Life is all about making choices within constraints. For mothers, the choices are limited and often the choice architecture is construed as a binary system of work or childcare. In the multidimensional life of a mother, the choices are shaped by social, cultural, economic, and circumstances of individual lives. Though every mother is different and every motherhood experience is different, yet the similarities exist more than the differences.
In the series, ‘Choices Mothers Make’, we bring in the perspective of different mothers about their stories of making choices.
The second in the series, ‘Choices Mothers Make’, is by Rashi. Rashi is mother to a daughter, a certified gender-sensitive practitioner, and a development sector professional.
I came to know that I will be a mother in February 2015 and before I could embrace the thought that ‘Yeahhh! I am going to be a Mother’, my daughter came screaming into the world on a beautiful sunny day of October morning, all healthy and bright. When she was brought to me, I forgot the pains of labor, the scary OT room and complications that I have with me for the rest of my life. While I hold her in my arms cautiously, I was making a silent promise to her to be there by her side for everything possible and to make sure that I take care of her forever.
I tried to do everything right from the very first day of pregnancy to the time I delivered her and till date. Like many mothers, I had a pre-birth, birth and post-birth plan and you will be surprised to know that none of my plans worked. I tried my best to grow her within me without complications, that couldn’t happen because on the first day of my third trimester, my doctor told me that my water level isn’t increasing; I tried my best for a normal delivery but I have to go for C-section because of high blood pressure issues and I planned for breast feeding my child for the first two years of her life, and that didn’t happen because I couldn’t produce enough to feed her.
I think breastfeeding was one experience where I was losing away my sanity and dripping towards depression. I could see my child hungry, and as I used to take her near me, she would latch for hours but still sleep hungry. My doctor advised me with herbal products, all aunts and others advised me with homemade products, my caretaker did all the experiments to make it possible so that I can produce enough to feed my child, but nothing worked. I was disappointed and totally heartbroken when my mother-in-law told me to go for shared breastfeeding and that’s when I decided it’s not going to work this way, neither for her nor for me, because I wasn’t ready and I wasn’t aware of how it works.
Holding my baby to my heart, I traveled with my 21 days old daughter to my Mom and as I handed her to my mother I asked for help. I think out of the entire world, it was my doctor and my mother who told me its okay to formulae feed her and not to stereotype things in my head. So, my daughter had her nutrition from external sources, and she is ‘touchwood’ healthy. But what’s important and where we usually miss is that, I couldn’t have believed my doctor if my mother would not have shown me how it works, because at the end of the day, its my baby I am talking about and its definitely not worth the risk to words, even coming from a doctor.
So, the point that I am emphasizing here is we need not have the same journey or experiences as others but our journey is as special as anyone else and it’s all because of our child and its important to recognize the help we have around us whether in the form of formulae milk, shared breastfeeding or external sources and it’s okay, absolutely okay to go and ask for it. I think because my daughter was formulae feeding, we have some beautiful memories as a couple where, both my husband and I used to keep alternate track of her night milk time, and my husband actually fed her most of the nights while I used to rest. It’s a beautiful memory I have with her formulae feeding and my husband also proudly shares that space with me, where he could be as involved in feeding our child in the early days, which was once only mother’s zone.
In my experience nothing worked to what I planned despite going as you say ‘by the book’ but what actually worked was alternative mechanism that exists. And my experience is for mothers who struggle with the guilt of these stereotypes. Yes, it’s necessary to breastfeed if you can and if you cannot then it’s not your fault as a mother, it’s okay and equally beautiful to work through alternatives.
I am a working mother and to be honest I equally love all my roles- whether it’s about being a mother, being a professional, being a wife, being a daughter or being me. I won’t lie self-care goes on the back burner, when you become a mother. It’s so because everything doesn’t start and end with you but its child centric. I guess having the right system in place and when I say ‘system’ I am talking about shared responsibilities and shared understanding with my partner is what has worked for me in terms of self-care. If he would not have been comfortable with a work-from-home scenario (since it was possible in his case) while I go to full-time office, I think the kind of peaceful mind I have, and a very important aspect of my self-care, wouldn’t have been possible. Also, having an open conversation about the kind of self-care I needed, is what has worked for me. Both me and my husband were equally aware and conscious of the fact that we need to take care of our daughter ourselves, dropping her to day-care or to either of the parents was not in our option, but with struggles and ups-and-downs around the journey, we have sailed so far. In 4 days, our daughter will be celebrating her 5th birthday and I would not want to change even the ounce of experience that we had during this journey, raising her.