“Sometimes Motherhood is Trauma” And Other Lactating Woes
Speaking out about the tough parts of being a woman, and especially a mother is dangerous territory.
We love our moms, we’ve deified them to the point of no return, they’re selfless goddesses and so if there’s a crack – if they somehow fumble and don’t go accordingly to the script – they're plunged down from their pedestal faster than you can spell M-O-M.
Accusations of ‘selfishness’ or remarks like “Do you not love your baby?” bite at you viciously if you’re a new mom who chooses to speak up about the not so pleasant side of motherhood.
Women are often seen as separate parts, their womb glorified, and motherhood their Everest. So when you reach the summit and can’t produce the goods, it’s bad, it’s horrible, you have failed.
Mothers who can’t lactate enough are told they're not trying hard enough, or they are making excuses or that they just don’t care.
Counselor and parenting expert, Dr Anajli ( name changed as she chose to remain anonymous), chats with me about the many layered, complex facets of being a new mom that are ignored, shushed or rendered invisible. “I want to let moms and everyone know what’s coming,” she laughs, “it’s going to be great but honesty can help them be prepared.”
‘Mother’s Need Care Too’
“For your first child especially, no one tells you the hard parts. They say it will be the best time of your life. And of course it is, but there are also a lot of challenges that no one tells you about, so we are left unprepared and this makes it all that much harder,” Anjali tells FIT.
Problems with breastfeeding, like low milk production or breast engorgement or issues with latching (and more) happen to almost every new mom, especially first-time moms.
“A lot of things happen during new motherhood, your hormones are a mess, you’ve been through a huge process (pregnancy, labour and delivery) – if you’ve had a Cesarean delivery you’ve had an operation and need recovery time – there are body issues, body shaming which takes a toll on you emotionally, you’re not sleeping well, this is a very new experience for you,” and amidst expectations that you are supposed to be a natural at it, “you just feel so unprepared,” she sighs.
“We’re constantly told breast is best, and everyone pushes you to breastfeed,” and so if there are issues this is ignored and “this affects the health of the mother and baby.”
She adds that the pressure is immense, and families force you to try and over-feed as well because they want “hatte-khatte, well-fed” babies.
A lot of things affect your lactation, from getting your period, to your mood and lack of sleep, but “our emotional health is not a priority,” Anjali tells me.
After a slight segue into mental health prioritsation, she pauses and tells me, “During pregnancy, the mom is the center of attention and she gets so much care. But suddenly, the focus shifts.” You are not only separated suddenly from someone who was literally a part of you, “the baby becomes the focus, the mother is not taken care of and she needs a lot emotionally and physically.”
Where’s the Support?
“There should be lactation consultants,”Anjali asserts.
“Wait, there aren't already?” I wonder aloud. Anjali explains that everyone expects mothers to simply know how to become a mother, and so no external help is needed or offered.
“People think it’s natural but there is a need for help, for knowledge, and women should be given the opportunity to talk to someone.”
She tells me that postpartum depression is so common, and sadly, women often don’t know its happening, that there is a term for this and that they are not alone, because no one talks.
“Plus, a lot of the times in Indian societies, the girl is at her in-laws, and that’s not always a comfortable space” to share your woes.
She tells me that families often undermine your issues, or worse – don’t believe you.
“This is so common, so many of my friends have mothers-in-law who refuse to believe new moms can have breastfeeding problems.”
Once, she tells me candidly, a friend (X) told her that her mother-in-law actually pressed X’s breasts as she did not believe she could have low milk production. Only after intense squeezing did she finally give up, and accept the truth with proof.
We laugh weakly, shocked but not surprised.
What about the dads, I ask optimistically. “Again, in our societies fathers are not very involved, especially in the child’s first two years. They are not expected to be as well.
“Even other women undermine the fathers role. There are some modern fathers, of course but that is rare.”
Most doctors are “not empathetic to a new mom’s emotional state or her specific situation.”
“They keep pushing the breast!”, she tells me emphatically. She quickly also adds that the sisterhood of new moms and mom friends always “have your back.”
Cut New Moms Some Slack!
Anjali tells me she agrees, and knows how important and healthy breastfeeding is. It improves immunity and is better for the baby but if it’s not possible, there are other options and there should be no shame.
“Operations, health issues, pus, hormones, genetics...” she rattles off the reasons for low milk production, “It’s very, very common so there can’t only be one way to feed the child.”
Exclusive breastfeeding, which is when the baby is only breastfeed, is a “commitment,” she tells me. “I want to appreciate moms who do this, kudos to you really, but that doesn’t mean I will condemn women who cannot.”
There is almost no space for moms who choose not to breastfeed. “We’re not allowed to say this, only my closet friends have confessed to me but even they had to make up a ‘valid’ reason.”
She adds that we need to understand moms, families should help out, take the baby for a few hours so the mom can sleep and this could improve her milk supply. Let moms recover and rest.
Also Read : Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers: Myths Vs Reality
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