post-natally speaking.


A friend of mine says that her mother calls the phenomenon of post natal depression “Angrezi Bakwaas”- that when you have a child you should be so naturally overjoyed and fulfilled that sadness and frustration are the last things on your mind. The same friend went through a rough patch following the birth of her son and she couldn’t talk to her mother about it because…well..according to her mother, she was being a drama queen and thousands of women across the world did this everyday, without the help that my friend had.

A lot of my friends who had babies went through a period of adjustment following their baby’s birth. Some more tough than others. Tantrums, tears, frustration, excitement, joy, madness, chaos, exhuastion, and yes maybe even depression- any new mom would smile and nod hysterically at these words- they are very familiar indeed. The change is enormous and you cannot predict when the sheer overwhelmingness of it will creep up on you. Some of us are luckier than others, and a few tantrums and screaming banshee fits later, we are able to put the whole thing behind us and actually BE happy. Others are not so lucky. A doctor friend tells me how this can be traced back to your own feeling of not having done enough for yourself as a person before motherhood collides with you. “If you feel that the child slows you down, changes your career path and basically doesn’t allow you the life you want, you will get upset. Hormones play a huge role too because suddenly there will be a sense of loss because the bbay which was yours alone now beloings to the world. You will be upset at that too.”

The first 6 weeks were a rollercoaster ride. You did not know when a dip was coming and you felt like screaming with exhilaration at the highs. The lows exhausted you and even the steady plateaus of routine just made you antsy in anticipation of what was going to come. Today, 4 months, later, I still have to tell myself, very strictly, to take each day as it comes. To not get upset when a previously planned day goes haywire. And not start counting my chickens in advanced if we have a great time-managed week. I still sometimes have to talk myself out of the disappointment of delayed shopping trips and cancelled visits and missed deadlines and learn to rejoice in the milestones that I am able to be a part of each day with Naddu because of my decision to be at home with him. Some days it takes every ounce of your energy and positivity and sense of humour to be able to look at your well ordered life from before and smile and exclaim, “oh what the hell” and actually mean it. And the funny thing is the more the more that happens, the more you actually DO mean it.


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31 thoughts on “post-natally speaking.”

  1. your post hit home so well. its similar to something ive been writing about… the judgementalness of women on other moms experiences! will post it after ramadan iA!

  2. sometimes it feels odd commenting on your blog, for the sole reason that it seems like only moms are/would-be allowed! hehe

    nonetheless, that feeling is not enuff to shut me up.

    i’d like to know from you.. if raising a kid in our society is mucch simpler than maybe a lot of other places in the world? i mean i feel this cause since my sister had a baby, we’ve all been around her ensuring that she doesnt feel any negativity/depression/anxiety due to the baby, by bringing the kid over at our house for stayovers in case baji needs some time-off for shopping, just hanging out with friends, or other such situations and so i feel that it must be a sukoon factor in your mind somewhere that the baby’s nanno/khaalas/dadi/phuppos/mamoons will always be around in-case needed.

    so, in a way i do kinda agree with your friend’s mom that sometimes, we are so used to hearing certain stories about various phases in life from around the world, that maybe we only end up experiencing them because we think its supposed to happen.

    am i making any sense?

  3. Insiya, I’d like to comment on that… Living abroad and raising kids alone has really taught me to appreciate the extra help and the extra hands that families can provide. I can’t imagine shopping, going out for coffee or even meeting friends without my kids in tow.

    The sheer responsibility of having kids and having to raise them alone must be a great cause of fear and depression. I had to go through a hell of a time after my first was born.

    My mom said the same thing… depression is a “western disease” – I think it’s a third hormonal, a third lonliness, and a third the overwhelming feeling you get when you’re alone in the room with your baby, and you don’t know why she’s crying.

  4. ok oddly enough…i commented here, but it never showed.
    but my comment was sort of a question version of insiya’s comment.
    i wanted to know if kookie’s impending wedding mania, having both kay and kooks, and your mom there around you, and voluntarily participating in the first few naddu-months, helped save you from excessive depression.

    im sort of also figuring that maybe it is a western thing(after reading hina’s comment), because yes, the westerners are SO independant and wanting of their own space, that the woman goes back to her husbands home after birth and has to handle it alone.
    maybe the whole process of doing all these NEW things on their own causes the depression, because suddenly life is not as easy as before and without help.
    this isnt a verdict…im just wondering.

