By GRACE JENNINGS-EDQUIST
You’ll remember Samira El Khafir as the 2013 MasterChef finalist with the infectious laughter.
She’s also the proud owner of Melbourne’s Modern Middle Eastern Cafe and the mother of Nada, four, and Mariam, who Samira tells me is “three going on five”.
But Samira’s open smile belies a tumultuous struggle with postnatal depression — and she’s now harnessing that personal experience as an ambassador for the Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc (PANDA).
The Lebanese-born chef and former beauty therapist says the condition hit her hard after Mariam’s birth, leaving her feeling “very lost”.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening around me. I felt people were watching me and speaking about me. At one stage I actually felt I wasn’t good enough to be a mum,” she says.
“Society does put out an image that you have to be that perfect, happy mother, and the reality is, it’s not always like that.”
Accompanying her postnatal depression was “severe anxiety”, and a tendency to “play the blaming game: ‘whatever my husband does it’s wrong’,” she tells me.
She adds: “I was afraid to say what I was thinking in case someone did decide to take my baby away.”
When the illness worsened about four months after Mariam’s birth, Samira sought help — and a PANDA pamphlet handed to her by a GP marked the start of a journey toward recovery.
“I did contact them on numerous occasion and they managed to help me understand (the illness),” she says. “I managed to recover, but it took a very very long time.”
That experience highlighted the need for more awareness around the common illness — and prompted her to take up the ambassadorial role to “help other women understand that there’s nothing wrong with you, you (just) need help to get out of the situation that you’re in”.
Now, Samira’s pregnant with her third child, due in March — and while she’s concerned the illness may recur, since a woman who has had PND has an increased chance of recurrence with a subsequent pregnancy, the chef is taking steps to address that worry.