OPINION

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Baby Blues!

September 26, 2007
smallsquirrel

As soon as I had my baby, people kept asking me things like "aren't you just IN LOVE?" and "Isn't motherhood the best thing that ever happened to you?"

Well, sit down and hold onto yourselves, because the answer was "no."

Did I love my child? Of course. Was I excited about being a parent? Yes! But there are so many more emotions that come to the surface after you give birth. It's not all rainbows and butterflies and stuffed animals and smiles.

No one talks about the panic or the crying by yourself late at night because you feel like maybe you made a huge mistake, and what if you just cannot do this huge thing called being a mother

That's right. It's the "baby blues" and we do a real disservice to women who are preparing to have children by not talking about it openly. I was lucky because I had friends who were already mothers, and they talked to me honestly about those first few weeks. But that advice goes against everything you see on TV and hear about from others - all that love and bonding and closeness. You feel like you are supposed to see your baby and immediately fall hopelessly and deeply in love, and everything is perfect and cozy. You don't mind being exhausted because you just love your baby oh-so-much that any sacrifice is alright.

But that is not the reality of motherhood for many women during the first few weeks after the baby arrives. You are hormonal. You are exhausted. You have no freaking idea what you are supposed to be doing with this small, helpless baby who seems to only have two modes: asleep and screaming. You feel that if you ask for help people will think you are a bad mother. You feel like you will never, ever get a good night sleep again. You feel you no longer have an excuse for being fat, even though you only gave birth 2 days ago. Your body hurts down to the bones. You just get to sleep and there is that plaintive wailing again, and you have no idea how to make it stop. You wonder how you will protect this small person from the seemingly growing evils of a very large world.

And worst of all, you feel like "why am I not in love with my child?"

That was me, at 2 AM, sitting on my couch and sobbing. I would cry every night like that, silently, while feeding my daughter. I wondered what was wrong with me. Nothing my husband or anyone said seemed to make much of a difference. I felt like an overtired babysitter, and although I cared for my child, I did not feel this unbreakable bond. That alone made me miserable. What if I could not love my own child? What in hell was wrong with me?

Then I remembered what my friends had said. And then the calls started coming. "Are you guilt tripping yourself?" "Are you crying at night?" So I felt a little better. And slowly, after about the 3rd week, I stopped crying. My confidence started building. I could do it, I kept telling myself. And my friends kept telling me to cut myself some slack.

A few weeks ago the baby was stirring in her crib. I walked over and called out her name. She greeted me with a huge grin and a gurgle and as I picked her up, she nestled her face into my neck. I found that tears were streaming down my face and I felt a kind of happiness and peace I had never experienced before.

Aha! There it was. It took some time, but finally it came.

So if you have a friend who just gave birth, make sure to ask her how she really is. And if she says she's not great, don't chastise her and make her feel guilty. talk to her about what she is feeling, and ask if there is anything you can do. Maybe just getting her out of the house for an hour for a coffee while someone watches the baby is just the thing she needs. Something. Anything.

And if it's you who is feeling down, realize you're not alone. It's the big, bad secret of motherhood. And it will pass. But also be aware that if it lasts past 2 months and you have recurrent thoughts of suicide or harming your baby, you are suffering from something more serious called post-partum depression (PPD). This is also not uncommon, and you should tell someone immediately. PPD is not the baby blues, and it usually requires anti-depressant medication to fix. You owe it to yourself and your baby to be healthy. If you are a father or family member and notice that a new mum in your family is not caring for herself, appears detached from their child, seems hopeless and depressed after 2 months, please talk to your wife and also tell your wife's doctor. She needs help and might not know how to ask for it.

Smallsquirrel is a born ranter. She is an Italian who moved to India by way of the US to be with her husband, a native Bangalorean. She loves bacon and rava masala dosa in equal measure, but certainly not in the same meal.
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I Guess That's Why They Call It The Baby Blues!

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Author: smallsquirrel

 

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#1
Deepti Lamba
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September 26, 2007
11:23 AM

Its easier popping the little people out than bringing them up:) The first couple of weeks are awful especially when there isn't anyone around to help you out.

You and Mr SS were real troopers to have managed on your own. And I agree that to be moms should be made aware of pre and postpartum depression.

#2
Aaman
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September 26, 2007
10:30 PM

Men have their own version of this, perhaps someone should do an article on that.

#3
temporal
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September 28, 2007
02:31 PM

ss:

the couples over there (where you are) have it a lil' easier

over here, without extended family support, folks having their own lives to live, distances...it is a bit less easier...specially with the first child

and PPD is a serious issue

look forward to aaman's take on the PPD-male view;)

#4
smallsquirrel
September 28, 2007
02:37 PM

temporal.... I might be tempted to agree with you if it were about a rational thing, but it's not. it's about hormones and feeling overwhelmed about the future. friends and family help, but in the end you have to look in the mirror and decide how good of a parent YOU will be. and that is what is scary.

also, for me at least it was miserable being here on the other side of the world from my family and all of my life-long closest friends. luckily I have made some good friends here... but still... I was without family for a month, and even then they could only stay 2 weeks.

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