2017 in Review: Moving to Africa, Falling Pregnant, and Why I Took a Hiatus From Blogging

2017 was certainly a year of change for me, with many unexpected twists and turns. Usually, these kinds of posts are filled with bloggers summing up their year of amazing travels. But this year has been somewhat different for me, and if you’re a regular reader of Where is Nikki? then you have probably noticed that I have been a lot quieter than usual.

Some might be thinking that I would have tons of material to write about following the announcement that I was moving to Tanzania last year. And yes, you wouldn’t be wrong! I had all sorts of aspirations to transform this blog into one that focused on adventures around Africa and expat life in Tanzania. And I still have lots of stories and article ideas up my sleeve, which I will hopefully get round to writing about soon.

However, there are a number of personal reasons I had to put this on the back-burner, and some of which I will try my best to explain below.

So, let’s start from the beginning…

MOVING TO AFRICA

As I mentioned, last year I moved to Tanzania, an East African country that I had fallen deeply in love with and had visited a handful of times previously. I had been fantasizing about the idea for such a long time, it felt like a dream come true when I was offered a job out there.

To begin with, things were going well. While there were a few wobbly moments where I struggled to adapt to such a drastic change in lifestyle, I managed to settle down quite quickly and generally felt happy with my decision.

Happy memories in Tanzania

 

I was settling into my new home and job doing marketing for a safari operator, I celebrated my 32nd birthday with both old friends and new, and I got to see more of East Africa including Lake Manyara National Park, the mountains of Lushoto, and the beaches of Mombassa in Kenya.

I also had my first visitor – good friend and fellow travel blogger Lili’s Travel Plans (who funnily enough has also decided to stay in my hometown of Moshi for a little while).

And to top things off, I fell in love with a local friend I’d known for about two years and moved in with him and our two adorable rescue dogs, Bobbie and Marley.

On the whole, I was happy and things were turning out just the way I hoped they would.

FALLING PREGNANT IN TANZANIA

Moving abroad to Tanzania was meant to be a new chapter in my life. However, motherhood wasn’t exactly what I had planned for this new chapter…at least not straight away anyway. That chapter in the “The Life of Nikki Godwin” was meant to be written another few years down the line.

But as we all know, sometimes the universe can have different plans for us! And there I was…around three months into my new life in Tanzania…staring in disbelief at a pregnancy test where two blue lines had appeared.

Home sweet home, with our lovely “African Wild Dogs” Bobbie and Marley

 

My boyfriend was standing beside me, carefully assessing the reaction on my face. We had only just made things “official” and although he had been 100% supportive, I am pretty sure he was crapping himself just as much as I was.

How the f**k did that happen? – was the first thought that came to my mind

Ok, so at the age of 32, I am obviously aware of how the “birds and the bees” work, however, I have always been responsible in that department. Not only that, but I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years back, and wasn’t even sure having children would be possible for me.

So when those two blue lines appeared, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a shock for both of us.

As the following weeks…months…passed, it took me quite some time to come around to the idea of being a mum. Even though this was something I had always wanted, it was hard to ignore all the other concerns and worries I had about my circumstances. The timing just felt completely off.

My little bun in the oven. Nicely baking away!


How was I going to make this work? 

I was in a new relationship; I had only just started a new job; and I was adjusting to life in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from my family and friends. And now I had to contend with all of that, with a baby on the way.

Add all of that to the normal discomforts of pregnancy and you have the perfect recipe for homesickness and just desperately wanting your mum around!

They say that everyone’s pregnancy experience is different, whether it be for practical, physical or emotional reasons. For me, it was a cocktail of all of these things, and during those months, I had never felt so far away from home.

WHY I TOOK A HIATUS FROM BLOGGING

Initially, I had only planned to take a couple of months off blogging to allow myself some time to adjust to my new home.

But not long after finding out I was pregnant, I found myself withdrawing from it completely. In fact, I found myself withdrawing from a lot of things and noticed a change in my general mood and behavior.

My surprise Tanzanian baby shower – wonderfully hosted by Lili’s Travel Plans

 

The “fearless” Nikki that had taken the plunge to move to Africa…now suddenly felt very scared, alone and overwhelmed.

