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When she mentioned the symptoms of PPD and told him how she was an emotional wreck during that time, Kabier finally gave in to the realization that his wife probably needed help.
Aanya closed the nursery door as softly as possible and tiptoed to the kitchen. She drank a glass of tap water in one single gulp, filled another glassful and walked out to the living room sipping from it. She looked at the sprawling mess of toys that littered the living room floor and sighed. I need to clean up, she thought. But she also needed to sit down. Her legs, her back, practically her entire body was aching, after spending the whole day on her feet attending to her babies. Okay, I will sit down for just a couple of minutes, she decided, just a couple.
The sofa had never felt so comfortable and she could feel her aching back groan with satisfaction when she placed the small cushions behind her as she sat. Suddenly she felt overwhelmed and tears welled up in her eyes. She brushed them off hastily. But this was a regular thing with her these days. She would find herself crying, without explanation, for the smallest, the most inconsequential things! And that wasn’t even the worst of it. She was scared. All the time. She was worried someone would take her baby away from her. So she would cuddle him as much as she could. But then she would immediately feel guilty for doing it, because that meant that she wasn’t giving enough time and attention to her older child, her daughter Zia, who was herself still only a toddler!
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Aanya’s life these days was a roller coaster of emotions. One moment she would feel guilty. The other she would feel extremely scared. Then she was upset with herself and felt worthless, and without reason, she would start crying when Zia asked to be carried on her back around the house, because Aanya had no energy whatsoever to oblige! She was always tired now, too. No, make that exhausted. Tired is a mild word, Aanya was exhausted! So much so, that she was giving Kabier a really tough time for no fault of his!
Zian was their second baby. Their daughter Zia, now two and a half, was planned. But Zian was a surprise, a welcome surprise that Aanya and Kabier had welcomed with open arms. Ideally Aanya should’ve been proud and happy to have two chubby bundles of joy surrounding her all day and a sweet responsible partner like Kabier supporting her. But Aanya felt far from it. And she knew that sadly, Kabier was suffering for it. Just last night she had turned her back on him, literally. It had felt good when he had hugged her. The children were asleep, and the night was still young when Kabier had begun cuddling with her and kissing her neck. She had missed this part of their relationship for so long now, she gladly gave in. But something had snapped midway, and before she knew it, Aanya was crying in his arms, leaving the poor guy helpless and confused!
Thinking of his warm embrace now, Aanya felt her eyelids droop, and she fell into a deep sleep. Several minutes later she woke up to what sounded like the click of a door closing. She opened her eyes. The house was dark. Her first thought was that someone was here to steal her baby! Disoriented but with an urgency that only a mother is capable of, she ran to the nursery and threw open the door. She couldn’t see much in the darkness, but she heard him before she saw him in the dim light.
Kabier was seated on the deep armchair between the two cribs in the small nursery. He was holding Zian to his chest and…snoring! His soft snores were competing with those of the baby clinging to his chest precariously. Thank God he is in the armchair, not on the rocking chair from where Zian would’ve already slipped off, Aanya thought. She slowly walked over and checked on her daughter sleeping in her crib on one side of the armchair. The child was sleeping peacefully with clenched fists raised above her head. Like she was celebrating something in her dream! Aanya smiled, and turned her attention to Kabier sleeping on the armchair with Zian and delicately picked the baby up.
The movement woke Kabier. As he stirred awake, their eyes met briefly. He attempted a smile, but Aanya had already turned her back to him and instantly, his face fell. Yawning, he walked out to the living room and began to clear the toys. But Aanya was there in a moment. “Its okay Kabier, I was about to pick them up anyway. You must be tired, go freshen up while I warm dinner,” she said; beginning to pick up the toys from the floor.
Kabier sighed. He had come home to find Aanya asleep on the sofa and Zian softly cooing from the nursery. He had gone in and picked Zian up and sat playing with him in the armchair. He must have slept then, tired as he was; because the next thing he remembered was Aanya picking Zian out of his arms.
