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Away from her support network, a new mother can feel daunted and overwhelmed
It left a deep impact on me, but also helped shaped who I am today.
Veiled beneath a degree of uncertainty and stigma, post-natal depression is often misunderstood or disregarded.
I suffered from this to a significant degree after the birth of my first child, almost bordering on the line of clinical depression.
As a new migrant, with no family support close by and no network of friends with babies, I often felt lonely, daunted and unable to cope with my daily routine. I wept for no reason and felt no interest whatsoever in getting out of the house.
I shared these feelings with my husband who thought I was simply missing my family who were only able to be around until my little one was two and a half months old.
The symptoms just got worse, instead of better, over time. I had nothing new to look forward to; the change-feed-and-comfort routine just went on and on for what felt like eternity! I was supposed to be happy because I had a little bundle of joy in my life. “Isn’t it natural for a mother to dote on and be lost in love with her new baby?” I would think, and this would bring more guilt into my heart.
But no matter how many pre-birth classes I attended, or books I read on parenting, nothing could prepare me for reality.
My life had turned from that of a busy professional woman with great career aspirations, to being a full-time mother and caretaker with heavy sleep deprivation and no me-time at all! Recouping after a difficult birth and with absolutely no adult around me to have some sort of conversation, I was almost ready to give up. My mother, a psychologist herself, felt terribly concerned, but her long-distance counselling over the phone wasn’t exactly helping. All she could say, ultimately, was, ‘Just come to India for a few months.’
As tempting as this sounded for me, escaping and running away from the situation wasn’t going to help and I knew this within. It was not practical to leave my husband for months and take my little infant from winter in Sydney to summer in Mumbai either. I decided to stay on.
We had heard about at home-counselling and decided to try it. It worked reasonably well, with fortnightly one-on-one sessions in the comfort of my home. But these were limited. The counsellor then advised me to go to new mothers’ therapy sessions. The thought of packing all the baby things and reaching the therapy group venue was scary in itself, let alone leaving my baby with a nanny for two hours. Also, I didn’t even have a driver’s licence at that stage. The whole idea seemed impossible to me!
And that’s when my husband gave me strength and solid support.
He organised a taxi for my weekly sessions, helped me get things ready and organised the night before. Well, before I knew it, I had started enjoying the sessions! I looked forward to Wednesdays, and I even thought about what I’d wear!
The sharing and stories from other mums made me feel less alone: ‘I am not the only one’. Most mothers there were on anti-depressants already. They were surprised when I shared that I was not taking any medication, and that I had decided to build my willpower to beat this.
Gradually I began to see the bright side of things. I started going to the beautician and for coffee by myself over the weekend, leaving the little one to play with her dad, who gladly obliged.
At the end of eight amazing weeks, my little one had grown up and started giving me smiles. It all made the pain of motherhood worth it. I organised a morning tea with the lovely mothers in the group and we all recapped our journey and shared how things had looked up eventually.
I got a contract from my University to tutor students one day a week, and this made me feel absolutely elated. As much as I loved being a mum, now it was time for the grey cells to be stimulated and for me to embrace the outside world and give back what I learned as a student! My mother visited us briefly to care for her granddaughter, and finally we went to Melbourne when Ananya was six months old to celebrate life as new parents and how we had emerged victorious through the whole post-natal depression journey.
Looking back, I can definitely say that sticking around and fighting the depression was the best thing I did. Today, this incident gives me immense confidence to face adversity and I tell all the new mums I meet, or mums-to-be, to not be too hard on themselves, to depend on their network of friends and family, and call out for any help – including just having a conversation with another adult.
New dads play a really important part too; they must be supportive and keep reiterating what a good mum their wife makes. Believe me, it makes a world of difference!