“Don’t be sad, it will affect your milk supply”
“Don’t be angry, it will affect your milk supply”
“Don’t stress about situations, it will affect your milk supply”
And oh my god, “don’t you dare feel guilty about experiencing all of the above emotions, it will affect your milk supply”
In short, “stop functioning as a human and resort to being an artificially smiling, milk-making machine even when it seems like there is no cause of happiness in your life at that moment”
But wait a minute… how is there no cause of happiness? You just gave birth to a child, isn’t that the most beautiful thing, the miracle of life?
No? Then you are a terrible, terrible mother.
If yes, you have gone through bouts of post partum depression, just as I have… but perhaps I should refrain from using the word- depression, because apparently, it is only called that if ‘clinically disgnosed’. And since I wasn’t brave enough to visit a counselor, I cannot use my own interpretation (then, and now even more clear in hindsight) as a ‘diagnosis’.
However, the name is irrelevant.
The fact remains that there is this constant sinking feeling and a point of no-return, a constant downward spiral that you can’t help but being sucked into, like a quicksand. And you have probably been told to suck it up, ignore it and focus on your child. And you have done it- because after all, hormones too have a major role to play in all the post partum happenings. So blame it all on them, will you? I did too… and waited until the coveted ‘six weeks post partum’ were over. Luckily for me, things did get better from that point onwards, but due to other reasons.
Anyhow, the subtlety with which these feelings approach you in the first place, is the most dangerous part. Because they can escalate very quickly from there.
Imagine having a casual conversation to someone about your new year resolution- you explain how all you want is to be fit and healthy … and suddenly on the very same day, as if in a trance, you end up with an expensive year long gym membership in your hand and a huge dent in your pocket!
That’s how quickly & unknowingly things can escalate!
It’s no longer just about guilt.. it’s about your incapability to raise your child, it’s about the building worthlessness… you convince yourself that you’ll sleep on it and the next day will be better, and it is…but the next trigger is enough to get you back to square one. And then there’s more guilt- you aren’t thinking 24×7 about your child, as you are supposed to. This is followed by panic- you don’t feel connected to your own child, you don’t feel that overwhelming, unconditional love that you are supposed to be feeling as a mother! You cannot bring yourself to say this out loud, but it feels as though your child is a stranger who has been put temporarily into your care. And then, out of nowhere creeps in anxiety- every small change happening in your body makes you feel as though you are in physical danger… who will take care of your child if you die? Also, breastfeeding isn’t as beautiful as people make it out to be. If you have had my (bad) luck- it is infact full of trauma due to cracks, abcesses, surgery and a month long recovery.
Fake it till you make it- isn’t working anymore too. Because happiness is so shortlived. Meanwhile your child continues to need you and you try to be there, albeit only mechanically.
If you are reading all of this, relating to it & reminiscing your times, my hugs to you for being brave enough to sail through the phase. If you are reading all of this and wondering if things will ever get past this point- just hang in there, they will.. right now it doesn’t seem like they would, but they do.
But the issue here isn’t whether or not you are feeling all of these conflicting and contrasting emotions, the issue is that nobody ever talks about it. Nobody ever prepares a pregnant woman, saying- listen, there is a possibility that this might happen to you.. I am not saying that it will, because every woman is different. Her ability to process emotions and cope with them is different.
Then again, is it okay to traumatize a pregnant woman for things that “may” happen to her, with her mental state of mind at that moment convincing her- it will..?! I don’t have an answer for that. But now that I am on the other side of the fence, I keep wishing that I knew more. Isn’t it always better to know the syllabus even for an open book exam? No woman can ever be completely ‘prepared’ for the post partum life, but atleast should be able to understand what is happening to her mentally, and that it’s absolutely okay for it to happen.
This post is especially for those women who are going through varying degrees of that ‘quicksand feeling’ & not understanding it at all. I want you to know it’s absolutely okay to feel whatever you are feeling at this moment. I want you to know, I am there.. so are the hundred other women. You are not alone, you are not abnormal, and you are certainly not a bad mother… some day, one day.. you will believe in it yourself.
But until then, first things first- Try to figure out what the ‘source’ of your anxiety is- whether singular or multiple. Keep a diary, if it helps. Go visit a counselor or use someone in your inner circle as a sounding board. My source was the trauma associated with a post delivery surgery (within a month of my delivery, which in itself was a c-section) to remove an abcess and further 2 weeks of painful dressing that followed. I wasn’t brave enough to go to a counselor, but as my body healed, I healed too, mentally… almost. (Every single day I am taking one step forward in my decision to go and visit a counselor, and I know that one day I will. Things are back to normal but maybe the roots are still there).
In the meanwhile, know that it’s a journey and a long one at that. Patience & persistence is the only way forward. Just keep doing things that make you happy, even if that happiness is short lived. Try talking to your child as much as possible- even though you don’t understand each other’s language right now, even though you don’t feel connected… believe blindly & wholeheartedly in the cliches which say that one smile from him/her will make your day better, because they really do work.
But most importantly, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself for being frustrated and wanting to give up. You are only human. Just keep doing one small thing everyday and I promise, one day you will get there. Just as I have. One day, you will look at your child and only feel pure, unconditional, unadulterated love as they have always described, and that is the day, you will realise you have been reborn as a mother. It won’t make all your struggles worth it, because given a choice who would want to go through all that? But it will make your persistence worth it, it will make your patience worth it.. above all, it will make you believe in your own self and all the miracles you can perform.
Doctorate in Biochemistry with specialization in pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes.
Linkedin: Madhura Panse
Join her facebook group for new mothers : Post Partum Support For Indian Women