He now saw Aanya in the kitchen warming their dinner. Her back was to him but he could clearly see the tension in her shoulders. He longed to rub her shoulders and give her a good foot-rub, like before. But that would mean she would actually let him come closer; and that was becoming more and more difficult these days. As she moved around in the kitchen, he took in her appearance, from the haggard face to her off shoulder shirt to her stained cut-off jeans and finally the mess that was her hair. She looked like she was in need of a hug really badly. He would have happily hugged her to the moon and back!
And he was about to, but then he remembered last night. The way she had cried in his arms. Here he was, trying to make most of the rare moments they got together, only to find her suddenly burst into tears! By the time he realised she was crying, it was too late; and afterwards, she had immediately turned on her side and stayed there all night. He was still wondering what he had done wrong. If Aanya had something on her mind, she could’ve told him and he would’ve let her be. He had been confused most of the morning, even at work about her unexplained crying bouts these days and her behaviour in general.
But during his morning coffee break at work, after he had casually made a joke about new fathers barely getting any action in bed; a female colleague of his, a good friend, had taken him aside and asked him if everything was fine at home. He was about to brush her off, but before he could, she told him about her own experience with Post-partum Depression (PPD). A monster that had consumed her for about a year after her first child was born; and how she had fortunately gotten help at the right time through a psychologist friend. She also told him about the active steps she and her family had taken to get her life back on track. That was two years ago, she said; and today she was a normal functioning, highly talented career woman.
When Kabier realised the seriousness of what she was telling him, he found himself opening up about Aanya to her. When she mentioned the symptoms of PPD and told him how she was an emotional wreck during that time, Kabier finally gave in to the realization that his wife probably needed help.
But his colleague also assured him that it wasn’t always necessary to have an intervention with a mental health practitioner. One could try in simple, everyday ways to help patients with PPD too.
Simple life style changes worked wonders, she said. Having a newborn is overwhelming, she told him; and with him all day at work, it was natural that Aanya felt alone, desolate, even left out! He could start out slow, she suggested. Let Aanya take some time off from the baby and her home, let the messy home and cleaning up wait, let Aanya have some time for herself, she suggested. “Most new mothers barely give time to themselves over the needs of their babies; show her she is important for just being her”, she said, “not because she is your wife or because she is a mother or because she is beautiful or anything, but just for being her!”
Kabier knew now that his Aanya was suffering. He had now realised what he had thought as his wife being distant and withdrawn, was actually because she was feeling depressed, sad, anxious. Kabier loved Aanya, and if there was anything he could do to get his old Aanya back, he wanted to do it. That is why he was home today with a present for Aanya.
After dinner, he was going to present her with a tiny little pendant for the bracelet he had gotten her when they got married and which Aanya still wore on her left wrist. It was a simple gold pendant of a single letter ‘Z’. He knew Aanya would love it! And he would tell her, as he wore it for her, how beautiful she was. And tomorrow he would take her for a walk. They would take Zia in her stroller and he would wear little Zian in that baby wearing thing that had been Aanya’s impulse purchase last year when she was still pregnant with Zian. They would stop for ice-cream after the walk, maybe.
And then the next day, Sunday, he would let Aanya take a day out at her favourite bookshops where she loved to browse for hours! He would watch the kids. Not that he hadn’t offered before, but now he would insist.
And he would try and be close to Aanya as much as possible. Not leave her alone anymore. He knew a walk, an ice-cream, one weekend of fun wasn’t going to change anything instantly, but he was prepared for as long as it took. In for a penny, in for a pound. Earlier Kabier had been confused, dumbfounded at the sudden sullen change in his wife; but now he had a purpose. He was on a mission. The mission to help Aanya any way he could. Now everything would be fine.
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Rashmi is a lawyer-turned-creative writer. She loves telling stories; and writes on positive
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