Somehow, it's already a month since that night I nearly had a baby in my loo / an Uber cab. Having never really experienced physical distress - other than that time I watched Karzzz - I'd always been curious about my pain threshold. Turns out I'm a bit of a buffalo. Note to self: the next time I'm 40 weeks pregnant, I should probably just call the doctor when I feel any pain at all.
As it was, we got to the hospital, and the on-call doctor said, "You're having this baby NOW!" And I thought, "Ah, you probably say that to everyone so they don't feel discouraged." Except she wasn't kidding, and I really did have the baby then. I'd secretly hoped for a girl, but figured I wouldn't be lucky enough to get one. You don't get to have a happy marriage, an easy pregnancy, a non-labour, and your pick of baby gender. The odds don't usually favour one person that heavily. Yet somehow, here we were with a baby girl... on a Sunday morning at that, so people could come by without needing to bunk office! So that was fun, and also the perfect ending to a completely chilled out pregnancy. It felt like everything I wanted went my way.
My idyllic zen-like 'Oh, I birth babies every day' euphoria continued for the next four days. Hospital staff kept coming in and re-telling my infamous labour story. Friends visited, and marvelled at how I was up and about hours after giving birth. Relatives came over, and I was very happy to note I was sticking to my theoretical stance, and not being stingy about sharing the baby with them. I caught up on my final work assignments from the hospital. A & I even had time to catch a celebratory meal together while at the hospital, and the baby - our perfectly well-behaved, made-to-order baby - slept through it, letting us!
Then we came home, and everything went bananas.
I genuinely can't tell whether it was 'regular' baby blues, or if it was because my laid-back plans went out the window when my mum had to suddenly go back to Bangalore. All I know is, instead of bonding with my baby in the chilled out way I'd dreamed of (my mom's great with babies), I was suddenly going from zero to hundred, scrambling to do everything. Feeding, burping, changing diapers - I was constantly doing one or the other, while being terrified I was doing it all wrong because there was no one watching me. I went from the person who tuned out everyone except her doctor to the person who took everyone's advice, nearly all of it based on opinion rather than facts, and got even more confused.
I can't begin to express what I felt. My mind just never shut off - there was constant chatter, all negative, and I was always a breath away from crying. People kept telling me to sleep when the baby slept. So I'd put my phone away, and lie in a dark room - but all that did was give the thoughts in my head free rein. This whole post-delivery seclusion to 'rest' thing? Terrible idea. If the zombie-like despair I felt for a couple of weeks is any indication of what postnatal depression looks like, I have enormous respect for the women who battle it. I have a supremely un-fussy baby, and we didn't have any trouble feeding, or any health trouble (either of us), and yet, I've never felt anything that bad. I can't imagine what it would have been like otherwise. As it is, it was unignorable - and let's remember I'm that person who ignored labour.
I'm so thankful for the day I woke up and vomited everything, because it led me to a doctor who stated that she didn't care what Indian culture said women had to do post-delivery. Given I'd been so active right until the delivery and clearly wasn't suffering physically after it, I needed to just get out and get some sunlight + fresh air. I needed the opposite of rest. I needed my life back, independent of the baby. Otherwise, I'd just go from having a dozen different interests and things to do, to having one thing to obsess about, in one room at that, and I'd continue making myself sick.
I'm not sure why I needed a third party to point out something that obvious. If it were just my mum at home, I would have talked her into letting me be up and about - not to mention in real clothes, rather than nighties - long before that point. It's amazing what a difference it's made. Everything's back to being easy. Maybe it's just because my mum's back, and her confidence is rubbing off on me, plus she doesn't fight me on this stuff. Maybe it's because the baby's older, and wakes up on her own now. But maybe, just maybe, it's because I'm relying on my instincts again, instead of trying to follow other peoples'.
So, all's well that ends well. I could just focus on that, and downplay the black mind zone I went into. I could write a completely honest one-month update on our Maya-bee, and it'd be all rainbows and sunshine like every other new mum update. But the thing is, I spoke to some other mums I know, and every single one of them said they'd felt like a failure in their first couple of weeks, or cried multiple times, or that some parts just hadn't come naturally. Yet somehow, no one I know has volunteered that information proactively. Maybe because it did all end well, and it seemed like it wasn't worth mentioning?
I think it's worth mentioning. Without condensing it into a single line 'You may feel a bit overwhelmed after the baby comes along, and that's normal': this was what I felt like for the first few days of Maya's life. I don't feel anything remotely like it now, but that doesn't mean it never happened. If you feel panicky, for lack of a better word, after you have a baby, know that you're not alone. You're not even some 10% statistic. You're just like everyone else I've ever spoken to. You're likely doing a fantastic job. The fear won't last. You'll get through this. And when you do, I hope you let the next pregnant friend you meet know that too, rather than being happy to just forget you ever felt this way.