Two years back, I was in the recovery room of a maternity hospital. Our bundle of joy had just arrived and the family’s cup of happiness was brimming over. Surprisingly, not mine though. I was happy that my baby was happy and healthy, but as my elated family went about gushing over the baby, I strangely felt empty inside.
Smiling outwardly, I was struggling with a barrage of emotions within. I was overwhelmed, anxious, sad, guilty and hopeless. Probably it was the hormones and the post delivery exhaustion, I concluded.
Weeks passed and I was almost back to normal, physically. I couldn’t say the same about my emotional state ,though. I was moody, depressed and irritable all the time. My baby blues simply wouldn’t go away. With the newborn craving full time attention, I was on my toes all day, going about my chores of cooking, cleaning and caring for the baby almost mechanically, whilst battling a host of negative emotions. There were times when I’d just break down and sob, for no reason at all. I had just given birth to a wonderful baby, but why was I feeling so low? What was wrong with me?
A baby’s arrival is the happiest of times in one’s life. So, a mother cribbing about how difficult it all was, instead of basking in a new mom’s bliss is unheard of. All the emphasis is on the baby’s well being and not much on the mother’s. It is always, ‘’How’s the baby? Is he alright?’’. Not many seemed to be interested in knowing how the mother herself was doing. How was she coping up with the tumultuous changes in her life? So I suffered in silence too ashamed to seek help.
And when I did casually discuss it with a close friend, pat came the reply. ‘’You’re simply tired. You’ll be okay. Don’t worry.’’
I stopped talking about it after that. Talking to people only made me feel guilty about not being grateful for having a happy, healthy baby and instead going around feeling sad and depressed.
I reached a stage where I just couldn’t bond with my baby. I was totally disconnected from everything around me.I’d bathe him, feed him, change him and all that, but I simply couldn’t see myself playing with him, cuddling him or bonding with him. It pained me no end, to realise that he was missing out on such an important part of growing up – bonding with the mother.
I finally came out of denial and realised that I needed help. I looked up my symptoms and realised that I was indeed battling Post Natal Depression. Statistics said that 1 in every 5 women go through post natal depression. Given such statistics, I was left wondering why there wasn’t enough awareness about this. I joined an online support group and connected with other moms who were riding the same emotional rollercoaster as me. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone.
I also realised, although a bit late, that it was important that I discuss this with my spouse. I knew he was going through stuff too, but I badly needed an emotional outlet and who else could be better than my husband? I ended up pouring my heart out to him – The good, bad and the ugly. All my worries, insecurities and feelings came out in a tumbled heap .He heard me out to the last word, never judging or sermonising even once. It was cathartic. At the end, he even came out with a brilliant suggestion. Why don’t I start a journal or a blog -about the ups and downs of being a mother, a memoir of the good days and the bad days, the bliss and the heartaches associated with being a mother.
It was the most sensible advice that I’d received in a long while. I realised he couldn’t always be around to be my sounding board. And just like that I started writing – about my everyday trials. Writing about my feelings calmed me. It made me connect with my own feelings and be more aware of the needs of my body and mind. I realised that trying to be a supermom and running the perfect household didn’t matter for much, if you weren’t at peace with yourself. Ultimately what mattered was my happiness.
Once I realised this, everything else fell into place. It all didn’t happen in a day. It took me a while, but the important thing was that I was doing something about it, instead of moping around. I took better care of myself. I wrote in my journal every single day. I squeezed in time for reading, exercise, music and even an occasional long, hot shower! Believe me, it felt good. And my husband really pitched in to make sure that I got some ‘me’ time. I reconnected with my friends- isolating myself had done me more harm than good. I stopped skimping on sleep. I let the house go messy for a while. In short, I pampered myself.
One afternoon, several weeks later, as I played peek-a-boo with my baby of 5 months, the kitchen and the house looking tsunami-struck, I realised that I was indeed free from that awful, dark, scary feeling called depression. My cup of happiness was finally full.