Motherhood has been a very different journey for me. Due to my mental health condition, I had to use assistive reproductive methods for having the child. Until the pregnancy was successfully completed, it was a rollercoaster ride. Those who have been with me in that journey, knows how difficult it was for me, for various reasons. In this piece I will discuss about my journey as a mother and how I am attempting to balance motherhood with my mental health needs.
I have always been someone who likes to be prepared in advance. So, when it comes to such a major milestone, you could imagine my approach! I reached out to new mothers and tried to get a glimpse of their parenting journey and experience. All of them told me that each mother’s journey is different. However, there was a common thread amongst all of them – “get as much help as possible”. I will discuss this in my next section.
I joined a few mothers’ groups, attended a newborn care session etc. This gave me an idea of what I should expect. Also, these sessions helped a lot with product recommendations.
Srini and I prepared a detailed list of things to be bought and divided the responsibility amongst each other. We were almost fully ready a month in advance.
Being prepared, always give you a sense of confidence and control about what lies ahead. For someone who is prone to severe anxiety, having things in order really helped. Nonetheless, I used to worry if we have missed out on anything.
“It takes a village”. I absolutely agree. For every moms-to-be out there, I would say get as much help as possible. Srini’s and my family are hand in hand with us in this parenting journey. However, be mindful that there will be multiple opinions from your support system, but it is important to go with what is comfortable for your partner and yourself.
To be nakedly honest, I had a huge urge to do everything by myself and to oversee everything. However with time, I realized that it is inevitable that you will get suggestions and inputs from your family, in-laws and friends. The key element is giving due respect to those suggestions and accepting what is comfortable for you. It is important to avoid a conflict and remember that every suggestion is coming from a place of well-being for the child. However, I still struggle to put this into practice.
In addition, I would strongly recommend getting a nanny. It is prudent to have that support to help you with the ancillary things while you are with the baby. Also, it helps you to take some “me time” out for yourself (discussed below).
I got really overwhelmed (and still get) with the things that need to be done in relation to Nithya. It is so dynamic and keeps changing. Further, they are so delicate, and you are responsible for that little being. In such a scenario, having a support system (both family and nanny) keeps you grounded.
While every parent has challenges in relation to their sleep cycle once a newborn is there, I had a different set of challenges. Since I am having my psychiatric medicines, my doctor strictly advised me to not have any sleep interruptions. Therefore, I was not sleeping with my baby for the first three months.
While it may sound like a relief for some people, I was churning within. I was feeling that I am less of a mother and unfortunate to have been separated from my child when she needs me the most. It was not at all easy. I felt inadequate. I started doubting myself. This is when Srini’s mother told me that only if there is a healthy and happy mother there is a healthy and happy baby. This health is not just physical health, but emotional and mental health as well.
The sadness that I am away from Nithya in the night resulted in a few bad mental health days. During those days, I used to spend the whole day on my bed. I felt guilty that I am not spending time with Nithya. During such times, Srini told me that Nithya will eventually understand that her mother is not doing it deliberately.
I believe that it is important to provide psychoeducation to your child about your mental health limitations. I have read about an IRS officer (who had depression), Shubrata Prakash (author of The D Word), who shared her depressive condition with her 5-year old daughter to make her aware about what is happening to her mother and to prepare and sensitise her. I intend to share my experience with Nithya in this regard, when I reach that juncture, in Part II of this series.
It is very difficult to find “me-time” especially during the initial phases of motherhood. Your support system can enable you to find this time for yourself.
Focusing on self-care gives you an opportunity to set an example to your child. I am grateful to my support system and especially my husband for facilitating my “me-time”. It is natural to feel guilty when you take time out but remember you cannot pour from an empty cup!