  5. i agree with insiya! your post makes one feel like you are not living in pakistan where you have the LUXURY of having the close ones around you after you have the baby.the nanis or the dadis do an excellent job and sometimes before you know your babys is off to school-really! you also have the luxury of keeping ayahs(nannys).having post mortem massages done on daily basis…i can go on telling you how different it is to have a baby in Pakistan from when you are living in the west…where apart from having no help you dont even have the luxury of going to the loo without worrying abt the baby leave alone shoppng .women in the west do actually suffer from post mortem blues cuz most of them do not have close knit families they just dont share the bond we share as a family in Pakistan.They are more carreer oriented in the west most definitely and thats why arrival of the baby hits them harder.
    insiya is right when she says paki women have postmortem blues just cuz they know there is something called post mortem blues.well ofcourse that does not apply to all the new moms in pakistan.

  6. i guess you read too much of western stuff on babies/pregnancy and it shows in your writings.Like your post ,”on hold?”…paki women would never complain abt life being on a hold if they compared their lives to the new-moms living abroad-where sometimes its difficult to get more than a 2wk maternity leave!

  7. insiya- you are completely right- it IS a huge plus point raising a kid here- with all manner of hands willing to hold him/her when you need help. Its a real blessing and one that we should know we are lucky to have.
    however, i dont think that post natal depression is something that you feel because you haev read up on it.
    A more sceintific explanation maybe will make things clearer. During pregnancy, one of te most comon things on hears is how the woman is all hormonal. It is an accepted fact that hormone production goes off trhe charts during th nine months. The main storage for this is the placenta- and cord through which the baby feeds (pardon any medical digressions here- im going by what was explained to me by a doctor). During birth the placenta is also expelled from the body taking with its its huge stopre of hormones- thereby resulting in a dip for the woman. Naturally everyone reacts to this differewntly – for some it is a low- some depression. So there is a reaosn behind it as well.

    Again having said that, sharmeenay, I agree with you as well about how we have the luxury. I have very close friends abroad making a go of it while working with their kids in day care all day. But i dont think that its upto us to decide who DESERVES to be depressed or not. its not a medla or a trophy- rather a state of mind-you can have everything-help, money, love and still feel comepetly down and out or you can have nothing and see the bright in that-
    anyhow- to each his own- and btw just curious but where is this place where you only get 2 wks maternity leave- as far as i know – its atleast 6 weeks anywhere in the first world. (and also- the on hold thing- there are alll kinds career orineted paki women here too you know)

    lastly khiz- i think your query prob got answered here- but yes being at home with mom was a blessing- and which is why i feel in so many ways or family system beats trhe crap out of living alone any day ๐Ÿ™‚ hehe. you klnow what i mean!!

  8. blunt’s comment is too funny!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    nonetheless, after your scientific explanation things to make better sense. however, jammie you gotta believe me when i say that a lot of women out there do react and live on the basis of what they read/hear!

    you’ve been lucky to have been consious throughout by not letting what others said affect you in any way, and hence made your own opinion and lived by them!

    but i have seen a lotta mommies having a very global approach which doesnt really apply to Pakistani moms! i mean if i ever tell me grandmother about such things, she’d prolly pass out laughing! at her times, women [girls?!] got married right after they had their first periods and had a baby before their first anniversary and yet, they experienced none of this farangi crap!

  9. haan true maybe they didnt exprience it coz they didnt know it was an option- they had a life to live and people to rake care of- a lot is pure psychiatric crap ๐Ÿ™‚ again similarly this argument can be applied succssfully to a lot fo other things you see in the “western world” – many other such phenomenons and conditions. i do agree with you- but i also feel at the same time that we dont give enough imptce to such things (deprssion/bipolarity/schizophrenia) culturally because they do exist and in many cases in our lifestyle changes *are* coming about which encompass this also- anyhoo. agreed with you on that ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. wow it is so disappointing to read sharmeenay’s post…postnatal/partum depression is a fact, not fiction, not something someon’s made up. And the more you know as an expectant mother, the better, because then, you dont end up wondering “am i crazy to be sad when i have a little baby of my own?” I read about ‘the mask of motherhood’ – (and i should point out, it is a “western” theory so maybe im just a “westernized” person, but hey, when was the last time any women’s studies theory came out of a Pak univ?)at univ, and it resonated with me because i had seen it in Pakistani society all along. It says that mothers deliberately put on this mask, this act of being selfless, one-dimensional, totally devoted mothers so as not to offend anyone or talk about the negativities of motherhood lest it makes them appear like “bad mothers” (e.g. some women will never say how tired they are or how difficult sleepless nights can be). A cousin of mine used to discuss how overwhelming it was for her to have had 2 kids early and so many family members criticised her…why? because we want to believe its the Mother’s fault. And we even bring religion into it no? She’s “na-shukri” they would say. I just balk at the fact that seemingly educated women can say such nasty things like you only get depression because you know about it…thats ridiculous.
    A case in point: an acquaintance conceived after 7-8 years of trying and she was happiness personified during the pregnancy and even after the baby’s arrival for a few weeks, But then, the bout of depression hit her so badly, she literally had to be dragged to a psych by concerned family members and get medication. This is not someone new-age/young/hip who had read up on post partum depression and she had had a baby – the one thing she wantd most.

