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Lavanya Bahuguna


Maternal Mental Health: Delhi Woman On Feeling Hopeless As MIL Bombards Her With Unwanted Parenting Advice

  • IWB Post
  •  May 14, 2018

This is not a rant but my story of how undermined I’ve begun to feel after giving birth to my first child. I am a 32-year-old banker who took more than three years after marriage to put her career on hold so I can get pregnant and ‘complete my family’ (as told to IWB).

When you’re a Regional Manager of an international bank, you don’t really think about taking a long work sabbatical. You suffer from a fear of losing out, of competitors getting better at the game and most importantly, not being financially stable for a few months (or years?).

I guess these factors weren’t enough to freak me out, so my bossy mother-in-law stepped in. From the day we got to know about my pregnancy until today, she has been after my life with a long list of ‘things to do.’ Instructions like what time I should get up to which direction I should turn my baby so the process of diaper-changing becomes easier, she has got millions of things to advice. Urgh! I understand that being a first-timer, I need someone experienced to guide me about stuff like healthy eating habits, etc. but for God’s sake, not the colour of my clothes that are possibly dangerous for my newborn’s eyes!

As my baby turns four months old today, my mother-in-law’s case of being around ‘too much’ is only escalating. This has resulted in my low self-esteem and a sense of being judged by others. For example, I dread my relatives whenever they visit us. At the back of my mind, I am assuming all kinds of negative things they’re saying to me that resonate with what my MIL thinks about me. The break from work has already dropped my confidence quite a bit and my current situation at home has made it hit a new low. I have got a long way to go and I feel like giving up already.

Before pregnancy, I believed that regular visits to a gynecologist, taking important tips from the elderly women of the family and studying educational websites like WHO would be more than enough to give birth to a healthy child and mother him/her. For sure, I wasn’t aware of the annoying and nosy MIL nagging me all day long. I know I sound b*tchy but this is exactly how I feel at the moment. I’ve started to feel disconnected with my husband as well, although he has no role to play in it.

To keep my cool and focus on the job at hand (mothering a beautiful child), I am doing Yoga every morning. I am not sure how it is going to help, but…

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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