Never thought I’d say this but it’s a good thing pregnancy is nine months long. There are a million choices to make while the proverbial bun is baking.
- C-section or normal delivery (Induction? Home birth? Water birth?)
- To continue working (full time, part time, quit work and be a SAHM)
- To breastfeed or not (sub choices: exclusive bf, top-up, pump)
- To hire help or not
- Which car seat, stroller, swing, carry cot
- Whether to use baby wipes or water and cotton
These are just a few of the questions that come to mind. No matter what you choose, to you these may be fairly simple, personal and obvious choices. To people at large, these choices are what allows them to put you in a box. The choice makes you, it defines you.
No matter what the mom-to-be or the couple decides, there is one, very important thing to remember. And that very crucial, life-changing realization is that YOU WILL BE JUDGED, NO.MATTER.WHAT. And you may turn to the streets in protest; you may shout out from the rooftops of the world, you can in no way change that fact. You will be judged for the choices you make when raising your baby. Whether you choose to resume work or you stay at home, where you breastfeed or not, whether you offer a pacifier to your baby or have become a human pacifier for all eternity, people will look down the bridge of their fat noses and JUDGE you as if they are getting paid for doing so. And by ‘people’ I mean everyone from your nearest kin, your fellow new-moms, the in laws and the outlaws, and all the way to the neighbors’ pet hamster. And try as you may, to remember this fact and not be affected by it, in the heat of the moment IT WILL BOTHER YOU. Try and try. Tell yourself it’s the raging hormones, it’s the postpartum bleed, it’s the cracked nipples, the sleep deprivation, the repulsion at the rolls of lard around your belly…. all these purple truths, but you can’t just ‘BE positive’ and will yourself into feeling better.
So, what do you do? Accept the fact that these tongues will wag and that it will bother you and you let it bother you. Seethe, squirm, cry, and lash out. But don’t resist the emotion. And don’t, for the love of God dismiss it as Baby Blues. Yes, that ugly blue monster rears its head soon after your sweet child enters the Earth, and it’s as real as the day is hot. But when you, and everyone around you attributes your very REAL emotional low as ‘oh it’s just baby blues’ it makes it worse. Yes you may acknowledge the BBs but you need to validate the feelings. You need to let it out. You or anyone around you cannot and dare not dismiss your feelings. That will simply crush any semblance of ‘normal’ for you.
And, remember, there’ll be DOZENS of imbeciles around you. People who LoVE to talk and give all sorts of inane advice. Let them. And tell them off occasionally. These people will be insane enough to tell you that you ‘should be more grateful, look at your bundle of joy and try to feel better’. At which point, you will have the constitutional right to slap them, and make sure your fingers are imprinted on their cheek and they have cut their lip which is profusely bleeding. Or better yet, show them your gaping C-section scar/stitches.
On a serious note, don’t try to evade the emotional trauma. The pain is real and the only way to get through this sane is to look in the eye and face it for real. Your demons, in this instance, are real. Yes, there are many things to be grateful for: your precious baby, your loving husband, your doting mother, warm food, hot showers. But you are not feeling grateful for these things at the particular point in time. That does not make you a bad person.
Another huge mistake people try to make is to rush the emotion. Try to fight it, knock it down, shove it deep in a box and lock it up or the worst: pretend it doesn’t exist. DO NOT DO THAT. Please, if you want to heal, don’t do that. There is no ‘try to be patient’ in this. Its hormones. You can’t trick them, they trick you. You gotta let go.
[Disclaimer: these rules apply ONLY for baby blues and these are my personal mistakes and what I have learnt from them. This is not an attempt to cure baby blues or something more serious i.e. post partum depression. I am not qualified to treat/help anyone; I am just sharing my experience. If you feel/think you have post-partum depression please look up the symptoms and/or consult a doctor.]
Also, please remember that we have well-meaning friends/family who help us out in different situations and whose advice really matters and works as well. It benefits us in the long run. I am breastfeeding my eleven month old exclusively and I feel it is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I have two amazing women to thank for their encouragement and wealth of knowledge that they shared with me. One is my sister (who had her second baby five months before I had my first) and the other is a very dear friend who recounts all the benefits of breastfeeding and goads me on endlessly. I would not have been able to nourish my child if it weren’t for these two. Having said that one must have the discretion to take all advice with a pinch of salt. Never, ever compare your situation with another. Just like every child is different, so is every mother. So many people told me that breastfeeding helps shed baby weight like no other. Didn’t work for me. In fact my hunger pangs and sweet cravings during the late night feeds were unprecedentedly insane. This same sister of mine experienced baby blues like I did but one fine day after the fifth or sixth month she felt like a new person, she said ‘a cloud had lifted’. I waited till my sixth month post partum, but somehow didn’t feel any different, and as a result I started doubting myself. For me, the baby blues departed very slowly, at about nine months. The shift was imperceptible. But I was blessed in many other ways. So many new mums around me had colic babies and I can’t thank God enough my precious baby slept soundly most nights with just the occasional gastric issue.
The point is, every case is different. For some more dreary than others. But we need to acknowledge our feelings and we need to learn to go with the flow. I remember in the initial months, looking at my Baby I felt he was all I could ever ask for. Yes it’s a bloody cliché but it’s so true. As times I was overwhelmed with the feeling of gratitude and scared that even this gratitude wasn’t good enough. But no matter how good I felt about about him, I was just plain sad. Everything around me was tainted, but it wasn’t. It was my view that was blurry. And try as I may I couldn’t clear the muck from the lens of my view. It was all so depressing, it just was. Everything was depressing. From the oatmeal I had in the morning to the friends and well-wishers who came to visit. I was just sad and upset all the time. Nothing could make me happy. It was all so excruciatingly boring. The minutest things would get me further down. One day the airconditioner broke down, it was as if my world has come crashing round my knees. When my mum bathed my baby, it looked so difficult, and I was certain I would NEVER be able to do it myself—the thought brought me close to tears. I would phobically fumigate the room, if ONE mosquito was found in the room it would spell doomsday.
I would want to remember this one fact for the next time round. Things aren’t so bad. Normal everyday occurrences are not so catastrophic, they seem that way to me, for whatever reason, that shouldn’t matter. But things are not that bad. My world is not going to end. This horrible phase too will pass and everything will be normal. Life will be interesting again. I will look forward to the weekend. I will again derive pleasure in small things. This feeling of doom is temporary. Sunset time will not kill me. I will not fight with the husband over the minutest things, it’s not his fault. Tomorrow is another day. All will be fine again, soon.