Anger, pain, and a hundred other feelings - it was the weirdest I had ever felt.
I had only heard about the good things that new mums feel after birth. I had seen Instagram posts of tiny hands and tiny feet, with captions that would say – ‘a piece of my heart’.
I was ready to be embraced by the joy of motherhood, instead, all I felt was a sense of disconnectedness, exhaustion and guilt.
What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I feeling any love for this tiny 2.5 kg baby who needed me? Why was I feeling irritated?
From the moment I left the hospital on April 20, 2013, everything suddenly became about this new baby. Don’t get me wrong, I am not someone who craves attention, and it wasn’t attention that I was missing. I just wasn’t sure what it was that I was missing. Now that I look back, I think it was a sense of self.
Feeding the baby was another story altogether – I hated that black leather sofa. My back hurt. The whole world would be asleep, while here I was sitting on that sofa covered in my mum’s old shawl, awake. Most nights, I was sitting for hours on end, and I would see daylight hit the windows – waiting for the baby to fall asleep.
Experts and gynaecologists had only one response – continue, it will get better.
I felt angry, I wanted to slap him, why was he not sleeping? I had just fed him, do I feed him again? Who understands why a baby cries? Is he cold? Is he hungry? What does he want from me? Why can’t I look at my phone? Why can’t I call my friends and go out for a walk?
I, who used to love solitude, felt an urge to see people around me. I was tired of just being alone with the baby.
My husband would try his best to help but he was a first-time dad, with his own learning curve happening. My guilt of feeling like a bad mum kept building, and the feeling of anger and sadness only deepened. There was a constant buzz inside my head.
I was feeling a strong sense of derailment from within, but I had no idea why it was happening, and the guilt didn’t let me tell anyone.
Until the day I almost hurt my baby by shaking him. An alarm went off in my head. This was not right, couldn’t be right! I needed help.
Luckily, my Mum flew in from India to help me take care of the baby. She is a healthcare practitioner. I told her what was happening to me.
“I think you have post-partum depression,” she said. It was the first time I had heard the term.
I started reading up about it – finally, my feelings made sense.
I connected with a Facebook community of mums in the UAE and shared my feelings. Soon, I had mums replying on how they coped. I started sharing more information with my husband, too, and Mum helped. I changed the feeding pattern, so after 28 days, for the first time, my baby slept, a full three hours, with no disturbance. And, I slept.
With the support of my family and friends, it took about two months to slowly start to regain my sense of self again.
Post-partum depression is a lonely and scary problem that affects about one in eight new mothers, as per the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.