Recently a soon-to-be mother asked me-
” my mother and mom-in-law have both offered to stay with me for 3
months after my baby is borne. Who should I choose?” For a woman
who gets along well with her mom-in-law ( and her own mother as
well), it is a very tricky situation. To top it, the baby was going
to be the first grandchild on either side so both gradmothers were
In a flash I remembered Sunita and
Rajiv ( as usual, names changed). Both successful careerists,
arranged marriage, very much in tune with each other and went for a
baby 4 yr. after marriage. Life couldn’t be better. Sunita took a 6
month break for baby and was promised support from in-laws.
Within a week of delivery, Sunita was
in a tight spot. Baby was hard to look after. He would cry every 2
hours, day and night. She had not slept well for that whole week and
soon naming ceremony was announced. The night before the ceremony
baby had colicks and stayed up most night. Sunita was like a zombie
in the ceremony, but saw it thru’ with dignity.
Her colleagues visited her often and
she missed the buzz of workplace. In- laws loved their grandson and
played with him when he was awake and smiling. Rajiv was trying to be
a good dad and changed occasinal nappy and did occasional baby feeds.
His company was going thru a lean patch and work was stressful so he
would came home late and crashed in front of TV to ” cool down”.
Sunita was getting edgy now. Her sleep
was still in bits and pieces, her body felt strange, smelled even
more foreign, her emotions were all over the place, tears and anger
were just below the surface all the time. She felt ALONE. Rajiv
seemed faraway, he was giving her space! Lots of it! In-laws were
being nice but they still had clear expectations from Sunita.
One day after she put the baby to
sleep, Sunita loked at the baby, herself and Rajiv sleeping next to
her and just burst into tears. She cried for the love she could not
feel for the baby, she cried for the anger she felt for her family,
she cried for herself who she could no longer identify. Strangely
crying did not make her feel good just more miserable and even more
tired. She wondered whether life was worth living.
I saw her a month after that episode.
She was thin, tired, angry and sad. But worst of all she felt lonely
and out of life’s race. Post-partum depression was not difficult to
diagnose but convincing her family that she needs support was ! They
could not understand ” support”, they offered to hire more maids,
Rajiv offered to come home early. Was that not enough?
What Sunita needed was someone looking
after her needs of rest, pampering, listening, sharing and just
having fun. She did not need people advising her on how to look after
baby she needed a person to look after her !
We know for a fact that husband’s role
after childbirth is to support the mother. Appriciate her efforts,
make sure that she gets enough rest, hold her emotionally and give
her positive feedback about her efforts to be a good mother. She
needs someone stable and confident while she is riding the hormonal
Sunita was in a tight spot. I have seen
quite a few mothers with even more on their plate – difficult
in-laws, insensitive husbands, money problems, cranky babies and
worst of all babies with birth defects ! It is surprising, so few
actually become suicidal!
Eventually with lot of counseling and
family work and of course antidepressants, situation got a bit more
tolerable. I see Sunita now and then. Now baby is 4 years old. Sunita
works full time and Rajiv’s company has survived recession.
If you knew Sunita before, you would
not recognise her now. She aged 10 years in last four. She knows that
her world view has changed and so has her personality. She is not the
chirpy, competitive, fun loving, hard worker any more. She works well
and efficiently but can not watch violent movies and lovey-dovey ones
as well. She no more cooks non-vegetarian food and does not argue her
points that sharply. She has a happy family and is even planning a
second baby ! I know this time Sunita will do better and I hope Rajiv
All this flashed thru my mind when this
glowing, heavily pregnant, smiling mother to-be asked me about her
The answer is simple. Use following
criteria. The person to help you thru next 3 months should-
- Be willing to look after you and
not your baby.
- Be willing to make sure that you
get atleast two spells of uninterrupted 3-4 hour sleep in a day no
matter what time that is.
- Be strong enough to tell off
guests, noisy people if you are resting or feeding the baby.
- Not be offended if you are tired,
irritable or just having a bad day.
- Be ready to tolerate mess,
untidyness and smells in the house especially in living room.
- Be ready to ignore baby’s father !
- Will let you play with the baby
when baby is playful and not hand over the baby to you the moment it
- Do all this with love, affection
and sense of humor.
This is a tall order, very tall indeed.
But I know some women ( mothers and mother-in-laws) who did it !!