Here's an exercise.
Imagine a few changes in your life (in a matter of months). Imagine your body about ten kilos heavier (and on a heady cocktail of hormones). Your skin coarse, covered with marks, bumps and some skin tags. Imagine your bladder having a mind of its own. And being sleep deprived. All. The. Time. Imagine losing your sense of self and confidence. Seeing the dark side of most situations (nothing poetic about it). Crying. Sometimes for perceivable reasons. Mostly, not. Imagine feeling lonely even as you live with people who love you the most, and whom you love equally, if not more. Imagine feeling like a 'nobody' in spite of having over a decade-long (and fairly successful) professional career behind you. Imagine trying to understand this complicated web of emotions and physical stress while you take care of your first newborn who follows a vicious cycle of poop, feed, sleep for the first few months.
In a country where the population is a gigantic problem, the quality of life debatable and education system questionable, it's surprising that most are not daunted (or counselled) about having a child, or two, or three. I contributed to India's grand total about three years ago. With no counselling or emotional coaching whatsoever. I went the good old Indian way with my biological age determining my 'time' to have a child. Never mind that it didn't concur with my time to become a mother.
Motherhood is not pretty and most will not tell you that. Did I wonder why I had a baby? Yes. Very often. I even asked my mother why people have children. I just couldn't fathom why – even as I cradled my own around – I had lost my personal freedom, my financial freedom (though my husband completely supported me and has been a darling about it), the freedom to go out when I wanted to, or even to pee or eat or bathe when I wanted to.
I just didn't see why anyone would want to knowingly inflict themselves with this kind of oblivion and incarceration. So while I willingly stretched myself to do everything for my child that I perceived as good for him (I chose to be a hands-on mommy with no childcare help at hand. I breastfed my child well over 2 years. Exclusively. No bottles. I bathed him, kept cleaning his poop…over the years cooked him fresh and healthy food, read him a gazillion books, played with him everywhere, carried him everywhere, the list really does go on), I failed to take care of myself. I neglected myself. And I was nose deep in a whirlpool of postpartum depression before I could even identify it.
There were almost daily bouts of crying (sometimes multiple times a day), many fights (and many times I would pick fights) with my husband, a social vacuum (I had successfully pushed back my extended family and most of my friends) and a constant sense of despair and anxiety. 'Will I ever get my life back? Will I ever live the carefree life I used to? Will I ever be able to achieve something in my life now?' – just the tip of the barrage of questions that I assaulted myself with daily.
I even wondered if I was too selfish because other mothers seemed to be brimming in bliss with their newborns, while I was too busy with, well "I" or rather the absence of it.
I couldn't even take basic decisions without a long debate with myself, for example: pondering over and being anxious about which coffee to buy. Hard as it may be to believe, I would feel lost if I didn't have anything to worry about. So I would literally search for things to fret over.
There was also the domino effect. It didn't help that my baby suffered from a dust allergy, as a result of which he suffered endless bouts of colds. The fact that his paediatrician was trigger happy with medicines also didn't help, I also lived in a state of panic over my child's health. I worried about him all the time.
To cut an extremely long story a tad short, I was drowning in worries – about my baby, about myself and about my marriage. Yup. That wasn't easy either. My husband was going through his worst professional crisis. We both needed our spouse's shoulder to cry on. We both didn't get it. We tried. But it's not easy to pull someone out of a bog when you are in mire yourself.
Life was of course punctuated with many adorable moments with our baby boy, but those weren't enough. It might be a cliché but a happy mother does equal a happy baby. I was far from it. I needed help. But first, I needed to recognise it. The Health Collective's founder Amrita Tripathi helped me by being there. Now that's a fairly abused term – 'being there.' But she defined it very well. She didn't readily give advice or suggestions or instructions or friendly nudges. She listened. She made sure to meet me every time she was in town. She complimented. She encouraged. And listened some more. Finally, I asked her for professional help. She put me on to a lovely psychologist who conducted sessions over the phone. Did they help? Yes. Though I did not take more than 5 sessions, they armed me with some basic tools. I didn't magically stop feeling depressed. It took time. Years. (I am still a work in progress) And lots of help.