These emotions had become so overpowering, that it got to the point where I felt like I was just “existing.” I was doing what I needed to do to get by but had little interest in doing anything else that I loved to do. I just felt numb and disconnected.

Most people are familiar with post-natal depression which can affect new mothers after the birth of their baby. However perinatal or antenatal depression, which occurs during pregnancy, is much less talked about. In fact, I’m not sure I even knew it existed until it happened to me. But having experienced issues with mental health in the past, I was aware of the signs and knew I needed to find a way to cope with it.

My lovely little baby shower back in the UK! Bump besties on the right 🙂

 

I would often ask myself if I was the only person that had ever felt this unhappy during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. All you hear is people telling you how amazing pregnancy is and how you have a certain glow about you.

But where the f**k was my glow?!?

I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty details of what was causing my depression. Perhaps one day, when I am ready, I will write a post about my experience and how I coped with it while living abroad in a country where there is very little support. It seems odd to me that not enough people talk about the downsides of pregnancy and how it can be such a lonely and scary time for some.

But for now, I will explain that this was the main reason I took a hiatus from blogging. I needed to give myself some time to get in the right headspace and build my strength up again. Not just for me, but for our child.

FROM DISBELIEF TO ACCEPTANCE

I can’t pinpoint the exact day I became excited about the baby and finally getting to become a mum. Maybe it was the day we found out we were having a girl or maybe it was the first time I felt the delicate flutter of her moving around?

All I know is slowly but surely, my fears were replaced with acceptance, and the dread was overtaken by joy.

I still sometimes feel guilty about my reaction to the pregnancy. I have to remind myself that it was okay to feel the way I did given the circumstances.

 

Just because I felt anxious and depressed didn’t mean that I didn’t want my baby. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. I am excited about meeting my little bundle of joy, seeing what she will look like, and getting to know her little personality. And I can’t wait for my new adventure in motherhood and to have a mini explorer that I can introduce to the world.

But at the time, it was just hard to feel positive when I constantly had feelings of confusion, fear, and guilt. And that was okay. 

The more I learn about pregnancy, the more I realize what a miracle it is and that there never really is a “perfect time” to fall pregnant. You just need to believe that everything happens for a reason, and when it does happen, it will be the right time for you.

As John Lennon once wisely sang “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” And if I have learned anything in recent years, I certainly believe that statement to be true.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Jo G
    January 28, 2018 at 8:54 am

    You will be fine sweetheart, and you have a huge network of friends around you, even if we’re miles away. Most people have doubts, and when Oliver was born I definitely didn’t LOVE it like you feel you should. But the good bits generally outweigh the bad and it’s worth it! Here any time you need a chat. Lots of love xxxx

  • Reply
    Lisne
    January 28, 2018 at 9:28 am

    You’ll be an amazing mommy. Can’t wait to meet her xxx

  • Reply
    Faith Coates
    January 28, 2018 at 11:51 am

    My son is now 33 and I still don’t have the glow – having kids ain’t easy by a long stretch but we get through it and carry on and we love those babies no matter what they do, who they become they will forever be your baby no matter what age they are.

  • Reply
    Alyson Long
    January 28, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    I had exactly the same thing with my 3rd pregnancy, crippling depression, crushing, overwhelming. I’d had 2 fantastic, easy, pregnancies and births, 2 kids I adored, 3rd time…it was just all wrong, like a switch in my head had been flipped by 3rd baby hormones. So I do know how you felt. Number 3 miscarried, I want to say sadly, but there was no real sadness, I was too numb. But kids are the best thing ever. Welcome to motherhood 🙂

