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Perhaps we all failed to notice that the quarantine that we’re talking about is something every new mom has gone through. Time we acknowledged it?
The news media feeds me with details on how this quarantine is leading to isolation and fatigue. On how we thrive on social interaction, on how this passive lifestyle can be depressing and how to beat these ‘blues.’
Surprisingly, this quarantine hasn’t been as tough for me. Perhaps, because I’ve been through it before, just that the news media failed to notice it. It’s strange though, considering about half of the world population has been facing it since ages. I’m talking about motherhood – especially the year after a child is born.
Picture this. You are in a self-inflicted quarantine. However, you cannot read books, watch your favourite Netflix shows, have video calls with friends. Neither can you take up new hobbies like painting, macramé, decoupage or even Masterchef-style cooking.
Why? Because your baby consumes ALL your time. She needs to be fed every couple of hours, she needs to poop, she needs to be cradled to sleep, she needs to be loved and played with.
A baby is a joy with challenges. The tiny fingers and toes, the toothless smile, the small tufts of hair on a smooth scalp and the cooing sounds. They are all truly and breathtakingly beautiful. But having a baby is life-changing as well, especially if you’ve spent several years of your life living independently, both financially and emotionally.
What concerns me though is the lack of acceptance of this change in a woman’s life. The society, in general, has failed to take enough notice of what it can do to a woman’s health, physically and mentally. A big reason for that is the world is enamoured and smitten by the new bundle of joy. The new mother becomes invisible.
For someone who would like to chat about books, travel, career, movies and music, this new phase in life can be alarming. Simply because all conversations start and end with the child. Most questions revolve around how the baby is doing. Doctor visits are scheduled for the same too.
The mother’s health, both because of the physical labour and the mental shift, is ignored or not acknowledged. Or, if it is acknowledged, it is straightjacketed into post-partum depression. However, it is not always depression. Any change takes time to make its place.
What the society needs to accept is that the new mother is going through not one, but several other life changes. Basically, not a single fragment of her new life is a reflection of her past.
However, what you get to hear instead are words like – ‘Every woman has to go through this’ or ‘Women today feel this way. Earlier, they didn’t.’ There is no way to authenticate these statements.
But what it displays is the lack of empathy and the expectation that every woman should be able to balance it well. Maybe some women do, with or without support, with or without the mom guilt. And maybe others don’t, but pretend all is well. Maybe some refuse to pretend and express it in the form of words, tears or rage.
Several support groups are now springing up to help new moms talk it out. But it’s private, within closed doors or in “safe” zones. What we need is the world to acknowledge it and talk about it as much as they do about the quarantine affecting the world’s mental health. Because only when it is talked about, will we appreciate all that a woman goes through when she becomes a new mom. Only then will we start asking her if she is doing alright, if she needs any help, if she is happy and if she is sleeping well.
Picture credits: Still from Netflix series Ghost Stories
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I am a freelance writer based out of Bangalore.
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