    I agree with jammie’s post about how we think certain thigs are western and so dont attach importance to them and believe they dont exist. Schizophrenia is the perfect example. Lets just shut our eyes to the mental diseases that exist and make sure our masks are in place. its better not to talk about such things since they are negative/sad and REAL.
    Hope i didnt offend anyone. Dont like mincing my words.

  11. haha, quite a debate here! but that’s why we’re bloggers, no? to discuss! ๐Ÿ™‚

    i agree with jammie/batool about how certain things are not given much importance to in our society/culture. and how they deserve some attention!

    in my defense, i didnt start out disagreeing with jammie. i only wished to know if something like post-natal is actually an issue faced by most women in Pakistan considering the family system and how even if you want your space, you dont get it! hehe and how we’re surrounded by family love mostly!

    i guess, it’ll be wrong to say that you can and can not go through this experience in Pakistan. For someone like me who is not a mom or a wife – I feel that its something which is really personal in many ways and it looks like something which has a lot to do with self-discovery and how in control the woman is with her emotions etc and not vice versa.

  12. Wow, this post has created a lot of hype…

    All this fiery discussion back and forth! Good to know that people are so interested in post natal depression. J- you did a great job of explaining it clinically (in laymans terms). Postnatal depression is a reality. If you’ve got kids and you didn’t suffer it, good for you! If you live among family and loved ones, but STILL suffer from it, be strong, it IS hormonal, and you WILL get over it in time ๐Ÿ™‚

    And if you’re like Tom Cruise and think that women make this stuff up… then shame on you! Go read “Along Came a Spider” by Brooke Shields.

  13. oh wow.. i come here after 3 days and i missed out on so much!

    post natal depression is a proven fact. obviously some experenice more than others, but that doesnt mean its not there. i mean, if you’ve read about it then it definitely helps as you can pin point the problem and its cause and give it a name. rather than not know anything and dismiss it as something ‘angrez’ and feel more confused than ever after the baby and wonder what went wrong.
    a little extra reading never hurt anyone ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. i tried really hard not to write on this post because this is all too close to home.. but the idiots in my life and on this blog who demean something so real make me angry. so angry i could almost wish the people saying postpartum is smthg u make up/replicate from a book, have a brush with the same, but well, in not THAT angry really.. one thing postpartum depression or rather the baby blues (acceptable, not quite as shunned) bought home to me was the odd attitude of educated, supposedly liberal, broad minded folks towards depression and the sheer, scary, terrifying reality of depression where everything is just a dark pit.. you dont know it till you feel it

    there is very little understanding of the phenomenon- when i mentioned that i was just so sad after ali baba was born, my mother had a stunned silence and then some mild admonishments to give me… my poor visiting mother in law was clueless and completely pareshaan when baithae baithae, i would start to weep on the new leather couch, with the new baby sleeping peacefully in his shukra panna, weak person, flaky person? i am none of those… i am not a person that cries, when people die, when exams are hard/failed, when people come or go away, so this hit me like lightening…it was unexpected (because that was really just gora bullshit-) and like a jhatka out of nowhere.. allah ka shukar 2 weeks and i was out of it but the experience left me scared and traumatized for almost 6 months- 6 months i couldnt or rather didnt enjoy my spanking new baby as well as i should have.. it still makes me sad.. a lot of my sadness is really shame that i was so vocal about it- to people in real life and people on my blog… maybe a mask would have served me better? it makes me squirm but i will continue to talk about this as much as i can so maybe someone who goes through the terror one day wont have to also face the taboo/shunning that comes with something so difficult to deal with in itself

    thank you, sara

  15. cheesoo, I know where you were at. In fact I was telling J about this a while back, that I had serious depression after my first was born. I just couldn’t make sense of it. And you’re right, months later, you’re still scarred by what happened!

