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Lavanya Bahuguna


Maternal Mental Health: “I Can’t Deal With The Tantrums Of My Firstborn After The Second Pregnancy”

  • IWB Post
  •  May 16, 2018

Although there are thousands of articles online suggesting how to help your first child adjust to the arrival of the second, there isn’t much written for the mothers caught in the tight spot between the two that mostly results in their emotional exhaustion. Thus, I seek help as I share my story with you.

I gave birth to my son, my first child, in 2013. Last year in November 2017, I gave birth to my second child, a girl. All of 3.5-year-old, my son was somehow aware that his mother was now going to be a little busy with the new baby in the house. I remember when I was pregnant, he told me how is going to buy new toys so he could spend time with them and not feel lonely. As much as it broke my heart, I understood that it’s natural for the first child to feel so. Or, maybe it was the result of things that our visiting relatives said to him, for example, ‘You’ll be a big brother soon. It is now you who has to take care of mommy.’

I didn’t take my son’s altered behavior seriously until one day when he asked me to throw the baby girl in the dustbin because that’s where the ‘garbage goes.’ “She is of no use to us, Mumma. We already have a toddler at home, that is me. Why do you and papa need another one,” he questioned. I laughed it off but then, after some time, I saw him dragging her sheet as he tried to reach the wastepaper basket in my room. I immediately stopped him, scolded a little, and asked him to put it back, to which he replied, “I hate you.”

Later that night, he refused to eat from my hand. Not only this, he looked disinterested in sharing the dessert with us (my husband and I) from a common bowl, which is our Sunday ritual. Clearly, he is throwing tantrums and I, as a new mother who’s six months into nursing, don’t have the nerves to deal with it. I, honestly, cannot put my limited energy into collecting the toys that he throws in anger when someone asks him to share it with his little sister, or for that matter, listen to him cry at the top of his voice just to grab my attention. I might sound silly saying this but whenever he makes this piercing sound, I cry at the same pitch to compete with him and shut him up. I am sure I sound terribly frustrated at this point, but I’ve been able to win so far!

I’ve spoken to my husband about this family crisis, though he thinks our son simply needs some extra time to adjust and accept the new baby, and be the big brother that he needs to be. But, as a mother, no matter how much I try ignoring his outburst, I feel his pain in my heart.

To solve the problem, I’m striving to spend some quality time with him after I am done feeding and making the baby comfortable in bed. But because I’m sleepless most of the time, I haven’t been able to give him more than 15 minutes on an average. Does that make me a bad mother? Sigh, I don’t want to ignore this situation by calling it ‘just a phase.’

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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