have enough religion to prevent you from committing suicide,

        InshaAllah. Imagine how many more things religion can protect you from if you get a little bit more of it. ;)

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  4. Zainab bint Younus

    Jazaakillaahi khairan for sharing this with us.

    Oddly, I had what I call pre-partum depression – severe depression (complete with thoughts of suicide etc) during my pregnancy. I believe that this an equally severe and ‘taboo’ topic (after all, you’re supposed to be happy and excited during your pregnancy, not want to die), and both need to have much awareness raised about them.

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    • Abez

      SubhanAllah, that must have been a different experience altogether and I can only imagine. I was blessed in that my pregnancies were relatively easy and I was looking forward to meeting my babies, it just went a little downhill shortly after they were born :p

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  5. Muhammad Wajid Akhter

    Asalaam Alaikum,

    JazakAllah khairun for sharing your experience. I would just like to add something on top of the excellent advice you have already given and that is – if you have post-partum/ pre-partum or just plain old depression of any sort, please see your doctor.

    The Prophet (SAW) himself encouraged us to seek medical advice when ill so there is nothing wrong with doing this along with the advice given in this article inshaAllah. But there is so much more that medicine has to offer beyond just drugs for depression. Even a simple understanding of the nature and course of the illness can be liberating to many people.

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    • Abez

      Walaikum Assalam Brother- thank you for including that very sensible advice, if I had been less shy I would have sought help too, and hopefully bringing this topic to the Muslim table can give other sisters the courage they need to ask for help from a friend or a doctor, InshaAllah. :)

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    • Abu Asiyah

      That’s true to an extent, but I’d just like to warn people of taking drugs for depression. Anti-depressants have a lot of crazy side-effects, including those that last much longer than the depression. I personally know people who have are still suffering from the effects of taking anti-depressants 10 years after the fact.

      Of course, if it comes down to being afraid of taking one’s life, anti-depressants are probably a better option. I’m just warning against taking them outside of dire need. And like you said, there’s other benefits of seeking medical advice also.

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  6. Yasmin

    Jazakallah khair for sharing this very touching personal story with all of us! Inshallah your experiences will benefit all of us who’ve read this post!

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  7. HelplessSlave

    Subhana’Allah I did not know something like this existed.

    How truthful and full of mercy were the words of Allah when he said

    “And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.”
    Luqman [31:14]

    All these days I thought that weakness upon weakness mean just the physical pain, but Subhana’Allah now I know about the emotional component in it.

    The Qur’an just literally picks the brain. How Merciful is our creator ?

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    • Abez

      “Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.”
      Luqman [31:14]

      JazakAllahuKheiran for sharing this insight and Ayah.

      I never understood the importance of this until I had children myself, and I am willing to bet it’ll resonate even more strongly once they’ve grown up and gotten even more complicated than before. Everything I thought I “knew” about what my parents did for me was insignificant when compared to what I learned when I became a parent myself.

      So go hug your parents while you still can. :)

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  8. still learning

    Sister, thank you for addressing this issue, I had this with my seventh child only and thought it would never happen to me. My cure was also listening to the Quran and going to the Masjid every night.

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    • Abez

      SubhanAllah that you should get PPD with your 7th! That just goes to show it has nothing to do with lack of experience or mothering know-how! Alhamdulillah, glad to hear you were able to find solace. >>hugs<<

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      • still learning

        ((hug back)) sister, I think some of this is caused by hormonal imbalance, I was 40 yrs old at the time and also I had some issues i had been repressing for a long time. I started spending time listening to Quran every evening, esp Surat Qaf because it makes me cry, it was very cathartic for me.

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  9. Ummhamzamuslimah

    Sister without really knowing it consciously perhaps you basically sought ruqya : quran and islamic teachings to get u out. My advice to sisters who feel down for days without a particular cause , pls recite surah baqarah in one day each day and you will FEEL the difference. At the very least, play it in your home.

