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Our image of Indian motherhood is the blissfully smiling mom adorned with sanskaari married woman markers... and no one talks about postpartum blues!
Our image of Indian motherhood is the blissfully smiling mom adorned with sanskaari married woman markers… and no one talks about postpartum blues!
“I think you guys would be better off without me. I am a bad mother,” I said to my husband and proceeded to cry incessantly on his shoulders.
I was going through postpartum blues, although I had no idea that was what it was then. When we brought our daughter home after 2 sleepless nights at the hospital, I had thought the worst of it was over. But I had no idea that it was just the beginning.
Postpartum blues was one of the most difficult things I had to go through. It was nothing like what I had anticipated. Climbing the Mt Everest may have been easier than breastfeeding. To top it off, I had postpartum blues which lasted for just 6 weeks but felt like eternity. I had mood swings, anxiety, a sense of doom, cried for no reason and the saddest part of it was that I was not able to bond with my baby. I constantly felt like having her was a mistake. I felt like ending it all because I couldn’t see the way out of it. Now, after a year of giving birth, I can easily take a bullet for my daughter, that’s how much I love her.
My parents were with us at that time, and seeing me crumbling like that said that it was not normal and urged me to seek help from a professional, which I did. The psychiatrist identified it to be postpartum blues and said that if it continued beyond 6 weeks then it might be postpartum depression. She advised me to continue taking part in activities that I enjoy. Even simple things like watching a favourite show on the TV, going for walks in the sun or even a long drive would make all the difference. I felt better when I started taking care of household chores because I felt in control of my life.
The fact that when you see your baby’s face for the first time you would feel this instant connection and motherly love would overflow was proven completely wrong in my case. It does not always happen like what is shown in the movies. Whenever I come across any write ups about postpartum or giving birth on the internet, I am presented with image after image of blissful mothers holding their new babies with a contented smile on their perfectly made-up faces, with not a single hair out of place. Well, I call it a load of crappy diapers.
I envied my husband. He did not have to go through any of that emotional turmoil, and got to enjoy our daughter in those early days. Thank God for a supportive family, as I was able to have an honest conversation with them about my mental health and they understood.
But there are many women who would not dare to express how they are feeling due to the fear of judgement. A well-meaning relative had said “What is there to be sad about when you have a cute little baby in your hands to enjoy. Isn’t that what you had wanted?”
This comment alone almost sent me to the brink because I felt like a bad mother to be feeling this way.
Mothers in our country are glorified. They are seen as these goddesses who can do everything with a smile on their faces. It is this kind of glorification that is putting undue pressure on mothers to do it all and the reason they hesitate in asking for help.
When I was pregnant, I had attended classes on lactation, Lamaze, pregnancy workouts etc, but not one class where you are made aware of mental health issues a mother might face after giving birth.
Once the baby is born, all the focus suddenly shifts from the mother to the baby. Don’t even get me started on the 40 days isolation ritual that is followed post birth. I understand that this was done to protect the new mother and the baby from infections in the past, but in the era of modern medicine, I really don’t think it makes any sense. Being isolated would be the last thing a new mother with an already vulnerable mental health would need.
About 22% of Indian women suffer from Postpartum Depression every year. Many women don’t even dare to express how they are feeling because mental health disorders are so stigmatized in our country. We feel it better to suppress our feelings and put on a show for the world to see, rather than admit that we need help.
Postpartum depression has many causes, one of the main one being the hormonal upheaval post giving birth, but there are all these social factors (and more) which could exacerbate postpartum depression in Indian women.
The need of the hour right now is to raise awareness among women about postpartum mental health issues so that they would be better equipped to identify it and ask for help.
Every maternity hospital should have a mandatory checklist that new mothers should fill in regarding their mental health whenever they visit the hospital. This way doctors can identify any issues early and advise them to seek help from a mental health professional.
It is also high time we stop treating anything remotely related to taking care of your mental health as a sign of weakness. If anything, it is a sign of strength because you have the guts to admit that you need help. The next time you visit a new mother and her baby, make sure you ask the mother on how she is feeling. Who knows, you might encourage her to identify what she is going through and seek help.
I also implore the fathers to provide support to the mothers as they go through postpartum blues or depression. It is not just a woman’s duty to raise a child, fathers are equally responsible. So go ahead and change those diapers, help putting them to sleep or give them a bath. It will make a world of difference to the already tired mom, and it will also give you an opportunity to bond with the baby.
Postpartum mental health issues can be treated with counselling and in some cases, medications. Please do not ignore the signs when you think that what you are feeling is not normal. Talk to your family or friends about it and seek help. Parenting is a beautiful journey, and you deserve to enjoy it to the fullest.
If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
SPEAK2us – Tamilnadu 9375493754
Image source: ilkercekic from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro
A former IT professional recently turned a stay at home mom to a beautiful baby girl. I also write at www.indianmumblog.com where I talk about all things parenting and motherhood. It is my read more...
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