Postpartum depression is almost taboo in India as everyone expects mothers to experience nothing but endless joy. While joy is an essential part of motherhood, it may not always begin that way. Mental health awareness is totally lacking in our society and postpartum depression is considered an exaggeration
Fatima Aijaz | Clarion India
As first-time parents, my husband and I were beyond excited to welcome our little one back in 2017. My pregnancy went smoothly with hardly any complications and I expected equally smooth sailing after the baby’s arrival. I had no idea how wrong I would be!
Our baby girl arrived on 5th December through induced delivery. When they handed her to me, I was waiting to be swept up in a rush of motherly love but although there was joy, the dominant feeling was that of anxiety. How was I supposed to care for this little human all on my own?
During the brief stay in the hospital, I noticed myself getting more and more anxious. At first, I could hardly sleep and kept waking up every few minutes to check on the baby.
I had an irrational fear that something would happen to her if I dared to fall asleep. My sense of worthlessness grew as I was unable to feed her for the first few days. This led to endless tears and self-loathing.
When I was discharged from the hospital, I was gripped by panic. Why had they not given instructions on how to care for the baby? How am I to feed her? What if something happens to her? Of course, I kept these disturbing thoughts to myself and shared nothing of my mental state with my loved ones. I hoped everything would get back to normal once I was home.
After a couple of weeks, as I was finally able to feed her, I thought it would help to relieve my anxiety but it had the opposite effect. I was ashamed to admit that I felt chained to the newborn as she fed constantly. The days and nights blended into each other as I grappled with the onerous task of feeding her and trying to get her to sleep. My baby seemed to be the worst sleeper in the world who would wake up as soon as I put her down. I sat feeding and holding her all night long.
My loneliness knew no bounds as I felt completely cut off from my family. This isolation was exacerbated by the fact that I was unable to form a connection with my daughter. She was in my arms day and night but I couldn’t feel what I was supposed to feel.
The question of if I would ever love my baby perpetually weighed on my conscience. A lack of sleep coupled with paranoia drove me into a shell. My poor husband and family bore the brunt of it as I picked fights with them for inconsequential reasons. Although my mother and sisters did their best to help, I couldn’t bring myself to share my troubles with them. They were perplexed by my endless crying.
As the weeks turned into months, I perceived no change in myself and knew I had to ask for help. As a psychology student, I was aware of postpartum depression and its symptoms which seemed to match perfectly with mine. I opened up to my family eventually and asked them to take me to a psychiatrist. Speaking to someone who understood exactly what I was going through was unimaginably helpful. I returned to my usual cheerful self within a week.
There are perhaps countless mothers who are undergoing what I went through and are unable to seek help. When visiting new mothers, we must remember not just to focus on the baby but to enquire about the mother’s health as well.
Postpartum depression is almost taboo in India as everyone expects mothers to experience nothing but endless joy. While joy is an essential part of motherhood, it may not always begin that way. Mental health awareness is totally lacking in our society and postpartum depression is considered an exaggeration. Empathy and understanding are crucial for a quick recovery. Mothers everywhere must feel encouraged to ask for help if and when needed.
Fatima Aijaz is a Saudi-based writer. The views are personal and do not necessarily reflect the stand of Clarion India