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    • Abez

      AssalamuAlaikum sister- I think you may be right about that. Although I hadn’t thought about it consciously in terms of seeking ruqiya, that’s exactly what ruqiya is- healing from the Qur’an. It definitely works, though for me simply listening to Qur’an or playing it in the background didn’t really feel like much. I had to recite it.

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  10. Sister

    I used to think depression was just something people made up until it hit me.It doesn’t matter whether your practicing or not.I had the best Ramadan in 2012.I made so much dua prayed long hours in Qiyaam plus in the last ten nights of Ramadan.i was on a spiritual high.One month after Ramadan it hit me.I was depressed for over eight months.I felt like committing suicide and most people I talked to and articles I read talked about lack of eeman and me being an ungrateful person.Like you said Quran really helps.I would recommend reading a very good translation,reciting or listening when you don’t feel like reciting.Plus get professional help and make lots of dua.One of the best things I learnt from the experience is making so much dua outside of Salaah.My prayers were not of the best of quality during this period.But when I sit in my bed crying I always asked Allah for help.
    I wish most Muslims will recognize the fact that depression is real and stop giving silly advice and making comments about you not being a true mumin.

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    • Abez

      I wish I could give this comment more than one thumbs up. It deserves at least ten.

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  11. Umm

    Assalamu’alaikum Sister Abez,

    So are you now fully recovered? May Allah grant you the best level of reward for your patience, ameen :)

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    • Abez

      Walaikum Assalam Sister- Yes, Alhamdulillah. My third child is now two years old, and while I still occasionally struggle with anxiety, and stress, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of what you can expect with three young children. Alhamdulillah :)

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  12. Umm Esa

    JazakAllahu khayran sister for writing this article. I have been looking for information regarding pregnancy, child-birth, post-birth and parenting recently. Unfortunately, I feel that a detailed literature in this area (from Muslim-perspective) still needs to be compiled and be accessible. I am grateful that you brought this topic up. The Realization that a certain disorder/ problem may not be unique to ourselves alone can us help seek assistance, and not be embarrassed about it.

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    • Abez

      “The Realization that a certain disorder/ problem may not be unique to ourselves alone can us help seek assistance, and not be embarrassed about it.”

      InshaAllah, Ameen!

      Sis, if you are currently researching stuff, maybe you can put together a Muslim-flavored writeup on what you find?

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  13. Umm A

    Assalamu-alaikum, JazaakAllaahu khayr and hugs x hugs for sharing this sister. Alhamdulillah, I only probably had ‘baby blues’ or mild PPD but Lord did I feel miserable..all compounded by other social/health issues at the time. More than anything, lack of understanding on the part of spouses and family makes it worse. Social isolation, whether obvious or not plays a big part as well. If it is affordable or feasible, sometimes a change in scenery, a short holiday can help ‘reset’ yourself methinks; of course in conjunction with asking Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’Ala profusely. May Allah Ta’Ala make ease for all mommies….

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    • Abez

      “May Allah Ta’Ala make ease for all mommies….”

      Ameen! And since and certain amount of mommyness cannot be made any easier, thank Allah for giving mothers a special status and InshaAllah, forgiveness through sabr. :)

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  14. Khalidah

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum sister Abez, Jazaakillaah khairan kathiraa for sharing your story with us. Your article is full of gems, maa shaa ALLAH. I believe the Qur’an and the methods you sought in overcoming your struggle can work for anyone going through any type of depression; I’ve personally seen the solutions you gave as the only means of surviving during states of depression. May ALLAH swt ease our affairs for us, protect us, and guide us. Ameen.

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    • Abez

      “I believe the Qur’an and the methods you sought in overcoming your struggle can work for anyone going through any type of depression; ”

      Walaikum Assalam Sis Khadija- I agree with you 1000%- I had to rely on the same coping methods when my son was diagnosed with autism- Qur’an, and LOTS of dua. :)

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  15. Berserk Hijabi

    Reading Muslim Matters articles make me want To fast forward to Ramadan.I love u Muslim Matters!

