MOTHERHOOD pregnancy Postpartum Depression MOTHERHOOD JOURNEY New Mom Struggles Indian Society

New To Motherhood I Was Constantly Shamed By My Relatives, That I Felt I Was Unfit To Be A Mother…

( words)
*For representational purpose only.

Postpartum depression and anxiety should not be taken lightly. Hello, I am the mother of a 5-year-old girl. My journey into motherhood has been blissful and delightful. I always desired a daughter first, ever since I gained senses and knew what motherhood was. 

God has hardly blessed me with things I desired, but in this case, he granted my wish, and I became the mother of an adorable and beautiful girl. 

My journey from conception to giving birth was very smooth. Supported by my family and husband, consistent check-ups from my trusted family gynaecologist, and the safe delivery of my baby through a c-section, every moment was both seamless and unforgettable. I wasn't even able to sit straight because of the procedures, and my arms were yearning to hold my baby girl. The nurse understood it, and she brought my baby to me and placed her on my chest. 

Her small pink face stole my heart. The tiny little fingers, her delicate body, soft-supple skin, and fine hair. I held her for around 30 minutes in the same position, even though I was feeling drowsy from medication. 

Everything was going great until I opened my eyes from deep sleep and saw a middle-aged lady holding my baby girl sitting on the bed adjacent to my bed. She is family.

I was extremely exhausted, and the first question she asked me was, "Will you plan for another kid?" My husband and I had already made a firm decision to have only one child, regardless of gender. While we're open to the idea if it happens naturally, it's not a mandatory choice for us.

Having shared our decision with close relatives previously, I found myself unable to gauge the significance of her question about planning a second child. Exhaustion weighed heavily on me, muffling my ability to respond assertively. My bua was in the same room; she immediately caught that lady's point of view, and the disappointment on my bua's face was loud and readable. 

Then, I understood, she was asking me this question because I have given birth to a girl child. Since my husband and I had decided on having only one child, she seemed to be probing if we would consider planning for a second in hopes of having a boy. I was appalled by her thinking. I just delivered a baby. It has not been more than two hours. My parents are celebrating, saying, "We are blessed with goddess Lakshmi." My husband and the entire family have ordered sweets to be distributed amongst people, and this lady is sitting in front of me, holding my girl, and showing disappointment on my face. 

That was my first trigger for postpartum anxiety.

Since then, I have been severely anxious whenever she is around me or my baby in my new mom phase. I was unable to breastfeed my baby. It was not like I was unwilling to. Everything was fine, including the morphology of my breasts. I even got them checked by my gynaecologist. I had so many doubts due to being constantly mom-shamed by some middle-aged and old ladies; I even felt my breasts were too small to feed a baby. Then, my gynaecologist took me to her room and gave me counselling. 

"As a new mom, why do you believe your breasts are small? Look at them, they're not. Besides, lactation isn't determined by breast size. You're educated; you understand that, right? It's perfectly fine if you're unable to breastfeed your child. Many mothers face the same challenge. Some produce milk effortlessly, while others achieve it through a balanced diet. And there's absolutely no issue with feeding your baby a quality formula if breastfeeding isn't feasible."

Her words relieved me. She gave me a diet chart, and I could soon breastfeed my child, and the times I stopped lactating, I gave my daughter formula suggested by her paediatrician. When I stopped breast-feeding her because of lack of lactation, the same lady I mentioned earlier asked me, "Are you not breast-feeding your child because you feel your figure will be deformed?" I kept quiet for a second, and this time I answered back, "My figure is already deformed after my pregnancy and childbirth, but that shouldn't be your concern; in fact, you should ask me; 'why am I not breast-feeding my child as mother milk is good for babies?”

After that incident, she never dared to shame me. I was staying alone with my child all through her baby phase, toddlerhood. There was no elder to guide me. Nonetheless, I sought guidance from trusted family members and elders over phone calls, as well as our child's pediatrician. With their support and my own research into what's best for my child, I could raise her like a pro.

From the moment she was born, I handled her with ease, knowing that as her mother, I had the instinct and capability to care for her. Now, she's five years old and is in pre-primary school. She's bright, active, and blessed with good health (touchwood). Despite not being able to breastfeed her extensively, by the grace of God, she's always been robust and healthy.

I was so worried by judgmental people around me constantly questioning my mom's duties, so much so that I felt I was unfit to be a mother. There was a time when I refused to take my daughter into my arms and handed her over to my mother. During those days, she was just a baby. I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. It led me into a spiral of depression and anxiety.

It was during this time that my mother gently handed her over to me and said, "No one knows the baby better than the mother." She smiled at me and guided me all through. 

Why do I have to address this issue now? After 5 years? Well, I have mild depression now, which has been neglected for a couple of years. Lately, I've noticed significant changes in my behaviour—restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings—that I couldn't ignore. It can also account for my work-life stress, as I work against my biological clock, have been diagnosed with migraines, and have not been able to cope with personal and professional stress. So, I decided to visit our family doctor. 

During that visit, my doctor  pointed out that my current struggles with depression and anxiety stemmed from postpartum issues that had gone unaddressed.  It came as a surprise to me, but upon reflection, I realised the anxiety triggered by unwelcome responses and subsequent depression were indeed rooted in past postpartum experiences. She was so right about my condition. 

When I was constantly scrutinised and shamed by some people, I felt severe anxiety to the point that I wouldn't allow anyone to come into my room, where me and my newborn stayed.

I only allowed my husband and my parents, fearing people would judge me and my parenting. Though most of the people and family were good to me, there were still some who were unavoidable. It took me around 9 months to overcome those feelings since the birth of my child. I never imagined the traces of those feelings would still remain. 

My doctor gave me counselling and self-calming exercises and explained the importance of sound sleep and resting properly, which is again another topic of discussion. We all should understand that a woman in herself is a whole lot of everything. She is a bundle of emotions and feelings. She is the master of patience, and she can also be an ocean of expression. She is a portal through which new souls are delivered in this world, and all she needs is a small cell to do that. God has given that gift only to mothers—to regenerate and procreate. 

When a woman is pregnant, her hormones are at their peak. She goes through various transformations mentally and physically. When she delivers the child, the hormones try to settle back down, and the swing is again reversed, which again causes various changes in her physically and mentally. Particularly, new moms who have just delivered the baby and it's their first time go through a whole lot of new emotions and unexplained anxiety. People around them should be supportive and caring.

Even if she is falling short with something and lagging behind, be gentle enough to tell her; you don't have to shame her or make her feel like she is a bad parent. 

The bottom line is that if you don't have anything good to say, better don't say anything at all. If God has given her the ability to give birth, he has also given her the strength to raise her child. Unnecessary validations and suggestions are not required. 

Postpartum depression and anxiety can last for years, so be careful, particularly with new moms. Keep an eye on them and try to be kind. There are cases where women commit suicide under such circumstances. It's not an issue to be taken lightly. It's a major point that needs to be addressed carefully and professionally.

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