  • Reply
    Jean Farrell
    January 28, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Ahhh. So few people talk about pre-natal depression, but it is a very real, and not uncommon thing. I struggled with infertility and finally got pregnant with my son after doing IVF three times. I was so thrilled to be pregnant, but terrified. I was very anxious that something would go wrong and was constantly afraid he would die or have something wrong with him. But I was always excited to be having the baby. He was born and was healthy. The night after he was born, I felt an elation like I’d never felt before. Forward two years, doing IVF again to have another and end up pregnant with twins (which started as triplets, until I lost one at 9 weeks). I should have been doubly excited, but I wasn’t. Not at all. All I could think of was that I only ever wanted two kids, and having 3 would RUIN my life. How would I travel/work/exist with three kids? I imagined a life of drudgery and limitations. I could find no joy in the pregnancy. I knew it was wrong to feel that way, especially after being infertile, but I couldn’t help how I felt. I was miserable, depressed, anxious, and to top it off had horrible horrible morning sickness, was sick all the time. I believed I was robbing my husband and other family members of the joy they should be feeling. I tried to fake it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t sleep, work was so hard, it was really bad. Thank God I finally found the courage to tell my OB how I felt, and she immediately sent me to a therapist who dealt with pre-natal depression. She made me feel like I wasn’t a monster and that feeling this way was not unusual. I was so afraid I wouldn’t love my babies (they are 14 now, by the way, and I bet you can guess how I feel about them). She didn’t just dismiss me, as others did, and say “don’t be ridiculous, of course, you’ll love your babies.” She said “I’ve treated many patients who feel the way you do, and they all love their children very much” but allowed me to talk about how I felt and my fears about it. I lived for those sessions, where I could be honest about my feelings without fear of judgment. I also saw a psychopharmacologist who formerly practiced as an OB, who prescribed safe medications for me, that helped me get through it. My pregnancy was truly the worst time of my entire life. It felt like an eternity, and I feared my life was ruined. My babies ended up being born prematurely, 9 weeks early, after a difficult time being on bed rest in the hospital. Do you know, the minute they were out of my body, as upset as felt about their being born early, I felt a haze lift, I felt like myself again. I felt rational. Happy. I believe my particular brain chemistry just couldn’t handle the hormones of pregnancy. My first pregnancy, it manifested as anxiety about whether something would go wrong in the pregnancy, the second, in anxiety about I would handle the babies once they were born. This long story simply to say that what you have been feeling is far more common than many think and from my experience you will probably feel GREAT once the baby is born, and it will all fall into place for you. Best of luck to you!

  • Reply
    Silke
    January 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for talking so openly. I had my children in another country too, without family support, just my husband and me. It can be daunting and rather challenging. But you seem a strong person and I am confident you will be able to work it out. You already started talking about it which is a great step forward. I wish you all the best!

  • Reply
    Katrina
    January 31, 2018 at 3:24 am

    Wow, 2017 was a BIG year for you! While I never had perinatal depression, I had horrible postpartum depression with my firstborn and can relate to those particular feelings. Before being pregnant, I feel like I had vaguely heard about such possibilities, but it wasn’t until becoming pregnant and seeking out blogs and books that I realized just how MUCH about pregnancy is not commonly known in western culture (only speaking to the culture I know)!

    I wish you all the best and looking forward to new posts!

  • Reply
    Gemma Cleaver
    October 31, 2018 at 2:28 am

    Well done for your honest post. I found myself in a similar situation… and found it tough to accept life being pregnant and a mum to a kiwi partner (I’m also from the uk)
    Baby no. 2 didn’t take long and I have 2 boys under 2, who I love more than anything and wouldn’t change for the world. I’m now living back in nz where my second boy was born, and wandering what my next step is in the writing world… I used to be gemmajaneadventures but felt like I lost that identity… so it’s very inspiring to rediscover your blog and see how things are going. Amelie is adorable and you look very happy, she sure is going to grow up a lucky girl with an adventurous spirit no doubt! I wish you all the best! 🙂

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      November 9, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Hi Gemma, thanks for sharing your experience. I do remember your blog actually, I followed it some years ago (when I was Where Is Noodles?). It would be great to see your new blog if ever you decide to get back into the blogging world. To be honest, I find it a lot tougher these days to find the time (and I only have one!) – I have no idea how all these mama bloggers do it! My hats go off to them. Anyway, perhaps we can reconnect on Facebook and share our expat mum advice? Let me know xx

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