  16. what happened to my comment? ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    i hate this desi concept that baby blues or postpartum depression doesn’t exist. and even if it does, that if you ignore it, it will go away.
    i suffered from horrible, horrible baby blues. after hana’s birth i was always mad at myself, my husband, my family and the world. there was all this rage, this sadness. i didn’t know where it came from and what to do with it. you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know how much z means to me, there was a time in those days, when i didn’t want to be married to him.
    if you’ve watched the episode in scrubs where carla has her baby and is going through the same thing; her discussion with jordan were so surreal, because i felt like they were talking about me.
    thank god, that a great network of friends, my husband, my sister and my mom were all there for me to fall back on and it was fairly easy to bounce back. but i now know mine was relatively mild, but those were such bleak times and i didn’t think i could ever be happy again.
    i thought a lot about forming a support group or something for women who go through baby blues or postnatal depression because confronting it is dealing with it. and i might just go ahead with the idea. we’ll see.
    but this subject is so dear to my heart. i wish people wouldn’t take it so lightly.

  17. No it’s not western thing but it’s a eastern thing to say emotional stuff is all educated BS. I’ve seen women back home in Pakistan going through it who knows nothing about it which makes it harder to deal with. It can happen to anyone to a happily married house wife or to career oriented strong woman.

    Raising a kid in Eastern societies is lot easier due to less family cushion. But then unlike west east has huge number of underprivileged kids that have to earn their living. On the whole west still sounds better but on individual level having a family nearby does helps.


    Massage services are available here in the west too but at the right price. I weep when see in Pakistan some hard working people which includes Domestic servants not paid enough to fed their families decent meal. Someday we’ll able to have equal pay for equal work.


    Cute kid and nice blog.

  18. i am just too shocked at people categorizing “postpartum depression” as a “western” concept to actually think about posting a proper comment.

    if there is an increased awareness about postpartum depression, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or didn’t exist. whether in our “eastern” society or not.

    in that case, menopause and everything-accompanying-it should also be considered as a “western” concept and should, in our “eastern” society only be treated as a step to women not getting their periods. and NOTHING more.

    i cant believe anyone would be so judgmental as to say that because it a “theory” that we have “imported” (if you will) from the (evil, anti-family ties and everything goos and wholesome) “west” it doesn’t apply to individuals over here (in the more wholesome “east”).

    as i said earlier, i am enraged, disappointed and what not that… anyone with a little bit of education and most importantly, women will deny postpartum depression as a “acquired” mental ailment. why don’t you ask those women who kill themselves and their babies because they don’t know how to deal with it? or those “desi” women who suffer it for YEARS because they are afraid of speaking out and expressing themselves or asking for help because they are afraid that they will be branded as being “crazy” by those (judgmental) people who hold similar views of it being a “western” concept.

    this is the same thing as stating that Ovarian Cysts have increased amongst women… when in fact, they were always there, the only difference is that people are now more aware of its existence and seeking treatments for it.

  19. there is a bit of correction i’d like to make.

    somewhere in the above comment, i line in bold below is the correct one:

    “””i cant believe anyone would be so judgmental as to say that because it a โ€œtheoryโ€ that we have โ€œimportedโ€ (if you will) from the (evil, anti-family ties and everything good and wholesome) โ€œwestโ€ it doesnโ€™t apply to individuals over here (in the more wholesome โ€œeastโ€).””””

  20. i don’t know how this will help but i am sending oodles of support and love to all of those women who have gone through whatever in life, whether it is post-natal depression, menopause, hormone treatment… or anything of a sort… i respect them because they went through it and (hopefully) found the strength within themselves (there is only so much that your friends and family can do) to pull themselves out of it. i support them for the same and maybe even more but i can’t seem to find the right words right now…. so i’ll just conclude by saying that they have my support and love… no matter what side of the earth they come from.

  21. reading insiya’s ever changing comments on post natal depression is confusing.. first she starts out wt it being nothing less than a nakhra that new moms have taken on to get extra attention.. a desi vs western twist in middle and something that had no existence in our older generations..
    i am a mom of two n i had difficult pregnancies and i had post natal depressions both times.. y? because of so many reasons and because children overwhlemed me…
    surviving labour, a battered body, in pain with hormonal fluctuations and then a child who is dependent on u night and day,,, u r without sleep, u arent eating properly and then a child crying and u cant understand why he is crying… n God forbid u hv a colic child.. forget ur need for sleep..
    where is ur peace of mind? where r ur needs.. and most importantly.. where r u? and who r u?
    to top it all, no matter how well u try, u will always be plagued by guilt complex,,, maybe u aint doing enough for the baby.. why dont u hv maternal feelings that are supposed to come naturally..( is that really true?) and why the hell r u trying to hv a life beyond ur kids…
    a few years down the line.,. u forget the pain of labour.. and in many cases even ur bouts of depression.. n then when u hv forgotten all that n ur daughter or daughter in law has a baby n she goes thru the same.. u automatically say the same things.. ur mom or mom in law said to u.. ‘ na shukrapan mut karo’… believe me a woman is a very strong being.. n in most cases stronger than a man but she too has weak moments,,,(n is it so bad that women voice their frustrations, pains, fears??) and we the women who have gone thru it all r her worst critics.. laughing dadi n all
    extended families r all well n good but no one is there when u r up for hours cajoling a colic child.. trying all measures that ur child hv some sleep while u urself cud rest for a bit,,
    i can only say that u can judge the intensity of something unless u hv gone thru it urself.. but claiming tha it doesnt exist,. is ignorant in my humble opinion…

