That's what my 20 months old calls me. I’d prefer to be called by another name but that's what she chose. I don't mind. My life is not about me anymore and she has the right to call me whatever she wishes. And it brings me immense joy that I have her in my life.
My daily life now has a very mundane routine. I wake up at 6:30, feed her, wake my husband, have my breakfast at home if I am lucky. Most days, I have my breakfast in the car to save time. In the meantime my husband showers, gets ready and tries to wake my daughter so that she sees me before I rush out for office. Most of the days she does wake up, and I end up being late for work. I wish I could live closer to my office but I can't afford a place in one of the most expensive locales in Dhaka and support is available at my mother’s place. So I live approximately 20 km away from office. 20 km away from my baby.
I was not ready to have her in my life when she became a part of me. I had naively imagined that my 6-months maternity leave would be a getaway from my busy life. I bought an easel, colours, and paper two days before she was born because I wanted to brush up on my painting skill. We were in hospital for three days when she was born, and I was glad to return on the fourth day when we were released, because I thought I’d have time to paint!
I know I am supposed to be unconditionally in love with my child, stay up for her all night long without complaint, should wear the pain of my stitches like a crown, should automatically know how to hold and feed a baby as soon as she comes out of my womb! Well, at least that is what people around me were expecting. "Maa der koshto kortei hoy," said my mother; "Tomar onek sowab hochchhe," my husband said.
Hence, days passed by, my sleepless nights increased and my longing for some “me time” soared higher than ever. I was gaining more weight and losing hair faster, dark circles around my eyes were getting darker. I didn’t know why this was happening to me, why I was getting frustrated Was it because I was not getting enough sleep? I got addicted to food, and make-up. Make-up became my refuge from this world that made me feel ugly and useless because I was fat, slow, could not remember things. I got more depressed than ever. Suddenly I had no control over my life.
I could not go out and meet my friends because I had decided to exclusively dedicate myself to breastfeeding my baby until I joined office. An inexplicable sadness loomed over me all the time. It was like I had everything, yet I had nothing. I looked at the mirror every day and could not recognise the person I saw. People around me criticised my body, stressed on how I should lose weight and eat less and also stay healthy for my baby. I had no idea what I was doing. In the meantime my baby learned to sit and hold my face with her small hands and I felt heaven at home. But I still could not explain my sadness.
In desperation, I finally searched Google for light in my darkness, to know if there is any information at least on my condition. I found out there is a term for this sadness; it’s called 'baby blues'. So, baby blue became my unexpected, unloved friend and would not leave me. I would cry, cry while feeding her, and cry while I went to shower and when she would sleep. I hoped that someone would drag me to a therapist but nobody did. Somehow people around me never realised that I needed it. And if you are depressed you tend not to actively seek out solutions to it. I didn't either.
At 7 months I joined work. It felt good because I thought I could focus on my career again. My boss told me to take time because he, being a father understood how difficult it was for a new mother to fall into the routine of work life. Days passed by and I could never go to office on time. I stayed up to feed her because she would not take bottle, I stayed late at home in the morning because I had to feed her, then pump milk so that she could have at least 2 servings a day. I stayed at office late to fill up the required 9 hours and that started getting longer too.
Work was not fun anymore because I was always the latecomer. It did not matter how hard I worked, my efforts or results were never appreciated because I was a latecomer. And that did not help my depression. There were comments about how I should not work because I was a mother and how they thought that I didn't need a job. There were snide comments saying that I don’t want to work on Saturdays because obviously I was not serious about my job. It is a man’s world after all, and I was a woman and a mother.
Data shows that approximately 70-80% new mothers experience baby blues. Although the exact cause of baby blues have not yet been discovered but it’s thought to be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and after the child is born. And it may last from 1 week to in some cases an extended period of time. I would urge friends and families of all new mothers to extend help to them so that they don’t feel left out or feel unwanted. If I did not have my parents or my husband I know I would probably not be able to fight the blue demon of my life. And what happened to my easel and paint? They must be lying around somewhere.