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Parenthood… are you ready for it?

It’s Mother’s Day today and social media is buzzing with posts from mothers, with a great lot of them and their kids, young and grown up, now and then – all the nostalgia, picture perfect hallmark moments. And there are many write ups from mothers extolling the virtues of motherhood and then there are a few from children wishing their mothers on this day, but that’s rare and they are mostly from children in their late twenties and some.

That brings us to the question – What makes a person a mother? More often than not, it is the role you slide into soon after you are married, at least where we live, culturally. A very small percentage of couples/women/men apply their minds about bringing a child into the world, now or never and so on. The larger group contends with social pressures and uncomfortable questions if there is no baby in sight in a year or two of tying the knot.

While a small minority of women are able to brush off the pressure, many others succumb to the emotional blackmail of parents/grandparents/in-laws/aunts and uncles who claim they will die happily once they see the next generation. And just like that….Welcome to motherhood,if you are a father reading this, WELCOME TO PARENTHOOD!!

The role is surely more than just giving birth to a child. That’s the easiest part, though it is touted to be hard and rightly so, it has spawned a whole section of books on amazon on preparing for pregnancy, planning on the delivery mode – a C section versus a natural birth, breathing exercises, what to eat, how to stay slim and glowing through it all, what you can wear, yoga, meditation, breathing- the list is endless. But being pregnant is still the easiest part of the journey ahead. You still have only yourself to care for and have a million others to care for you and your needs (If you live in India), and you may actually enjoy all the fuss and attention, who doesn’t, right?

Reality bites once the baby is out one way or the other. You are on your own then. Here is a brand-new life that you are responsible for, the screaming little life that you don’t understand, that rarely sleeps, and needs to be cared for 24/7. 

Your days and nights merge, and then there is the risk of postpartum depression that is very real. 

The transition to parenthood can be extremely stressful and this is a side of it that is often forgotten amidst the baby showers and the general party that is thrown to welcome the new member of the clan. Something that doesn’t get spoken about enough is Postpartum Depression (PPD), it is considered one of the most common complications that can occur during the postpartum period and can have serious implications on the mental and physical wellbeing of the child, the co-parent and sometimes even the rest of the family. 

If you are allergic to science, then this blog is not for you. Here are some facts:

  • 1 in 7 women experience PPD after giving birth to their child
  • Half of these women have NEVER had depression or any history of a mental illness.

And for those who claim that mental health conditions don’t exist, A – You need to seriously rethink a lot of things. And B – Telling you that it is in your head, is like telling a person who is drowning not to worry, the water is only up to your chest. Chill out! 

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PPD can leave you with a loss of identity, a feeling hopeless, being unable to truly care for yourself and in turn for your child, a general sense of panic, sadness and a strange concoction of emotions you may have never felt before and not necessarily positive ones at that. To put it simply, mothers can experience overall reduced happiness, mood swings that may or may not include suicidal thoughts, and decreased appetite or an increased appetite amongst other symptoms.

Mothers with PPD have been reported to display less sensitive behavior towards their child resulting in lower levels of attention given to their child, being less responsive to their baby’s overtures and a general lack of communication between mom and baby combined with lack of sufficient physical touch. It’s not so much the actual feeding and changing of the baby which they will do like clockwork, but the gap is the whole emotional connection, the intent to nurture – both emotionally and physically and staying connected with the baby that becomes impacted and this can have long term repercussions in the child’s development. 

What causes this absurd but very painful disorder?

There is no one specific cause that has been found but it is believed that hormonal changes along with lifestyle changes that come with the birth of a child play a role in this. Many studies have shown that PPD results in insecure attachment style with the child which in turn results in behavioral problems in the child as they grow, cognitive delays and the early development of an anxiety disorder. 

Lack of sufficient nurturing interactions between mother and baby often results in the baby learning to self-soothe resulting in a detached and avoidant mother-child relationship. 

Growing up, the child may have poor self-regulation skills, inability to form secure attachments, higher chances of developing an anxiety disorder and depression. 

If you are one of the lucky few (the remaining 6 if you followed the stats) who does not have PPD, Welcome to Motherhood! 

While there is no doubt that being a parent can be a beautiful experience, it is a journey that has its share of joys and sorrows in equal measure and is not for the faint hearted, if you are looking to do a good job parenting!

It is a responsibility that stays with you as long as you are alive and just changes form at every phase. It is also the beginning of setting up expectations, aspirations and opening the door to disappointment when these expectations and aspirations are not met. 

Were you ready for this? Did you make an informed decision? Have you learnt to like it or are you beating yourself up about it? Are you now comfortable with your shadow (AKA the toddler that doesn’t understand the meaning of personal space)? 90% of parenthood goes in fantasizing about when you can lie down and sleep again ALONE, I may have just made up those stats. Nevertheless, leaving you with one last meme before we go! 

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Adios Amigos

Swati & Gita

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