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Lavanya Bahuguna


Maternal Mental Health: 5-Months Pregnant Woman Confesses To Skipping Food To Avoid Body-Shaming At Work

  • IWB Post
  •  May 14, 2018

I’ve seen people fat-shame plump women by asking them if they are pregnant and now that I’m expecting myself, I’m sure I’m slowly turning into someone they have the liberty to laugh at.

I’m 29 and five months into my pregnancy. I live in New Delhi with my advocate husband. I’m working in the corporate sector for the last seven years and from the past 1.5 years, I’ve been heading an advertisement agency in Gurgaon which requires me to travel long distances every day. Also, my work mostly involves meeting clients in and outside the city.

I have always been a lean woman and by that, I mean having a body shape that most women (these days) envy. Thanks to my super active lifestyle and conscious eating habits, I get to enjoy wearing whatever I admire. For example, I don’t have to think twice before donning that bodycon dress. My job type requires me to dress like a model (I’m not kidding!) to look presentable all the freaking time. I’ve always been on point with my diet and have got a strict calculation running in my mind regarding the number of carbs I intake with every meal. I make sure I run 2 kilometers and do my cardio at the gym. In short, I make no compromise when it comes to my body.

I might sound like an insensitive person if I admit to you that pregnancy has taken away my confidence. With this growing tummy and the emergence of a double chin, I am slowly slipping into depression. My nutritionist has changed my diet completely and requires me to eat things that, for sure, are multiplying my weight at an unimaginable speed. More than that, I am terrified about the food items I am supposed to avoid, like coffee. I don’t survive without coffee, okay! It runs through my veins. How else do you expect me to function like an insightful Boss-lady all day long?

Last weekend, when I was on my way to a meeting with my senior from Mumbai, I witnessed my first experience of body-shaming. He said, “I hope you will continue to ooze that oomph of yours even after you turn into a weighty pumpkin!” This was followed by a horrendous laugh. I definitely share a friendly bond with him and we keep throwing such jibes at one another, but somewhere I felt this was something else. I felt as if he is hinting towards my performance governed by my self-confidence that (he thought) might go down once my body changes.

I am opening up because somewhere I consider pregnancy a blockage in my career. In my mind, a healthy body results in a happy soul and vice versa. But looking at my ever-increasing fat, I don’t think I can keep calm anymore. This is horrific but it has even resulted in me eating less and skipping the important mini-meals of the day. My poor husband has also lost patience with me. Before he leaves for work, he sincerely packs the many tiffin boxes that I’m supposed to consume throughout the day to make sure both of us get our supply of nutrients. And I, in turn, return home with half of them untouched. I know I’m a terrible mother already who is worried about her body and career more than the baby’s health.

As a first-time parent, I guess I am suffering from food-phobia that’s certainly going to affect my newborn’s health. Well, all thanks to the way our culture treats pregnant women. I am not yet ready to hear the stupid things my colleagues are going to say to me with respect to my appearance because, who am I kidding, it is going to ruin me emotionally wholly. I don’t want to be this woman with so many complexes growing within her.

As I conclude, I hope to receive some valuable guidance on how to experience a healthy pregnancy and not worry about my body-image instead. After all, I’ve spoken my heart out.

Feeling guilt and inadequacy during and after pregnancy is normal, but sadly, not normalized in many societies. Maternal mental health is a lesser known and less talked about topic in India. No wonder it’s a taboo that hurls down pregnant and nursing women into a dark pit of hopelessness.

Once you’re a mother, you’re supposed to be the happiest human on Earth. The reality is about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given the birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries, this is even higher, i.e. 15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after childbirth

From being overwhelmed by not being a ‘good-enough’ mother to experiencing thoughts of committing suicide, pre and postpartum depression are serious issues. For example, suffering from insomnia, feeling irritated, scared, confused, experiencing lack of patience, and wanting to run away from the family. It is symptoms like these that result in no desire of bonding with the baby and feeling irritated or angry without any reason.

This Mother’s Day, IWB is challenging these stereotypes by narrating some real-life stories of mothers to you. It is about time we talk about Maternal Mental Health openly.

[Picture is used for representation purpose only. Image source]

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