  22. ladies! – R.E.L.A.X!

    i am not a wife, let alone mom! i was only trying to clarify stuff by asking jammie something that i FELT!

    its okay! really!

    love to all o’ you.

  23. Oh wow, I don’t think you generated so many comments on Naddu’s birth!! All these “closet readers” are coming out with a lot of flair! It’s becoming an interactive blog within a blog!

  24. hello hina mommy… haven’t been to your blog in a bit. and this is perhaps my 3rd visit to Jammie’s blog ever. a couple of friends of mine were talking about this particular post which prompted me to visit and then, feeling properly provoked, comment on it.

    went through extensive reproductive-region related surgery last year and am still on medication for it. i had some of the most difficult times in between when i thought i was going to go completely nuts (and drive those around me nuts as well).

    it made me wonder what people who go through the “real” thing (have babies, menopause etc) go through… and it disturbs me that someone would have taken it so lightly and dismissed it as ‘nothing’.

  25. i wasnt aware so many mothers went through this.. most i had the dubious honour of interacting with after my baby (they had the baby at the same times/agar peechae) thought i was nuts…
    maybe i am! ๐Ÿ™‚

    this has been therapeutic

  26. hey guys- everyone- thanks for a very enlightening and much needed discuission on a topic that most people are afraid to touch upon ๐Ÿ™‚ i guess this would be the point where i point out that this is why i started blogging- to put out there what i think and feel and find that through that one can feel so much better about is happening- and understand it more. ๐Ÿ™‚ happy blogging guys!

  27. i’ve obviously missed the entire debate but the one thing i wanted to point out was that it’s really tough to hear ppl say that women “imitate” symptoms b/c that’s what they’re supposed to do or that’s what they’re expecting…

    i highly doubt most women feel pangs of post-partum depression simply b/c it’s what they assume is expected of them…on the contrary, it’s the exact opposite of what they are “supposed to” be feeling…

    finishing up my first trimester, i can’t tell you the # of times ppl asked if i really was nauseated and lethargic …or if i was going through the “routine”…it’s hurtful and looking back now, i should have just puked on them! ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. so am i the first and only male to comment as of yet? =)

    i am an aspiring obgyn and have seen women deal with pregnancy in pakistan and the us.

    one thing is clear- a lot of issues are shoved under the doormat in pakistan- simply cos they are considered to be ‘westernized’ in origin.

    and yet, in the us- he other end of the spectrum- things are blown way out of propotion.

    post partum depression and psychosis DO exist- bother in pakistan and the us- but how women react to it is very different.

    i remember comign face to face with my first case in new york. i was on the ob anaes team and had just placed an epidural for a woman who was expecting her first born. this woman was a young orthodox jew who was from a high socio economic background. she had a rapid delivery and gave birth even before my team got done with our business and made an exit.

    all new moms are inquisitive about the well being of the baby [is it ok?] and they follow-up with questions about it’s sex.

    this patient however, IMMEDIATELY started crying and when the obgyn tried to place the baby on her abdomen [part of the protocol for the active management of labour]- she SCREAMED out- take it away- take it away.

    when i saw all this- i was shocked!

    this woman didn’t have time to fabricate a situation from all that she had heard/read. it was very spontaneous.

    ever since that day, i have seen women react to pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium in a very different light with little overlaps.

    it would help not being judgemental and simply offer support and empathy- honestly it’s as simple as that!

    mommies [and daddies] of the world- rejoice! =)

  29. oh it exists.. boy does it exist!! my mum tells me of plenty of cases where women would suffer from it and would be termed mad. yeah – really. in the old days, they’d say pagal ho gai and lock her up – imagine going through that after just giving birth.

    it was also a reason apparently why young mothers were never left alone. they were prone to depression and so someone was always with them, doing things with them, keeping them cheerful and strong and occupied…

    calling it a western import is just… ridiculous.

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