Tonight I was watching a movie ‘Mother and Child’ and some of the scenes in the movie suddenly brought home to me how much it paralleled my own thoughts. And I got down to penning this post.
Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, I was ecstatic about being pregnant. Every time I heard that a friend had a baby or that another one was pregnant, I was left wondering: “When will it be my turn?” or, as we say in India: “Mera number kab aayega?*” Thus it was with great elation that I received news of my own pregnancy.
I was all set for the long nine months and soon realised that a pregnancy was not the cake-walk that it was made out to be in Indian movies, where the heroine was assumed to be pregnant as soon as she started vomiting after marriage, and then there was a song sequence in which the family (especially the husband) got all excited and crazy buying toys and pampering the lady, and at the end of the song they showed the heroine cuddling a baby.
Before long, I was able to make out that real life didn’t exactly work that way – especially with a demanding job to juggle and being unable to eat anything because of the constant nausea. Throw in some mood swings, the inability to sleep comfortably at night, and the constant bathroom visits, all of which equaled an extremely crabby me. Only a husband with the patience of a saint, like my own, could have put up with me during that time.
I had heard of the sleepless nights, the constant feedings and cleanings that accompanied taking care of a baby. I thought I was prepared for all of that – all I wanted was the baby. I was going to love it and cuddle it to sleep. I am extremely embarrassed about it now but little did I know that the birth of the baby was also going to create a monster inside me.
I hate to say this – but it is the truth – I hated the fact that I could hardly walk for two weeks after giving birth; that I had very severe constipation and could hardly sit due to it; that I hardly ever got any sleep at night because the baby was always crying; that I was always expected to sit and nurse the baby every time it cried.
And most of all, I hated the ‘being’ that had destroyed my peace of mind and lifestyle.
It was always self-pity and “Why me? Why me? Why me?” There were times when I longed to go back to the pre-baby days when I could just curl up with a book or a movie, munch on something and while away the time, without an ear open to see if the baby was still asleep.
Actually, my fondest wish during those days was to get eight hours of blessed, uninterrupted sleep.
The way I was feeling during those days, you would think that I was the first woman in the world to have given birth – which were the very words spoken in the movie ‘Mother and Child’ when a woman adopts a baby and finds that she was unable to cope with it. She said – “I don’t love the baby. I feel like it is a creature that has invaded my bed and always crying.” And her mother just looks at her and says – “Well! I’ll be!! Did you think you were the first woman in the world to have given birth? Now, just grow up, get your act together and be a MOTHER!!”.
Contrary to what so many people think, or movies or books say, I was finding out that you don’t just love a baby unconditionally as soon as you give birth to him, see him or have him in your arms for the first time. You need to work to get that love flowing out of your being, and work untiringly at nourishing that relationship to make it seem like effortless love. I know that so many mothers out there will protest vehemently that this is not true, but this was my experience, and I am choosing to share it.
Though no one said so to me in so many words ( since I was too ashamed to be even having such thoughts, let alone telling them to someone), it was my husband who helped me out during those days. During the first one month, my mother was with me to help me care for the baby, and after that my husband and I were on our own. My husband slowly learned to change the baby’s diapers, pick him up, soothe him, make his milk and so on. During nights, he would often care for the baby and make him his milk without waking me, massage my shoulders and legs for me when I was up at night nursing the baby, and so on.
Of course, those days weren’t all roses and daisies, as we did have quarrels when we were both tired from being sleepless, sick of the crying and so on. We were weather-beaten several times. However, we did sail through those stormy days and into more pleasant climes, where the baby has decided to sleep all night, waking just once or so in a night.
Now that I think of those ‘harrowing’ days, some things that would probably have helped me cope better during that time are: a few solid hours’ sleep, some ‘alone’ time, someone supportive, and some help with the baby. I had the last two, and having the first two as well would have made my life perfect.
And after putting in all this effort, who do you suppose my son prefers between us? Yes – you guessed it – My Husband. I am glad, because I am still guilty for having had such unpleasant thoughts when my son was born, and I kind of feel like I am atoning for my sins by having him more attached to his father than me. And as usual, there is the selfish side of me, which thinks – “I am glad that he prefers my husband. Now I can always leave him with my husband and go do things I keep off, like writing for WMB, and my own blog.” 🙂
*Translation – When will my chance come?
Did you find the support you needed when you first became a mother? Did you share any of my feelings of resentment and hardship or were things easier? What advice would you give to a mother-to-be?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and mother to one lovely and soundly sleeping son in Garden City India, Fire Crystals.
I have distinct memories of my first-born collicky daughter crying incessantly. I remember one day finally just putting her in her car seat and rocking her with my foot while I washed dishes. I remember shouting “PLEASE STOP CRYING!!” It was awful. But we survived. She is 12 now and the oldest of four, none of whom cried as much as she! (They actually got easier as we went down the line, or I just got better at coping!) Now I shout “Please stop sassing me!!”
I am glad to find that people can actually relate to what a mother goes through. In India, such understanding is very difficult to find as being a mother is considered to endow the lady with a bottomless well of patience and nothing less is acceptable.
I admire your honesty and sharing about your negative feelings publicly. After giving birth to our twins, I did have support through my extremely helpful husband and a 24/7 baby nurse for the first month. After that, it was just my husband and I, along with some household help a few days a week. It was super hard whenever I found myself alone with both of them crying at the same time and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I would just cry right along with them, the three of us in a puddle together. The support that I needed then, and now at my kids are 2.5, is support from other moms who are willing to share similar feelings so that I didn’t feel alone or guilty…for being human. We all get fatigued, frustrated, and claustrophobic from caring for babies, and we all cherish our own time. Because most women I know are strong willed and independent, I tell them to ask for help even for the seemingly littlest things if she feels she needs it, and to accept help from anyone who offers bc sometimes we all think we should be superwomen, capable of doing everything ourselves. And I tell them to find an outlet for when they feel bad, to talk, share, complain, vent, and to not think that it’s wrong to be honest about their negative feelings.
That is wonderful advice, and I wish more people would give it, and even more people actually accept and act on the advice. Here in India, a woman is expected to juggle all kinds of roles – wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sis-in-law, to name a few – and a job to top it off, and present exemplary performance at all of them, with none suffering in any way. In fact, I know of women who boast of being able to do everything without any help – not that I have anything against them – but it becomes very disheartening to us all when every one of us womenfolk are expected to do so much in 24 hours.
Excellent post! As a new mother who suffered with everything you are describing as well as severe postpartum depression, I can totally relate. There is so much pressure to live the idealized life as a new mother yet it is very hard, tiring and requires a village of help. I was so lucky to have my mom, my mother in law and my husband there to take over when my PPD got so bad that I couldn’t take care of myself let alone a newborn baby. Of course I love my children with all my heart but having them was not a piece of cake. You should never feel guilty for those feelings of resentment which all moms have at some point.
Thank you so much Thirdeyemom for relating to my experience. We don’t “have” PPD in India (or more like it is not recongnised as a problem). Any woman who complains after giving birth is berated by everyone around. In fact, I don’t think even the doctors or nurses in hospitals around here know of something like PPD – if a woman were to complain about any pain after giving birth, doctors and nurses alike would probably reply – “Well! What did you expect? Don’t cry (bother us) about every little thing. All this is to be expected.”
I have been meaning to respond to this for such a long time, but something always got in the way… Just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing – I recognise so much of what you are saying. I felt so sorry for myself, I was tired, couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit and so on and so on, that I now realise is quite normal, but at the time I just didn’t want to complain and let people around me know that I wasn’t coping as well as I tried to let on – and so I felt even worse!