Daniela Sammut Mendez is originally from Venezuela. She is a qualified lawyer and after graduating, in 2011 visited Malta to study English and to explore the possibility of studying maritime law.
At the time, Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis was reaching new heights with a ‘record murder rate’ of 19,336 people (53 people being killed per day) being reported in that year. “I wanted to specialise in criminal law to be able to defend the helpless in Venezuela, but the situation kept getting worse and worse. Where I come from, you are not safe anywhere. The police has no power. The criminals have immunity. They would come to your home, abduct you and drive you to an ATM, ask you to withdraw all your cash and give it to them. They call this an express abduction. If you drive with an open window they would reach inside and literally steal your handbag.”
Unfortunately Venezuela’s situation got worse and Daniela started losing confidence in the fact that she would be able to work as a lawyer in her country.
“When my visa expired I travelled back home, however my now-husband flew to Venezuela, met my family and asked me to marry him and settle in Malta with him. I said yes.”
My family is still there. I worry about them a lot. A recent report confirms that Venezuela is experiencing a profound humanitarian crisis. Severe shortages of medical supplies make it extremely difficult for many Venezuelans to obtain essential medical care. And severe shortages of food and other goods make it difficult for many people to obtain adequate nutrition and cover their families’ basic needs. The Venezuelan government is in denial of the situation and has not articulated or implemented any effective policies to alleviate the situation.
Daniela is now settled in Malta with her two young children, who are one year apart, aged 36 months and 18 months respectively. “When we had our first child, she was an angel. At aged one month she slept through the whole night. So we thought, hey what is everyone going on about? This is a walk in the park. Let’s make another baby”.
I was sleep-deprived, in pain, scared and my hormones were all over the place. I didn’t have any family to turn to. I felt like I was losing my mind. It was all very, very dark..
So they had their second baby, but everything did not go as planned.
“Our second baby cried a lot. I was adamant that I wanted to breastfeed her. The pressure I put on myself was immense. I used to express after a feed to make sure I kept up my milk production but then it ended up being close to the next feed which meant I didn’t have enough milk for the feed which obviously upset her. It was painful and distressing. I tried so hard I made it worse and got into a very dark place.
I approached every source of help I could think of: the breastfeeding clinic, internet blogs, I took energy lactation balls, milkshakes, cookies, I tried everything. I even rented hospital-grade breast pumps; I used to wake up in the middle of the night to express milk. I was adamant to keep my milk production up. My second child was a very difficult sleeper. She would cry a lot whilst my older child was napping and it used to make me insane because she used to wake her up, the one time I had the chance of getting a small break from them both. I was sleep-deprived, in pain, scared and my hormones were all over the place. I didn’t have any family to turn to. I felt like I was losing my mind. It was all very, very dark and I started getting harmful thoughts.”
When she realised what she was feeling, Daniela immediately sought help. “I contacted my midwife whom I had gotten close to and she suggested I speak to a psychologist.”
..in practice it was useless me being at home all day in the state I was in..I needed something else to look forward to
Daniela set up an appointment, however the meeting did not go so well. “The doctor told me to stop trying to breastfeed but that made me feel angry because I felt like if I gave formula to my child I would be giving her poison so I got up and left. Things got worse after this; I was depressed. I didn’t change out of my pyjamas for a week, I felt empty and I was adamant to keep trying to breastfeed.”
In the end, Daniela had no choice but to resign herself to the fact that she had to stop breastfeeding and reluctantly gave her baby formula.
I spoke to my mum over the phone. She suggested I speak to a psychologist in Venezuela and communicate through Skype. She was not very present with me throughout my life because she had to work a lot. In fact I had made a conscious decision when I had children that I would not work. I would always be there for my children and not miss one moment of their upbringing.
Many people used to tell me, ‘oh it’s normal to feel down, it’s just the baby blues’, and ‘you will get better soon’. But you know what? No you won’t. Not unless you get help.
In theory this decision was great, however in practice it was useless me being at home all day in the state I was in. Speaking to the psychologist made me realise that I needed something to make me feel again. I wanted something to make me move away from my obsessive guilt, over every mistake I felt I made with my kids. I needed something else to look forward to.”
Daniela, one day discovered sleep-coaching. She was researching ways to help her children sleep and came across a coach online who became her mentor.
“I decided that this was what I wanted to do; I wanted to help other mothers avoid having to go through what I went through. The sleep deprivation, coupled with the other struggles that us mothers have to go through, can really have very detrimental effects on our mental health. So I enrolled in the course and am now a qualified sleep-coach.
People play depression down a lot. Many people used to tell me, ‘oh it’s normal to feel down, it’s just the baby blues’, and ‘you will get better soon’. But you know what? No you won’t. Not unless you get help.
I am now in a much better place. I have learnt to accept that my children will wake each other up and considering everything, I finally feel that I am doing a good job.
It took me ages to realise that all those mothers posting cute happy photos of themselves on Facebook and Instagram with their kids were not reflecting reality. They were depicting a rare moment in their lives because motherhood, in reality can be very very testing for everyone.
Daniela became officially certified as a ‘sleep coach’ in June 2016 and has helped many mummies who were struggling with their babies’ night-time routine.
..getting a sufficient amount of sleep helps our immune system, makes us more productive, more intelligent and overall makes us feel calmer and happier..
“The course was so enlightening to me and I learnt so much.” I ask her what advice she would give to the new mothers out there. “Okay two things I have learnt are the importance of having time for yourself and talking about what you are going through.
Being a mother is exhausting and it is not just the physical aspect of it. With most men, even though they mean very well, danger has to hit them in the face for them to act. With us mothers, we are built instinctively to sense danger before it happens. That is draining in itself.”
Daniela also stresses the importance of balance. “I was guilty of despising my mother for having worked so much and for the fact that I barely have any memories of her as a child. Now I respect her for what she did for us; we came from a very poor situation, and she managed to help us with homework to make sure we would pursue a good level of education. I realise now that to be a good mother you do not have to necessarily stay at home all day and that it’s all about balance.”
“Sleep is also very important. It is a proven fact that getting a sufficient amount of sleep helps our immune system, makes us more productive, more intelligent and overall makes us feel calmer and happier. Sleep deprivation in short bursts is fine, and with young children it is inevitable. However the long-term effects can be devastating.”
If you are currently suffering from sleep deprivation, contact Daniela on 99959857 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org. She is kindly offering a 10% discount to mummies who call for a consultation and mention BuzyMummy. For more information click here.