TODAY’S DADS are such a different breed from earlier counterparts. They attend antenatal classes, fix formula and even opt to become the stay-at-home parent. Couples also have access to better medical and child care options in keeping with our varied birthing and parenting choices.
Then why do so many women lose control over their health and relationships by the time the baby is out? Hormones and sleepless nights can’t be the only reasons.
In our homes, the arrival of a child is a family affair, where the lines of involvement and interference get quickly blurred. This is also a time when a new mother turns touchy (of any remark directed at her), wary (of any custom carried out on her baby) and overtly anxious (of baby’s milestones).
This phase of questioning authority and seeking control doesn’t go down too well. A mother-in-law is offended that her experience is doubted and family practices flouted. A husband is puzzled that his wife does not rely on in-house experience. Consequently, the pressure to balance customs alongside new-age norms falls squarely on the new mother.
This can be so overwhelming that for many women it interferes with their self-esteem, everyday functioning and overall well-being. No wonder, the country’s premier institute for mental health, NIMHANS, has a separate wing—Perinatal Psychiatry Clinic (PPC)—to deal with pregnancy and postpartum-related mental health disorders.
Recently, the nonprofit White Swan Foundation along with PPC brought out a booklet that explains how and why the support of a spouse goes a long way in securing the emotional well-being of a pregnant woman, crucial for the good health of the baby.
A father can help
* Draw boundaries, so that you and your partner can take your own baby steps into parenting, however wobbly.
* Read up on vaccinations, efficacy of traditional practices, birthing choices and babywearing. The list is endless!
* Decide what approach to take with respect to antenatal classes, epidural, breastfeeding and so on and assure the rest of the family that you are trying to do your best for the baby and mother.
Yes, it is important to help change diapers or puree an apple, but it is equally important to step in and man up to keep the calm. There is no point pushing anyone’s agenda or any one family’s legacy. That’s politics, not parenting.
Did you know?
* Lionesses leave their pride to give birth and return with their litter only after six weeks. The time spent away allows a mother to establish strong bonds with her cubs and protect them from violent pride takeovers.
* Pregnancy blues include mild anxiety and bouts of tearfulness. This is normal and lasts for the first two weeks post delivery.
* Postpartum psychosis is when mood swings last for more than the early weeks. It is accompanied by paranoia, suspicion, irritability, inability to cope or sleep and thoughts of harming self or baby. Medical intervention is crucial and recovery is possible.
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