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It starts from “Are you married?
If no, then how old are you?
Kundali dosh? Boyfriend?
If you are married, how many years? How many children?"
And if for any reason you don't have kids, you have had it. There goes a barrage of questions and the Auntyjis sharing their expertise on why it’s important to have children soon. When you finally have a child and are still struggling to cope with the new responsibility and adapt to the changed lifestyle with your newborn, they are still not done.
So did you have a normal delivery or cesarean? In fact though technology is so advanced these days and caesarean is no longer considered such a big or complex operation, the pressure on mothers to have a normal delivery is immense. I had my share of well-meaning but intensely annoying advice on ‘things to do’ to have a normal delivery. One of the most amusing pieces of advice was, “When you go into labour, have a glass of hot water with ghee, the child will slide out.” It’s so funny that the thought makes me giggle even today. I believe it should solely be the decision of the mother coupled with the doctor’s advice.
Apart from complications requiring a cesarean to be performed, I have known of many mothers who go for it by choice. I believe it’s perfectly ok; they have the right to choose not to go through labor pain, it’s their body and the safety of her child will forever be at the forefront of every decision made by a mother. Another equally illogical statement I have heard people make is, “Go to Ms X doctor, the majority of her deliveries are normal. If you go to a big hospital they are bound to loot you and you are doomed to have a caesarean.” I can tell you that all these are complete lies. I went to one of the most renowned maternity hospitals in Bangalore, hardly did any of “those things” people say is a must for a normal delivery, and yet had a perfectly normal and I can say smooth delivery (thanks to an epidural which was a life saver; again, I have heard so much about the ill effects of epidural but I am glad I took it as it helped make my delivery a beautiful memory rather than a nightmare) .
Hardly is the mother out of the labour room, her body having gone through so much pain and physical trauma, as she holds her tiny bundle of joy in her hands, phone calls pour in and the second most important question is “Normal tha kya?” (Was it a normal delivery?). Really – if I may ask, isn’t this a personal topic? Can’t you just be happy knowing it’s a girl or a boy and inquiring that the mother and baby are safe? Of course, if someone is close to us we usually ask them this question and I guess it’s fine as long as we don’t judge.
We then come to the next question – are you breastfeeding or bottle feeding? In fact, I have seen both are usually asked by people in the same breath. And for any reason if you are not breastfeeding your child or supplementing the feed with formula, they look at you as if you are Cinderella’s evil stepmother. No, I am not exaggerating – this is my personal experience and it made me feel so low about myself; the guilt pangs of not being a good mother, failing right from the start, could I ever make up for it? These thoughts constantly plagued me. I looked for solace over the net to see if people had similar experiences, something I could relate to and would make feel better. Sadly very little of this comes out in the open so here I am proclaiming (my own thoughts – you may or may not agree) – stop judging us.
We have had enough, it’s not easy. Just so that you know, feeding a baby is not easy. Each woman is different, all of us struggle through those initial days and some master it later on, whereas for some of us it’s an ongoing struggle. Latching issues, lack of supply, baby refusing to feed – the reasons could be multiple. No mother would want to deliberately deprive her child of her milk which she knows is so important for the infant’s immunity. Stop giving us those accusatory glances as soon as we take out a bottle to feed the child. Do you expect that if the child is still not getting enough feed, we let the child get used to the practice of crying itself to sleep, but don’t touch the bottle at any costs?
I realized I knew so little about this; the delivery was my biggest fear. It was the most awaited moment but at the same time I dreaded the pain; however it turned out it wasn’t as scary as it sounds. Something like feeding the baby which I had not given a second thought to (as I thought it would be a natural effortless process) almost made me go into postpartum depression. Only when I spoke out more openly to other new mothers did I realise that many were going through this.
I was not alone and yes, one thing that I am certain of is that my daughter, Angel will love me intensely just as I love her, irrespective of whether I fed her formula or my milk. I don’t think that’s a measure of my love, so I have decided to stop holding myself in low esteem, stop the guilt from bogging me down – for I know I am and was always true to my child. I will always love her unconditionally and strive to give her the best of everything. I need to free myself from these baseless thoughts.
I know in my heart that it’s not going to stop here. A few months down the line, people would stop talking about this and they would find newer topics then – is she on solids? Why is she so lean/chubby? Why is she so noisy/shy? Is she good at studies? How much did she score in her exams? There is no end to it. It is up to me to introspect and be true to myself and this is the first step towards this. If I fail here, I would keep failing. I then put a full stop to this. And yes, I am at peace now.
Have heard this from so many and read it as well- babies who are not breastfed lack immunity, are constantly falling ill and not as smart as the breast fed ones. These are pure myths- Angel is as healthy as other babies of her age, her milestones, weigh, height etc is as per her age and never have I heard from her paediatrician that there is something I should worry about. I am very certain that she will turn out to be a smart girl. Well her Mommy is one who was a formula fed baby too and don't think she lacks on any counts- be it her health or her IQ!
As I take Angel for her round of vaccination and see so many infants and tiny tots tightly clutching their mothers hands, I do not know if they had their mother's milk or not but I do see the innocent and deep love in their eyes for their mother, and I know all that matters is this love and nothing else!
Note: Through this post, I only intend to bring to light the turmoil a mother goes through due to her inability to feed her child for any reason whatsoever. The mindset of people around her plays a very big role here and the least they can do is stop making her feel guilty and judging her, there is nothing wrong in advising and sharing their own experiences but when it comes "advising", people are only too happy in doling out more n more of it, without pausing to give a thought of its repercussions(don't think it can be termed "advise"any longer). There is no debate on the fact that breast milk is the best for a baby, and almost every mother struggles through feeding. Have read umpteen blogs on this one, but how many people write about formula feeding, its not without its share of struggles(read guilt of the mother) which I would say is not at all an easy one to let go.