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MOMSTEIN SPEAKS: WHY POSTPARTUM BLUES ARE ON THE RISE

The modern-day strong-willed woman is the classical example of the type A personality. This personality is a temperament that encompasses ambition, competitiveness, focus on quality, need for control, and an unrealistic sense of urgency as per the dictionary definition.

“And to survive in this dog-eat-dog world, a woman has to have all these qualities to thrive.”

In terms of living arrangements, the woman is on an indefinite honeymoon with her husband despite fights, work calls, and no real honeymoon after marriage. She is her own master. She gyms, controls how she looks, and is always at the top of her game. Once she conceives, planned or unplanned, her cherished body goes out of control. The kilos start piling and so do the deadlines. Excessive sleepiness, morning sickness, and pregnancy-associated exhaustion slowly eat into her confidence as being an indispensable part of the workforce. Then comes factoring in the maternity break and dealing with the perceptible shift in her status as a reliable employee. Once the baby is delivered, her worst nightmare –loss of control – comes to the forefront and that’s when things can go downhill.

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When asked, Shikha always said she got married for kids rather than for companionship. So, it was no surprise that in a year and a half after her wedding, she was blessed with her son. Smooth pregnancy and a rough postpartum later, she was yearning to hand over her son to a nanny and go back to work. Many modern-day women, just like Shikha, are lost after motherhood and pine to go back to the familiarities of their hectic work life and the companionship of their partners. We have learned to enjoy the luxuries of investing time in ourselves and putting the needs of our bodies and ambitious fulfilments before anything else. The path to motherhood is paved with sacrifices and not a second goes by when you don’t have to sacrifice something that you want or need for your baby. Shikha sought the help of her in-laws and joined work on a half shift in search of her old self but one month down the line, not only did she find juggling work and home stretching her to her limits, but she also finally realized her priorities and sense of self-fulfillment had drastically transferred from her work to taking care of her son. You could be anywhere on this spectrum.

A woman has to recreate herself once she becomes a mother. Her priorities change, her goals and aspirations too and her identity takes a 180-degree shift. In addition, there is an unspoken removal from the societal ladder where a woman used to be a productive earning member of the community. Now she is reduced to an unkempt housewife and her role in the establishment she works for also gets jeopardized because of her priorities at home.

Another issue here is that we see the need to be in control all the time. Holding oneself responsible for all things not under one’s control is a recipe for disaster. When will the baby sleep and why the baby won’t stop crying are puzzles we are far from decoding. Crying is how babies communicate everything and it takes time to figure out each baby’s temperament and stressors. We have evolved in a way to accept blame. On the one hand, we know and feel miserable that we cannot decipher and control our crying child and on the other, we tend to take the blame upon ourselves for the crying which is beyond our control to start with.

The rise of single parenting and nuclear families has prevented the smooth transition of a couple from spouse to parents. The woman used to be surrounded by experienced mothers and could benefit from their expertise. The modern isolated family unit deprives the woman of the rite of passage to motherhood. Becoming a mother may be normal but the overnight flip of priorities, personality, and her own life comes as a jolt. To have community support in such an overwhelming and draining time of life is not only suggested but rather
imperative. The Westernized family set-up not only undervalues but also trivializes the important and rather huge step into a new phase of life. The couple has to do everything alone and figure out the learning curve. They end up in a pit of frustration not knowing where to start, how to start, or for that matter even what to start. Aside from needing a support system, there is a bigger need of knowing that there is a set of reliable and caring people to fall back on.

Another way this isolation from the community affects a woman is at the level of the brain cells. Parts of the brain shrink when a person is in isolation which contributes to further damage to the mental health of the woman.

“Cultures that promote nuclear families and living in isolation have higher rates of depression as witnessed in the West and now in the evolving East.”

Dr Farah Adam Mukadam

Dr Farah is a family physician based in Bangalore. She is the author of the bestseller Newborns and New Moms, an urban woman’s guide to life after childbirth.

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