After birth
VOGUE India|September 2020
After birth
Balancing motherhood, the Molotov cocktail of hormones and the pangs of postpartum through a pandemic, award-winning author Shubhangi Swarup writes on how she found hope in a hopeless place
Shubhangi Swarup

When I birthed my daughter, I didn’t just witness a miracle, I actively participated in it. A few hours after producing the girl with the loudest cry in the nursery, I ate a big dinner, had a shower, and watched father and daughter begin their relationship with a song. None of us remember what he sang, all we know is that she stopped crying.

I had trusted the body’s wisdom to see me through the pregnancy. So when signs of postpartum depression began to surface, I, despite all the awareness of this phenomenon, ignored it. Studies show that a mother’s brain undergoes many changes after birthing. The OCD part of the brain lights up when she hears her child cry. Her body is so attuned to the baby’s needs, she often pre-empts it, suffering from anxiety and insomnia in the process. Sleep deprivation, along with conflicting hormones, led me to slip.

GIVING IN

I initially kept the darkness to myself. I felt guilty. I had internalised that good intentioned voice that counsels us, reminding us of all the love and luck that surrounds us, furthering the guilt. I felt isolated, especially in the silent nights spent in the company of an inexplicable creature that may have come out of you, yet bawls for reasons beyond you. My partner complained to the doctor that I would breastfeed for hours. Maybe the child needs emotional comfort, the doctor said. Maybe the mother does, I replied.

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September 2020