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  16. PPD recovery

    I too suffered from PPD with my first child, or so I thought. Then Allah destined a miscarriage. The miscarriage took care of the PPD like magic. In fact after the miscarriage I looked back at the moments I had not treasured with the first newborn. The miscarriage brought upon thoughts of guilt about how I had self diagnosed the PPD by Googleing things up.

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    • Abez

      May Allah forgive your sins and compensate your loss with blessings sister. Why did you feel guilty for self-diagnosing PPD?

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  17. Mammie

    Assalaamualaikum my sister

    Jazakillah Khayran for your touching article. I am almost due with my second baby Alhamdulilah and travelling to my home country to delivery this time inshaAllah. I see myself reflected in your article after my first baby was born, except that instead of thoughts of suicide, I became obsessed with going to the gym daily for months after the delivery & feel could have bonded more with my baby instead if I was in the right frame of mind. I felt I needed my normal body back, also spurred by my insecurity that my loving husband would be ‘turned off’ me if I still carried all this baby flab around for long! Depression was no stranger incidentally having creeped into my student days from time to time, when I was away from my home country & family. This time I was intent on beating PPD, and turned to running (on the treadmill)!

    But running alone turned me into a kind of ‘maniac escapee mum’ after shedding a crazy 30kilos in 5 months. I was still unhappy generally & would only let my tears fall & let down my guard while I ran sometimes for 30minutes non-stop at high speed. My worldview post-baby was still tainted with anger and frustration even though I hid it from others; I viewed the silence and distance of my friends post-delivery as betrayal, everything and everyone else was to be blamed subhanallah. Until just like you, I started reading the Quran with my baby listening near me, attending online Ilm classes, my heart then found peace. I understood that the most important thing is to nurture & thank Allah for my new family unit and strive my best as a new mother no matter how steep the climb. The physical highs I felt after each gym session and spiritual highs after each ilm class (albeit interrupted by the needs of my baby), healed my hurt Alhamdulilah & made me a stronger woman. As you also point out, I now know exactly who to turn to and where to turn to inshaAllah.

    Final word, if I may do so, I would also like to advise my dear sisters out there to maintain a flexible fitness routine after delivery alongside a spiritual regimen, seek good company of our dear husbands, families & sincere sisters and make lots of duas to Allah SWT to beat those whisperings of Shaytaan and from our own nafs & hormones! May Allah make us mums the means to become the true Jannah for our offsprings, Ameen :)

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    • Abez

      AssalamuAlaikum Sister, may Allah make your upcoming delivery easy and your new baby healthy. :) InshaAllah, may your post-partum recovery be easier and more full of love than your previous experience, especially now that you know:

      “The physical highs I felt after each gym session and spiritual highs after each ilm class (albeit interrupted by the needs of my baby), healed my hurt Alhamdulilah & made me a stronger woman. As you also point out, I now know exactly who to turn to and where to turn to inshaAllah.”

      You summed it up beautifully. :)

