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Post Natal Depression can strike anyone, any time after giving birth. And it’s best to talk about it instead of ignoring it or willing it to go away!
My husband and I had longed for a child for a few years when I finally conceived. We felt a void which couldn’t be filled with careers and holidays anymore.
Neither did we want to grow old and not have a family to celebrate life with. We knew we were definitely ready for the next stage of our lives.
I had a dream pregnancy – I felt good, and I looked good. Whenever someone asked me if I was anxious or nervous about becoming a mother, my heartfelt answer would be ‘no.’ In fact, I was actually quite excited, hopeful and positive about the future.
I went into labour exactly on the day of my planned caesarean. Inspite of the immense pain, I was super calm and confident. Our baby would arrive soon, and I would finally feel complete.
My caesarean progressed really well, and soon the doctor delivered our baby – a girl – 3.5 kgs of utter perfection. My husband and I had always longed for a daughter, and were over the moon to be blessed with one.
When the nurse put our daughter on my chest, I looked into her eyes and felt the widest range of emotions possible – joy, pride, love and excitement. And a sneaky little feeling of fear and nervousness.
There seemed to be a strange knot in my stomach as it dawned on me that this tiny little human was solely dependent on me for survival. But, that disappeared as soon as it had come, and I found myself on a total high of just giving birth.
Once in my room, I got busy cuddling my baby, and taking congratulatory phone calls. I even remember telling someone that I was ready for a second child.
Soon after, the nurses came in and asked me if I would like to feed the baby. I said yes, but was a little unprepared for the whole process of breastfeeding. It felt awkward and invasive, and certainly didn’t come naturally to me.
I found it very hard to wake up at all hours of the night to feed a crying baby. Though I was recovering very well physically, my mind was constantly overwhelmed with all the information on caring for a baby. Often I would find myself peeking into the difficult realities of motherhood. I would be petrified of the simplest of jobs, like changing a nappy!
And these were just the early days- we hadn’t even taken her home yet. I was slowly getting scared by the magnanimity of taking care of a new born and I started doubting my capabilities as a mother.
Before we had the baby, I knew it would be hard and tiring, but I was definitely not prepared for it when it actually happened.
Soon we came back home with our daughter, and started settling in as a family of three. Even though my mother was right by my side to help, I couldn’t help but feel like I was having an ‘out of body’ experience.
The difficulties with breastfeeding, the constant doubts about whether or not I was doing enough for the baby, the few health issues she had; and the being bound down and need all the time became too much to take in.
As the days and nights started to blur into one, my mind started slipping too. I even missed my old life on some days, and started becoming jealous of my husband who got to dress up and go to work. Even I wanted to go out independently. I wanted my days to consist of more than nappy changes and feeding a baby. It all felt very lonely even though I had my daughter and my mother right beside me all the time.
My husband was, and still is, very involved and hands on with our daughter. But still I felt like nothing had changed for him. He got to have a baby, but still keep his old life. However, my life seemed to be at a standstill.
Everything that I knew about my life had gone – my days and nights were different now. It felt unfair. And that made me angry. That, in turn, even made me resent my husband.
As the months passed, I found myself only going through the motions of mothering our child. Deep down inside, I wasn’t really enjoying it. While stuck in my room trying to feed our daughter, I just wanted to leave everything and run away.
I felt so bound down by my responsibilities, it felt claustrophobic. At one point, I even envied the poor homeless people on the streets, purely for the fact that they weren’t responsible for anything except themselves. They had no one to answer to. That freedom was really enticing.
I remember when I took our daughter for a doctor’s appointment, and the nurse addressed me by the word ‘mum,’ that’s it – mum. I take immense pride in being a mum. But the fact that the nurse didn’t even need my name to address me, felt like I had lost myself overnight.
Who was I now? Physically, mentally and emotionally everything had changed. I was in the midst of a deep identity crisis.
It took me a while but, I have come to believe that having a child is not something you can ever be prepared for. I laughingly call it an ‘extreme sport.’ Parenting presents you with the highest of the highs, and the lowest of lows, all in a matter of a few seconds.
As time went on, I only kept getting worse. I was trying to fit into my new role, but was also desperately clutching onto the last shreds of my old self. On the days where everything got too much, I would have angry outbursts at my husband.
I would get angry at little things, blame him for not understanding me, and angrily tell him to take the baby away. It is embarrassing to admit that there were moments where I felt having a baby was the biggest mistake of my life.
Actually, it is ironic – I loved our baby deeply, I would give my life for her if I had to, but I just didn’t love the act of being a mother. I felt lost and had no focus. All I did was drag myself through the days and resorted to food to get over my stress and sadness. There were days when I actually thought that dying would be a good alternative.
What should have been the happiest days of my life were turning into the darkest and hardest.
Fast forward to today – my daughter is almost three years old, and I have been medically diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND). This is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby.
Some of the symptoms include persistent feeling of sadness and a low mood, lack of enjoyment and interest, low energy and focus. And most importantly, there is trouble in bonding with the baby.
Research suggests one in every seven women will experience PND within a year of giving birth. In fact, having a baby puts a woman at most risk for becoming depressed, than any other time in her life.
It amazes me that PND is so prevalent, and can be so debilitating for new parents, but still it’s not really talked about. Especially given the landscape of Indian families and culture, many new mothers feel a sense of shame to admit they’re depressed after having a baby.
In my case, I started recognising the symptoms early on, but didn’t really seek help as I felt it was something that would disappear on its own. I wanted to feel in control, and not admit that I had a serious condition that needed medical care. Most importantly I kept thinking ‘why me,’ and tried to ignore it.
What I’ve found in my journey so far is that PND can strike anyone, irrespective of education, status, age or background. Yes, there are different reasons for different women to get it, but PND certainly doesn’t discriminate. It’s a very dark place to be and can rip families apart.
As my daughter was growing, I started realising the impact of my mental instability on her happiness and wellbeing. I really needed to do something.
So, I gathered all my strength and made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I see her regularly, and also take anti-depressants, on her recommendation. Apart from that, I’m also exercising regularly and focussing on a healthy diet.
Sometimes it feels like an uphill climb with no end in sight. On other days, I’m much calmer and happier. I still have a long way to go, but am very proud that I’m taking steps in the right direction.
Earlier, I would be ashamed of the fact that I became depressed after having a baby. However, today, I am quite proud that I took action to get better. And I am not ashamed of talking about my condition anymore.
After all, it isn’t my fault, it is just something that happened to me. I wholeheartedly appeal to all the other mums out there, if you find yourself in the same boat as me, seek help.
There is nothing wrong in seeking help, it could save you and your family.
Picture credits: Pexels
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