I was on a holiday in the US when a missed date and a pregnancy kit told me what I dreaded- I was pregnant. Despite being married to the love of my life, becoming a mother at 28 was not what I wanted. I continued with my holidays in the US, went on a planned vacation–turned baby-moon to Italy and continued with life as before. I put on exactly 5 kilos in 9 months and continued to wear the same clothes as before. There really wasn’t a surprise when the doctor told me a month prior to my due date that the baby was really small and would have to be removed by an emergency C- section.
My daughter was born on February 14th, a planned and emergency C-section. I realized that day itself, my life had changed forever. Even the simplest detail of the day, Valentine’s Day is renamed in our minds as ‘Happy Birthday.’ It made no sense to hold a grudge against my daughter but I definitely held one with myself on how I fell into the stereotypical ‘get married and get pregnant’ within a year category.
The denial that I carried throughout my pregnancy continued for weeks after the birth. Even though I fed her, learnt to swaddle her, go through all new mom motions; the overpowering love and maternal instinct that should have come instantly and naturally seemed missing from me. Here I was surrounded by an elated circle of family and friends bursting with love for the newborn while I was wondering how I would fare as a mother through my phase of denial.
Throughout the world, pregnancy and childbirth have always been considered as such joyous and eventful occasions that words such as denial, depression and sadness are nearly a taboo to use. Now, nearly seven years after my pregnancy and delivery I realize that the issues I was facing then are common with every one in ten mothers in the world. The denial I was going through during the months of my pregnancy came under ‘Antenatal Depression.’ The feelings of disconnect and loss that clouded my mind for weeks after my delivery was ‘Postpartum Depression.’
Despite the years, postpartum depression continues to be a sensitive and taboo topic. The pressure on being a good woman, wife and mother is hard enough without having the freedom to truly express one’s thoughts and sufferings. I was fortunate to have the support of a loving husband and family who let me fight my inner battles till I discovered the joys of motherhood but I know several for whom that is not true.
While the symptoms of depression are well known, it is important for people who are undergoing them to be acknowledged, accepted and recognized. A report of WHO states that depression affects 1 of every 10 women and statistically women are twice as likely to be diagnosed than men. This could be due to hormonal changes, sudden life circumstances or even racial and cultural disparity. The cause doesn’t matter. Whatever the cause may be, that does not make you bad or any less of a woman or a mother.
What to do if you know a mother going through Postpartum depression:
This is the foremost and most important thing to remember, postpartum depression can be treated. I am a new-age mother who suffered from PPD and I emerged out of it. I was fortunate to have the gray cloud of postpartum depression disseminate within months of being a new mother. There are mothers and successful women who go through years of silently suffering through it. If any of this resonates with you or anybody you know, go to them immediately.
The best way to help someone is simply being with them.
- Check-in on them often. A simple message and call everyday will go a long way in their healing process.
- Acknowledge their issues. Don’t deny their problems or ignore them, acknowledge and accept their problems.
- Show your support. Be there for them. It could be your neighbor, friend or relative- but it is important to show your support and vocally show your presence in their life and healing.
- Let them vent out their thoughts and emotions.
- Listen without judgment. They are not expressing their innermost fears and thoughts for you to dismiss them or pretend it is not important. They are sharing their thoughts with you so that you can get a glimpse of the turmoil going on in their minds.
- And most importantly, don’t try to fix them. They are not a toy which can be repaired. They understand and accept that they are going through some issues, as a listener, all they expect you to do is be with them without pity or judgment. Don’t try to fix them. They just need you to be there with them, that’s it.
And finally, for me, the support of my family and partner helped me overcome my negative thoughts. But for those who are not as fortunate as me, there is no shame in reaching out to a medical professional. Therapists are trained and there to help you.
I began my journey into motherhood as a terrified, reluctant and clumsy mother. She was picture perfect but my journey as a mother wasn’t. And, the truth is it’s okay. It’s okay to be the mother who is not willing to forgo all identities to just be a mother. It is also okay to find content in just being a homemaker and mother. It is okay to go out and have that meal with your friends, that will not make you less of a wife or a mother. It is okay to think of putting your needs ahead of your family’s sometimes.
I am grateful to be surrounded with a husband and family who let me discover myself as a mother at my own pace. In fact, I can’t even actually believe that there was a time when I questioned myself on being able to love my own child. But I did and I gave myself time to accept the changes within my body and in my life.
Nobody tells you the indefinite changes that come with being a mother. There are mothers I know who hold several degrees but are happy to be stay-at-home moms and I also know mothers who are not even graduates, juggling home, children and work with ease. There is no right or wrong method in parenting or motherhood. In the past seven years of motherhood, I have read countless books and blogs, trying out various tricks and ghar ke nuske that millions swear by but have not worked for me. There have also been my own discoveries and experiments which worked for me and my daughter well. What I really want to say is let your inner voice out, don’t be afraid to be afraid, take chances and you will find a rhythm, a balance which will work for you as a woman and mother.
Children don’t mind your flaws. They don’t care if your hair is unkempt or if the food you make is not picture perfect. They don’t care about your social following or your bank balance. The time you spend with them is what matters and it can be simply watching a cartoon with them, taking them to the garden once in a while or even reading a bedtime story for them. Those ten minutes that you devote exclusively to them, those minutes of undivided attention without a screen to distract you is what matters.
You just need to be there and trust me when I say this, that is all that matters. The rest follows.