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  18. Ssamo

    Salam! I started reading the ramadan post and was so inspired as this year I was really struggling and then at the bottom, this post caught my eye so I linked over.
    The two posts were exactly what I needed in this moment. This Ramadan snuck up on me. Every year I get super excited just waiting for the reconnection to God and the community that I know I will have in this month. When I think of Ramadan, I remember the days of being a kid begging my parents to go to taraweeh so we could see our friends and play. Although it took a few years until i developed the wisdom to join the actual prayers, those were the days that developed my love for Ramadan and the masjid.
    Last year I was pregnant while working almost 80 hrs/wk so was not able to fast. This year I am nursing but decided this would not stop me from fasting. But this year, instead of my usual excitement I felt something new… i felt fear as Ramadan approached. I now had two kids, was starting a new job on the first day of Ramadan and had never really fasted such long days (since I missed last year). In fact, my faith had been seriously struggling and I am ashamed to admit, since my baby was born, I could count the number of times I had prayed. I had been so depressed after the baby was born, but unlike others, instead of using my faith to pull me out of it, my faith continued to dwindle. By the time Ramadan arrived, I was still struggling with maybe PPD and thought fasting would be the cure. Day one, I went to the masjid- the same masjid that I once so loved and begged to go to- and I felt sadder. The women’s area was a small crowded boxed off section and after two rakah, the imam reprimanded the mom with the crying baby in the back as I worked to keep my baby quiet so I could feel part of the community in prayer. I struggled to focus on the quran recitation while trying to keep my baby from crawling away. I felt empty. I truly felt like there was no place in the masjid for young moms. The masjid definitely did not feel welcoming.
    Today, I was accepting that maybe the next time I could pray taraweeh in jamaat will be when my kids are older. Reading your posts about PPD and gaining the most from Ramadan without fasting reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. My faith is in my hands. My faith and my connection to God is not limited to fasting or praying scheduled prayers. My faith is what I make it. There are many ways for me to find my iman again. But in the end it’s up to me. I can’t just hang my hat on fasting, thinking that feeling hungry all day will magically be all I need to cleanse my heart. It’s going to take more than that and I’m going to have to put in the time. My kids and work are not keeping me from God, I am.
    Also, I tried to ignore my ‘depression’ as I was always torn about the idea that if you were a true Muslim you couldn’t be depressed. Especially being in the medical field, I had a hard time reconciling the idea that I could feel so depressed despite logically knowing how blessed I truly was. But subhanallah, you stated it well Abez, why would Allah offer a treatment for an ailment that didn’t exist. I can do this, I just need the right ammunition.
    This post and comments brought tears. I must say abez, I think of you and your family often as you were not only unique ;) but always an inspiration to me growing up. Thank you for sharing.
    May Allah bless you and your family.

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  19. Abez

    AssalamuAlaikum Samo. :) You know what’s funny, you and your sisters inspired me growing up, so I guess it’s a fair trade?

    I have come to accept that I will probably not be able to pray Tarawih in a masjid for quite a while longer, but it turns out that I actually enjoy praying Tarawih more at home. Moreso than the rosy “community” idea, I prefer the one-on-one focus on concentration on my connection to Allah during salah. The ROI is much higher, because guess what- I don’t have to worry about my two year old crawling away or my five year old saying she’s bored of my seven year old having an accident on the carpet because the prayers are too long!

    And- here’s the best part- we get more sawaab for praying at home than we do at the masjid. :) What a mercy that is, Alhamdulillah- because Allah knows that no matter how “welcoming” of young mothers a masjid is, you can’t concentrate on prayers if the baby is crying, the toddler is escaping, and the big kid is running around and playing with friends- just like we used to when we were younger. :) None of what our kids do has anything to do with the masjid being welcome, because it would probably distract us whether other people were bothered or not.

    And in regard to the depression- I’ve been there, trust me. Not just PPD, but also a miscarriage and the stress of having a son diagnosed with autism. It’s real, and the Qur’an is the answer. Even the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- had an entire YEAR of sadness following the death of Khadija- may Allah be pleased with her. It was the same year his uncle died, and so Allah brought him to Jannah for Isra & Miraaj.

    You can choose how close you want to be Allah, even if your route of choice is not open. Because there’s more than one road to Jannah, InshaAllah. :)

    Hugs,
    Abez

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  20. sara

    I don’t know if what I went through was this, and noone would believe me if I told them so. Like you said I kept it completely hidden from everyone except my husband, and him just tried to explain my strange crying outbursts. People really need to learn about this, if it didn’t exist before, it certainly does now, and if men and some women don’t believe it, the least they can do is offer some support. It’s shameful, but some women actually fall into harm when they are surrounded by unbelieving, criticizing, unhelpful folk.

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  21. andrea

    I don’t usually comment on things but I just want to give a heartfelt thank you for writing this. Jazakallahu khair.

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